July may not be a time normally associated with a rush of legislative activity, but in a key way, no month is busier.
That’s because it marks the beginning of the state’s fiscal year, and it also is when most of the new laws adopted earlier in the year by the General Assembly take effect. Unless there is an emergency clause or another specified date, all enacted bills officially go on the books 90 days after the end of a legislative session. This year, that falls on July 12th.
That means, beginning next week, copper thieves will have a much tougher time making a quick buck; for-profit colleges will face tighter scrutiny; school coaches will have to be better trained to recognize and treat concussions; foster children will have more time to decide whether they want to stay in the state’s care after they turn 18; coal miners will face more stringent rules if they abuse drugs; and 15-passenger vans will fall under the state’s seatbelt law, which now only covers vehicles seating up to 10.
Emergency room workers will have more protection, since the law will now allow peace officers to arrest someone for fourth degree assault in emergency rooms even if the officer did not witness the crime, as is currently required.
Peace officers, meanwhile, will benefit from the newly established “blue alert,” which will notify the public if an officer is killed or severely injured in the line of duty. This could help police find the one responsible much more quickly.
One of the more widely discussed laws this year will put some sensible limits on the sale of cold and allergy medicine containing pseudoephedrine in an effort to reduce a record number of meth labs. This legislation will limit individuals from buying more than 7.2 grams of pseudoephedrine a month and 24 grams per year. For perspective, a box of 48 pills, with each having a 30 milligram dosage, has only 1.44 grams of pseudoephedrine; that means five boxes could be bought per person in a month and 15 over a year.
It’s important to note that this law has no effect on liquid or gel tab forms of medicine containing pseudoephedrine, since both are very difficult to use in meth production.
In educational matters, schools will now be able to apply to become “districts of innovation,” which will allow them to try new, individualized approaches to boost academic performance. That could include significantly changing the school calendar or implementing new teaching methods in the classroom.
At the same time, special needs students who follow a modified curriculum will now be eligible to receive an alternative diploma in the coming school year rather than the certificate they now get, a move that will better recognize their accomplishment.
Under retirement matters, there will now be tighter rules on the Kentucky Retirement Systems – such as regular reviews by the state auditor and limits on the tenure of board chairmen – and Confederate pensions will be officially struck from the books as part of a housekeeping measure. Some 147 years after the end of the Civil War, we’re pretty sure no one is still drawing a check.
At the same time all of these laws are being implemented, several task forces authorized by the General Assembly earlier this year are now set to get underway in the coming months.
Speaking of retirement systems, one of the new task forces will take a closer look at the way they are run and see how we can best preserve benefits in the decades ahead for the 450,000 local and state government workers, teachers and their retirees without putting an undue burden on other government programs.
Four other special committees will take an in-depth look at:
- The ongoing implementation of this year’s far-reaching law designed to curb prescription drug abuse, a measure I was proud to sponsor;
- Several legal matters involving juveniles, such as the best way to handle those 10 and younger who commit a crime;
- Improving student access to technology; and
- How we can improve oversight of sporting events involving middle schools.
On a related note, Governor Beshear has appointed a separate task force that is now traveling the state to gauge the public’s thoughts on tax reform, another subject that could come before the General Assembly in 2013.
I will of course keep you updated on the progress of these special committees, as well as the other long-established ones that the legislature relies on to review such areas as education, transportation and the judiciary. Though the legislature will not be voting on any bills, the next six months still promise to be a busy time.