FRANKFORT — As our time in Frankfort grows shorter, our work escalates. We passed the halfway mark of the 2017 Legislative Session earlier this week, but there is still much to be done and important bills are still making their way through the legislative process.
Education has been and will continue to be at the top of our priority list. In the past week, we have passed several measures out of the Senate dealing with education.
One such bill, Senate Bill 153, directs that postsecondary funding would be guided by performance-based measures, such as the number of students receiving degrees. The legislation would phase out a funding model based on how much a school received in a previous budget cycle, and instead base it on educational success.
The legislation is the result of a work group made up of the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, university presidents, state budget officials and legislators. The group’s final report endorsed the Council on Postsecondary Education’s goal of raising the percentage of Kentuckians with postsecondary degrees or certificates from the current level of 45 percent to 58 percent by 2050.
Under SB 153, the postsecondary funding formula would appropriate 35 percent of funds based on student success tied to outcomes, 35 percent would be tied to total student credit hours, and 30 percent would be based on campus operations and student support needs.
The funding model established by SB 153 would be phased in over several years. The bill also calls for a postsecondary work group to review the results of the new funding approach every three years to see if it is successful, and make recommendations to the General Assembly.
Other bills that dealt with postsecondary education or credentials were:
Senate Bill 147, which would remove the maximum number of advanced practice doctoral programs that may be offered by the six comprehensive universities.
Senate Bill 116, which would require the Board of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy to license out-of-state applicants who did not graduate from an accredited education program but who are licensed or certified in another jurisdiction with comparable requirements to Kentucky.
Beefing up our students’ knowledge of civics was the intent behind Senate Bill 159. This measure would require all public high school students to pass a test, based on the citizenship test, in order to receive a diploma. Students would have the opportunity to retake the test as often as needed in order to pass. The passing score was set at 60 percent.
Senate Bill 161 would allow the superintendent to determine whether a national background check is required for each initial hire in a classified position as a condition of employment.
Along with addressing some important education issues, the Senate dealt with Senate Bill 120, which would revamp significant policies in our criminal justice system. A primary focus of the bill is to reduce recidivism by removing barriers to employment of felons after release. The bill eliminates automatic bans against felons seeking professional licenses or certifications. A mechanism is established to allow private businesses to operate inside prisons, so long as they do not compete with other businesses, giving inmates an opportunity to learn real-life job skills while also working to pay restitution, child support and their own incarceration costs. The bill also allows greater flexibility for certain inmates in county jails to participate in work release programs.
And because drug abuse is often a reason for both incarceration and post-release unemployment, the bill creates a reentry drug supervision pilot program and establishes mechanisms for local law enforcement to allow drug abusers to seek their help without fear of being charged for possession.
Some of the other bills that cleared the Senate this week were:
Senate Bill 86 – adds dating violence and abuse victims to protections and reporting requirements currently in place for spousal abuse.
Senate Bill 21 – permits eligible patients to use investigational drugs, biological products, or devices for a terminal illness.
Senate Bill 42 – permits a peace officer to make an arrest for assault in the 4th degree, when the violation occurs in a hospital and the officer has probable cause.
Senate Bill 89 – requires insurance coverage for U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved tobacco cessation medicines and services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Senate Bill 129 – requires hospitals to provide an opportunity for a patient to designate a lay caregiver, an individual who provides after-care assistance in the person’s residence, prior to discharge.
The Senate still has hundreds of bills to vet in the second part of the session. We are just starting to hold hearings on House Bills and there are some important measures headed our way, including the much-talked about charter school legislation.
With the days getting longer and our time to pass legislation getting shorter, your input is more important than ever. Please share your feedback through our Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. You can also e-mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Johnny Ray Turner represents Kentucky’s 29th District.