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Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Senator Wil Schroder's Legislative Update

Sen. Wil Schroder

It was a busy but productive fifth week of the 2020 Regular Session as we passed a wide array of bills through the Senate and continued biennial budget discussions. As we wait to receive a budget proposal from the House of Representatives, where all spending bills must originate, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee has already begun an intensive review process of the budget proposed by the Governor. Crafting the Commonwealth’s two-year financial plan is a lengthy process, but I am confident that the final product will be fiscally responsible while ensuring sufficient funding for our critical programs. I will keep you updated on the status of the budget in the coming weeks.

The Senate Majority made notable progress on the 2020 legislative agenda, successfully passing 11 bills over the course of the week, including Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 7.

Also known as the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020, Senate Bill 1 ensures the cooperation of state and local governments with the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The bill will create no additional responsibilities for law enforcement or agencies, but it does require cooperation with federal law enforcement. Senate Bill 1 preemptively prohibits local municipalities from enacting sanctuary immigration policies. There had already been discussions in one of Kentucky’s major cities to enact such policies. While many can agree that federal immigration law needs to be addressed by Congress, current laws should be enforced to ensure the safety of the public and provide law enforcement with the assurance that they can enforce laws in good faith.

Senate Bill 7, legislation relating to school-based decision making councils returns the appointment of the school principal to the superintendent after consultation with the school council and equalizes council membership of teachers and parents. Senate Bill 7 will increase accountability by placing the responsibility with superintendents who serve at the pleasure of locally elected school boards. The bill passed by a 20-15 vote.

A number of bills with bipartisan support passed through the Senate this week. Senate Bill 63 is a measure that would allow high school dropouts who are at least 21 years of age to complete their graduation requirements through online programs. Known as “virtual instruction,” this is a nontraditional form of education that uses the internet to deliver distance learning. Some school districts are already offering such programs. This bill would just codify the practice. The so-called virtual high schools would be available for those who earned at least 16 credits before dropping out. The programs would be an alternative to GED diplomas for people who are about a year short of the necessary credits to graduate high school. Supporters said the goal was to get a high school diploma in the hands of Kentuckians who make up the state’s 9.4 percent high school dropout rate. High school graduates earn a national average of $8,000 more annually. The bill passed without any opposition.

Sadly, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Kentucky’s youth and young adults between the ages of 15 and 34. Senate Bill 42 would require issued student identification badges to contain emergency hotline numbers for domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide prevention. This requirement won’t go into effect until next school year and only applies to schools that provide student IDs. The bill was endorsed by a number of superintendents and the Kentucky Association of School Social Workers.

Senate Bill 99 would allow distilleries to sell so-called “beer bourbons,” or whiskey-finished beers, in gift shops. Formerly a niche drink, the libation is becoming mainstream with collaborations between the world’s largest distilleries and breweries being marketed nationwide.

Also passing in the Senate this week was Senate Bill 102, legislation to remove unnecessary red tape in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services by repealing 48 outdated and obsolete statutes. Senate Bill 40, legislation that would provide additional protections for Kentucky’s vulnerable children by requiring fingerprint background checks for employees of child protection and child welfare agencies, was approved. Senate Bill 60 would add spinal muscular atrophy, or SMA, to a list of heritable conditions for which newborns are tested. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved gene therapy for children under 2 who have infantile-onset SMA. The therapy has improved muscle movement, function, and survival of children who receive an early diagnosis, according to the National Institutes of Health. This screening was already required by regulation, therefore, it would be provided at no additional cost to the family or the Kentucky taxpayer. Senate Bill 60 passed by a 34-0 vote.

All of these bills have been sent to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

Note: This update was provided by the Office of Senator Wil Schroder. 

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