FRANKFORT – As the House and Senate work this week on resolving a budget by Friday, it is worth noting that the legislative session was positive in other ways.
This year, some of the new laws range from giving the state an innovative tool to improve infrastructure to providing economic help to many veterans and those still serving our country. Other new laws will benefit our first responders, families with medical needs and many Kentuckians who are still paying a price for a crime long after completing their punishment.
The innovative tool is known as public-private partnership, which more than 30 other states already have. In short, P3 makes it easier for the state and local governments to contract with the private sector to carry out a project or program, which could range from building a large bridge to operating a utility.
This already can be done in some ways, but our law will make sure the process is held to the same high standard across the commonwealth and that the public has more input. States are using P3 to take on tasks that they cannot realistically take on by themselves, and it is helping to fill a gap from declining federal sources.
Under another law, many of those convicted of a Class D felony will have a chance to have their record expunged, if they qualify. A judge will make the final determination, and the prosecutor and victim will be notified, if possible.
This cannot begin until at least five years after the punishment for the crime is complete, and the person applying cannot be charged or convicted of another crime in the interim. Those whose crimes involved sex or violent offenses are not eligible.
The hope with this law, which the House has supported for years, is that thousands of Kentuckians who are now contributing members to society will be better able to get a job or even volunteer in their children’s school.
With another law, Kentucky is about to get tougher for repeat DUI offenders. This legislation will double the look-back period for these crimes from five years to 10. Because multiple DUI convictions lead to tougher penalties, this should take many more of these drivers off the road.
A new law helping our veterans will make the public more aware of businesses owned by those who were disabled while serving our country. Another law, meanwhile, will encourage more professional organizations to allow qualified military training to be used to meet requirements for licenses or certificates. This builds on earlier legislation that has helped veterans use their military experience to become firefighters, paramedics/EMTs and heating/air technicians.
Some new laws will help families with various health needs. One will help expand a colon cancer-screening program for uninsured and underinsured Kentuckians and another will establish a new Office of Autism, which will further the state’s role in an area that is truly dear to my family and our community. Another important new law will call on health insurance companies to cover a special food formula that as many as 400 children depend on at a cost of about $40 a day. I sponsored similar legislation and worked closely with Pike County legislators on this after learning about a constituent of ours, nine-year-old Noah Greenhill, who championed this bill with his family. This young man was an outstanding advocate.
This week, the House and Senate will come in on Friday to complete the legislative session. We in the House will be working on passing a budget during this time, and I’ll write more about the outcome next week.
For now, I want to thank everyone who contacted me this legislative session. While our time passing laws is essentially over, legislators still spend much of the year reviewing issues affecting the state. As such, please don’t hesitate to ever contact me if you have any concerns.
My email is Greg.Stumbo@lrc.ky.gov, and you can leave a message for me or any legislator at 800-372-7181.
Rep. Greg Stumbo serves as speaker of the Kentucky House of Representatives.