Wrapping up the 2014 legislative session
By Sara Beth Gregory, 16th District Senator
Now that we’ve reached the end of the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, I wanted to take a moment to thank you for contacting me during the session to provide input on issues that are important to you.
I believe the 2014 Budget Session was a success for a number of reasons. We passed a fiscally responsible budget that helps meet the needs of the Commonwealth while being good stewards of tax dollars. We passed a number of pieces of legislation aimed at improving the health and well-being of Kentuckians of all ages. Of course, there are also disappointments from the session, as the Senate passed several good bills that the House of Representatives did not approve.
Below is a brief outline of some of the major issues addressed during the 2014 Legislative Session:
After much negotiation, a fiscally-responsible budget was passed that contained a debt ratio and structural imbalance lower than those proposed by the House and the Governor. The budget is education-friendly, providing close to $6 billion for SEEK appropriation for K-12 funding, salary increases for public school teachers and staff, more funding for school technology, and an expansion of preschool services. The budget also provided additional funding to hire vocational school teachers and provide scholarships to college students. The final budget also prohibits state general fund dollars from being used to implement Obamacare and approves the first pay raise for state employees since 2008.
To help protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, we passed Senate Bill 98, which I sponsored, to create an adult protection registry. This bill will expand the current background check process for nursing homes and adult-care providers by allowing employers to check whether a prospective employee has a history of abuse substantiated by Adult Protective Services. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) will maintain the registry, which will be a new source of information for those looking to hire caretakers for seniors or disabled adults.
We also took a number of steps to help to protect the health and well-being of our children. For children who suffer from sometimes debilitating seizure disorders, we passed Senate Bill 124, allowing doctors at Kentucky’s two university research hospitals to prescribe cannabidiol to patients who suffer from seizure disorders. This treatment is designed to be one more tool in the toolbox for children with epilepsy to help enhance their quality of life.
Another step to protect our children came with the passage of Senate Bill 109, which prohibits minors from purchasing or using e-cigarettes.
Additionally, Senate Bill 118 will allow for one additional prescription for eye drops to be filled every three months, allowing children to have these drops available at school at all times. This also recognizes that drops are often wasted when administering them to children. These drops are critical to those suffering from glaucoma, which can become sight-threatening if the medication is not administered as directed. And finally for our school children, we passed Senate Bill 159, which will provide greater access to school-located and Head Start-based dental care programs.
Finally, we took steps toward easing the shortage of physicians our state is currently facing by passing legislation to expand services provided by nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants. Under Senate Bill 7, experienced, advanced-practice nurse practitioners can prescribe non-narcotic drugs without having a contract with a physician. This will be especially helpful to improve access to care in rural areas. In addition, Senate Bill 41 allows broader authority for physician assistants to execute medical orders, while still requiring ten percent of the medical notes written by a physician assistant be countersigned by a physician every 30 days.
We also passed several measures to support and promote our Second Amendment rights. Senate Bill 100 streamlines the Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapons (CCDW) permit process by allowing applicants to submit forms electronically. This will apply to both new applications and renewals and speed up the process significantly. Senate Bill 125 allows honorably discharged military veterans to waive the training requirement for a CCDW permit with proper documentation. Senate Bill 106 allows an individual who has sought a court-issued Emergency Protection Order (EPO) the ability to expedite the CCDW permitting process after a background check.
After a two-year task-force review and thousands of hours of stakeholder meetings and draft revisions, we passed Senate Bill 200, an effort to reform the state’s juvenile code, particularly relating to status offenders such as truants. This bill is designed to achieve better outcomes for Kentucky’s youth by involving families and reducing recidivism with earlier intervention. It also seeks to lower the amount spent on juvenile detention in the state.
Legislation Passed by the Senate that Died in the House
One of the biggest disappointments of this year was that Senate Bill 5, the “heroin bill,” was stalled by the House and ultimately did not become law. There have been at least 24 deaths in Kenton County alone since the Senate passed the bill out of our chamber on January 16 of this year. I co-sponsored the bill, which would use a three-pronged approach of education, treatment, and increased penalties for traffickers to tackle the growing heroin problem in Kentucky.
Finally, for the 10th straight session, the Senate passed legislation solidifying our commitment to the unborn, only to have those pro-life measures defeated in a House Committee. I sponsored Senate Bill 3, which would have required a woman considering an abortion to have a face-to-face meeting with a doctor or designated professional to receive information at least 24 hours before the procedure– including risks of the procedure and alternatives to abortion. This would close a loophole that abortion providers have used to provide this information by a recorded telephone message. Senate Bill 8, which I co-sponsored, would have required a woman seeking an abortion to have an ultrasound and the opportunity to view that ultrasound before the procedure.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your Senator in Frankfort. Although this session is over, the work of the legislature will continue through monthly interim committee meetings to study, discuss, and learn more about various issues for the 2015 General Assembly. If you have any thoughts about the work we accomplished here for the past few months or want to voice your opinion about an issue for next session, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.