|State Senator, Wil Schroder, at the NKY Forum's NKY Legislative Caucus in Florence on Saturday. Schroder won election this year, filling Sen. Katie Stine's long-time seat.|
The parade of bills being formally introduced in the Senate and House chambers on Tuesday marked the resumption of the 2015 legislative session after a three-week break. It’s now clearer than ever that there’s much work to be done in a relatively short amount of time. This year’s 30-day session is considered a short one, in contrast with the 60-day sessions held in even-numbered years.
By the time lawmakers’ completed this week’s work on Friday, the number of bills introduced in both chambers totaled 480. Many of these bills have been in the works for months, and early news reports indicated it would be a busy session. But seeing the list of bills one after the other highlights the point that this year’s array of issues is a particularly diverse one.
A relatively small sampling of the proposals lawmakers are considering this year includes measures to:
· Defining dog and local government, allowing regulation of animal welfare and public safety, so long as the regulation does not discriminate on the basis of dog breed.
· Increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 over the next three years.
· set up a pilot program to establish up to five charter schools in Louisville and Lexington.
· place a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places and workplaces.
· allow prescriptions for medical marijuana.
· let voters decide on a proposed a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to felons convicted of certain offenses upon the completion of sentences and probation.
· require a face-to-face meeting between the pregnant woman and a healthcare provider at least 24-hours before an abortion takes place. Lawmakers are also considering a measure that would require a medical doctor to perform an ultrasound prior to a woman giving informed consent for an abortion.
· place a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot to give the General Assembly authority to halt administrative regulations found to be deficient.
· permit communities to vote on a temporary local sales tax of up a penny to fund a specific projects.
· allow workers the choice to work at unionized shops without paying dues to an organized labor group.
· curb dating abuse by allowing people in such relationships to receive civil protective orders.
· stabilize the state’s road fund by placing a higher floor on the level the state’s gas tax – which is tied to the wholesale price of gas – can drop to.
· extend domestic-violence protection to people in dating relationships.
· tackle the state’s heroin problem through a combination of efforts, including stronger sentences for heroin dealers, more treatment options for addicts and wider use of naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose.
· allow bonds to be sold to shore up the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System.
· establish an independent panel of medical experts to review claims of medical malpractice before a lawsuit can be brought in circuit court.
· exempt public school construction projects from the prevailing wage law.
· allow the use of more public-private partnerships, or P3s, to finance major projects in Kentucky.
· strengthen efforts to prevent dog fighting by prohibiting the possession, training, breeding, and selling of four-legged animals for fighting. (Representative Joe Fischer, offered a curious condition: Because squirrels also have four legs, he said, the law should be restricted to just pigs and dogs. Stumbo countered that including all four-legged animals affords the law flexibility. He added that he wouldn't mind seeing two-legged animals included).
Again, this is not a complete list of the issues lawmakers are considering. To see a complete listing of the bills that have been filed and track their progress, visit the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov. Bill information can be found by looking under “2015 Regular Session Legislative Record.” The website also includes contact information for senators and representatives.
To share your views on the issues under consideration with lawmakers, please call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.