Legislative Update …

Posted January 29, 2020 at 9:23 am

Third week of regular session was short, but busy nonetheless

Following a long weekend honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Kentucky General Assembly returned ready to work on your behalf in Frankfort. The atmosphere in the Capitol was one of anticipation as hundreds of citizens rallied for causes in the Rotunda and met with their legislators to discuss issues facing the Commonwealth.

This week included Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol, an event promoting children’s safety, health, education, and economic well-being. I was honored to receive the “Champion for Children” award during the event highlighting our work with the School Safety and Resiliency Act from 2019. In light of this annual gathering, I would like to emphasize the importance of a complete count of our children and students in the upcoming 2020 Census. The Census count helps determine how much money communities receive for critical resources that our children and families will depend on for the next 10 years, including food assistance, housing support, child care, and public education. Knowing how many children there are and where they live is essential to getting them proper access to those critical programs and services here in Kentucky.

It is also imperative that we take necessary action to ensure the safety and security of our students. Two years ago, the Commonwealth grieved the loss of innocent lives due to a senseless act of violence at Marshall County High School. This tragedy prompted last year’s Senate Bill (SB 1), the School Safety and Resiliency Act, a multi-faceted approach to better secure Kentucky schools through increased physical safety measures, a supportive learning environment, and preventative behavioral health services. SB 1 passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law in 2019. On the anniversary of the tragic Marshall County High School events, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 8, a measure that would amend the current statute to expand school personnel, by requiring one school-based mental health counselor per 250 students. SB 8 would also require school resource officers to carry firearms. As the primary sponsor of SB 8, I look forward to seeing its passage this session.

Also passing favorably through committee this week was SB 9. This Senate priority measure is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protect and defend the right to life here in the Commonwealth. Also known as the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” SB 9 requires a physician to take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant. I am a proud co-sponsor of this bill.

While it was only a four-day work week for the Kentucky General Assembly, the Senate passed a number of bills out of the chamber that will now go on to the House for consideration:

SB 2- This bill states that if a voter does not have a photo ID, they would be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. Other acceptable IDs would include Social Security cards, credit cards or debit cards.

A voter who comes to the polls with no ID would be able to cast a provisional ballot, a process involving filling out a separate envelope before casting a separate ballot. The ballot would not count unless the voter visited the county clerk’s office by the Friday after Election Day. That’s when the voter would have to fill out a separate affidavit explaining the reason for not having an ID.

Another provision of SB 2 would provide a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license. It currently costs $30 for that ID.

SB 2 passed by a 29-9 vote. If the bill becomes law, photo IDs would not be required for the May primary election but would be required for the November general election.

SB 5- An act requiring Special Purpose Governmental Entities (SPGEs) to seek approval from their establishing body to levy an ad valorem tax rate that would generate more revenue than the compensating tax rate, or a first-time ad valorem tax.

SB 56- A surge in youth electronic cigarette use was cited as one reason for this bill. It would raise the age to purchase tobacco products, including those e-cigs, to 21 from 18. The move would bring Kentucky’s statute in line with a new federal law raising the age to 21.

The bill would remove status offenses for youth who purchase, use or possess tobacco products, often called PUP laws. SB 56 would still allow tobacco products to be confiscated but shift penalties to retailers who fail to follow the increased age restriction. SB 56 passed by a 28-10 vote.

SB 66- Amends the current statute to provide that someone who has been criminally charged in the death of another cannot make funeral, burial, or other ceremonial arrangement decisions for the decedent.

SB 72- A sensitive but vital piece of proposed legislation. Kentucky is among 15 states where FGM is still legal. FGM is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or another injury to the female organs for nonmedical purposes.

SB 20- Prohibits the certification of assisted-living communities if they are owned, managed, or operated by anyone who has been convicted of felony offenses relating to adult abuse, child abuse, drugs, homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, robbery, arson, pornography, and other offenses.

During even-numbered years, the Kentucky General Assembly is tasked with preparing a balanced two-year budget for the state. The budget address by the Governor is one of the first steps in crafting this vital document that will guide the Commonwealth’s financial decisions for the next two years. Once the Governor outlines his plan, the Kentucky Senate and House will propose separate budget plans, and all three parties—after many hours of deliberation and input from stakeholders—will come together to craft a final budget. The Governor will be delivering his budget address on January 28 at 7 p.m.

The pace in Frankfort is quickly picking up, and I anticipate an increase of visitors and advocates from across the Commonwealth. As always, I welcome your input on these issues. It is an honor to serve on your behalf in Frankfort.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call the toll-free line at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Max.Wise@LRC.ky.gov. You can review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov

Note: Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) represents the 16th District which encompasses Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne Counties. He is the chairman of the Education Committee; as well as co-chairman of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee. Senator Wise is also a member of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee; the Health and Welfare Committee; the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee; the Public Assistance Reform Task Force; the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation.