Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A General Assembly Rundown: What Passed and What Didn't

The Kentucky Capital. Via Kentucky Tourism. 
The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session came to a close tonight after Senate and House members reached an agreement on comprehensive anti-heroin legislation and a measure to expand protective orders to include dating violence victims.

Lawmakers also gave late-night approval to a bill that will safeguard the revenue stream for the state’s road projects by limiting how far gas taxes can drop when fuel prices fall.

Bills approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor will go into effect as state law in 90 days from today’s adjournment, except for those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that makes them effective as soon as they are signed into law.

Legislation approved by the 2015 General Assembly includes measures on the following topics:

Beer distributors. House Bill 168 will prevent beer distributorships from being owned by beer brewing companies. The bill is meant to affirm that beer is not exempt from the state’s three-tier system of regulating – and keeping separate – alcoholic beverage producers, distributors and retailers.

Breeders’ Cup. HB 134 will reinstate a tax break for the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in Lexington this year. The legislation will waive the state’s excise tax on live pari-mutuel wagering for the event. The waiver of the pari-mutuel excise tax was reportedly worth about $750,000 the last time the event was at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Charitable gaming.  Senate Bill 33 would allow electronic versions of pull-tab Bingo tickets at charitable Bingo halls.

Child abuse. SB 102 will allow a death caused by intentional abuse to be considered first-degree manslaughter.

Child booster seats. House Bill 315 will require booster seats to be used in motor vehicles by children who are less than eight years old and are between 40 and 57 inches in height.

Crowdfunding. HB 76 will help Kentucky entrepreneurs to gain investors through crowdfunding. The bill will allow people to invest up to $10,000 through a crowdfunding platform while helping businesses raise up to $2 million.


Dating violence. HB 8 will expand civil protective orders to cover dating violence victims, as well as victims of sexual abuse and stalking.

Drug abuse. HB 24 will prevent youth from misusing certain cough medicines to get high -- sometimes called “robotripping” – by restricting access to medicines that contain dextromethorphan.
The bill will prevent sales of dextromethorphan-based products, such as Robitussin-DM or Nyquil, to minors.

Early childhood development. HB 234 will require early child care and education programs to follow a state quality-based rating system.

Emergency responders. SB 161 will authorize the governor to order that U.S. flags be lowered to half-staff on state buildings if a Kentucky emergency responder dies in the line of duty.

End-of-life care. SB 77 will allow Kentuckians to use a health care directive known as a “medical order for scope of treatment.” These orders spell out patients’ wishes for end-of-life care. Unlike advance directives, the orders are considered to be physician’s orders and are signed by both the patient or patient’s legal surrogate, and the patient’s physician.

Gas tax. HB 299 will prevent the state gasoline tax – which rises and falls with the price of gas – from dropping below 26 cents per gallon when fuel prices are low.
Gambling. SB 28 will make it clear in the law that it’s illegal for so-called Internet cafes to sell Internet access to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes.

Heroin. SB 192 will increase prison sentences for heroin traffickers and expand addiction treatment programs. The measure will also allow local-option needle exchange programs, establish a “Good Samaritan” provision to shield from criminal charges those who call for help for an overdose victim, and expand the availability of Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of heroin overdoses.
Hunters. SB 55 will ensure that game meat can be donated to not-for-profit organizations to feed hungry people as long as the meat was properly field dressed and processed and is considered disease-free and unspoiled.

Kentucky Employees Retirement System. HB 62 will make sure the agencies that want to leave the Kentucky Employee Retirement System pay their part of the system’s unfunded liability.
Medical research center. HB 298 will make possible the construction of a state-of-the-art medical research center to target prevalent diseases in Kentucky, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The legislation authorizes the issuance of $132.5 million in bonds to help build the research center at the University of Kentucky. The university will raise an equal amount for the $265 million research building.

Newborn health screening. SB 75 will require newborn health screenings to include checks for Krabbe Disease, an inherited disorder that affects the nervous system.

Retirement systems. HB 47 will add the Legislators' Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System to the Public Pension Oversight Board's review responsibilities.

