The pace of activity inside the Capitol is picking up as we rapidly approach the end of the 153rd Regular Session. With only a few days left to pass bills, the Kentucky General Assembly has been working in overdrive to develop the best legislative policy for the commonwealth.
Many big issues have been addressed in this 30-day short session. This was one of our busiest weeks yet, as bills concerning abortion, medical marijuana, and education had Frankfort buzzing with visitors who attended rallies and committee meetings.
Policy relating to the use of e-cigarettes or “vaping” was also addressed. Senate Bill 218 would establish an anonymous system for students to report vaping and would encourage school boards to inform teachers and students of the dangers of e-cigarette use and nicotine addiction.
The major legislative priority, tax reform, was addressed this week, as the Senate took up the tax overhaul bill, House Bill 354. Amended by a Senate committee substitute, HB 354 would exempt nonprofits from collecting and remitting sales tax on admissions to charity events in addition to making it clear in statute that one-time fundraising events are not subject to the sales tax. HB 354 is now before a free conference committee, a joint committee of senators and representatives directed to reach agreement on legislation of which the two chambers are unable to agree.
The first bills of the session were signed into law by Governor Bevin during the sixth week of session. They include Senate Bill 77, a measure that would allow people to join Kentucky’s organ donor registry via a single sign-on system, and Senate Bill 4, legislation that would require mandatory electronic filing of all candidates’ campaign finance reports.
House Bill 311, legislation that I carried in the Senate, is awaiting Governor Bevin’s signature. HB 311 relates to cultured animal tissue and consumer protection. In the very near future, commercial technology will be available to grow “meat products” in a laboratory rather than on a farm. HB 311 provides statutory protection by ensuring any product containing cultured animal tissue will be clearly labeled so you will know what you’re purchasing at the grocery store.
Legislation to criminalize a type of online harassment passed the Senate this week. Senate Bill 240, a measure related to “anti-doxing,” would make it a crime for a person to use online communications to release identifying information of a minor with the intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, or frighten. The information would include first and last names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses, school locations, email addresses, or telephone numbers.
Such actions would be a misdemeanor but could be enhanced to a felony if physical harm, monetary loss, or death resulted in the online communications.
This legislation was introduced in light of the recent online harassment of Covington Catholic student, Nick Sandman, following a viral video of him with a Native American protester in Washington D.C.
We obviously can’t undo the harm that was done to Covington Catholic student Nick Sandmann and his family, but hopefully, with the passage of Senate Bill 240, we can discourage this type of event from happening to others.
SB 240 now goes to the House for its consideration.
In a recent calendar revision, the General Assembly will begin its veto recess on March 15 and final adjournment of the 2019 Regular Session is now scheduled for March 28. The revised session calendar can be found online at www.legislature.ky.gov.