Schools. SB 119 will give schools flexibility to deal with the unusually high number of “snow days” caused by a harsh winter. The bill would give school districts until June 5 to complete all 1,062 school instructional hours required by the state. Any remaining hours that cannot be made up could be waived by the state. School days would not be allowed to exceed seven hours or be held on Saturdays. SB 119 also contains provisions that would require school administrators, teachers, office state, teaching assistants, coaches and other employed by a school district to receive training on ways to recognize and prevent on child abuse.

Sexual assault. Senate Joint Resolution 20 would direct the Auditor of Public Accounts to study the number of sexual assault examination kits in the possession of Kentucky police and prosecutors that have not been sent to the state’s forensic lab for testing. The resolution is aimed at helping state officials know the scope of a backlog that needs attention.

Spina bifida.  SB 159 would require health care providers to give information about spina bifida and treatment options to parents whose unborn children have been diagnosed with the disorder.

Stroke care. SB 10 would improve care for stroke victims by requiring the state to make sure local emergency services have access to a list of all acute stroke-ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, and primary stroke centers in Kentucky. Emergency medical services directors would be required to create protocols for assessment and treatment of stroke victims.

Telephone deregulation. HB 152 is aimed at modernizing telecommunications and allowing more investment in modern technologies by ending phone companies’ obligations to provide landline phone services to customers in urban and suburban areas if they provide service through another technology, such as mobile or an Internet-based phone service. While rural customers can keep landline phones they already have, newly constructed homes in rural areas won’t be guaranteed landline services.

Veterans. HB 209 would create “Gold Star Sibling” specialty license plates for Kentuckians with siblings who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. The plates would be based on the Gold Star plates already available to the parents and spouses of those who died while serving in the armed forces.

What Didn't Pass
The legislature couldn’t find a solution on a few keystone bills that would help Kentucky move forward economically and socially.

Kentucky Teachers Retirement Pensions
They failed to reach an agreement on bills to shore up the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System, which faces a $14 billion unfunded liability, or to allow high school students to serve on superintendent screening committees. The latter was a bill that unanimously moved through the House, but Republican Senators attached unfriendly amendments onto it dealing with transgendered students’ bathroom preference that ultimately killed the bill.

Animal Welfare Bills
Animal welfare bills also failed to be passed by the Kentucky Senate, after breezing through the House. There were a few measures that would have put Kentucky on par with the other 49 states that dealt with animal welfare, including making it a felony to raise and breed animals for the specific purpose of fighting. The failure of this bill ensures Kentucky’s status as the worst state in the nation when it comes to animal welfare laws for the 8th straight year. 

A token voice vote was taken last night by Senate President Robert Stivers, which did not pass. This allowed the majority of Senate members to not have a roll call vote, without having their names attached to a YAY or NAY vote.

From the Kentucky Coalition to End Dogfighting Facebook page:

Kentucky remains the only state in the nation that has not passed this legislation! Yet, 85 to 95% of all Kentuckians supported this Bill. Regardless, Senator Stivers decided to go against the will of the people, in favor of keeping Kentucky the dog-fighting capitol of the country and allowing KY to feed other states with dogs to continue this inconceivable brutality nationwide.

The KY Senate is made up of 27 Republicans and 11 Democrats. The Democratic Senators and a handful of Republican Senators had voiced support for the Bill, but President Stivers shut those voices down by not calling for a roll-call vote.

State-Smoking Ban
House Bill 145 would have created a statewide smoke-free law, protecting workers, children and others from toxic cigarette smoke in public places.

Tolling Mechanism
House Bill 443 would have allowed the P-3 financing mechanism for transportation projects. Kentucky already uses public-private partnerships for a variety of projects and services, but P3 agreements can’t be used for highway and bridge projects.

Local Option Sales Tax
House Bill 1 would have created a constitutional amendment vote on local option sales tax, or LIFT, to allow communities to fund specific capital projects for a defined period of time, provided they get local voter support. The Senate declined to debate it.

More Campaign Contributions
And in a surprise move, the Senate approved an amended bill — after 2 a.m. — that would have doubled the allowable size of state campaign donations from individuals, party caucuses and political action committees. The House rejected that by a 49-to-43 vote after some House members protested "back-room deals passed in the middle of the night."

From the Legislative Research Commission

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