(3/10/17) Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens Week in Review

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens
Week in Review

A flurry of activity stemming from committee meetings and the passage of bills marked a short but intense Week 6 of the Kentucky General Assembly. Although the Senate was only in session from Monday to Wednesday of this week, committee meetings still met during the later part of the week to give final hearings to a few select bills.

Quite a few pieces of legislation have already made it to Governor Bevin’s desk to await his signature. Senate Bill 17, relating to student rights to political and religious speech, was given final passage by the House this week. Senate Bill 101 would allow pharmacists to administer more immunizations to children, and Senate Bill 117, allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain special teaching certificates, were also finally passed by the House.

The Senate also enrolled House bills to be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature, including: House Bill 14, which makes committing an offense against a first responder a hate crime; House Bill 93, strengthening penalties for assaulting a law enforcement animal, also known as “Ernie’s Law”; and House Bill 189, increasing transparency within area development districts.

Senate Bill 50 would allow school districts that choose to start the school year no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 to follow a “variable student instructional year.” Schools which start the school year a little later in August than other schools, would not have to meet a 170-day requirement for the school year, as long as students still receive 1,062 hours of instruction each year, which is considered the equivalent of 170 school days. Senate Bill 50 was passed by the Senate 33-1 on February 9 and approved 77-18 by the House on March 8. It now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Senate legislation that would allow medical review panels to review medical malpractice lawsuits before they go to court was also sent to the Governor last week.  Senate Bill 4 would establish a process for medical review panels to review cases and issue opinions that could be used as evidence in court if a case proceeds. It does not prevent any citizen’s access to the courts. The bill was approved by the Senate 23-13 on January 5 and approved 51-45 by the House on March 1. It was delivered to the Governor on March 6.

The General Assembly is now quickly approaching the end of the 2017 Session. We adjourned on March 8, marking day 26 of 30 of the session, and we will reconvene again on March 14 and 15 before going into the veto period. During that period the Governor has the power to veto bills, but the General Assembly can override vetoes on the last two days of session, March 29 and 30.  If you have questions about the status of bills, please feel free to contact my office or review the Legislative Record online which can be found at www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/record.htm.

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

David Givens

Senate President Pro Tem

(KY) This Week at the State Capitol

For Immediate Release

February 17, 2017

This Week at the State Capitol

February 13 – 17, 2017

FRANKFORT — Headlines in recent days have made it clear that Kentucky’s problems with heroin, other illegal opioids and prescription drug abuse, continue to take lives and devastate communities at a shocking rate.

In-state newspapers have recently reported the more than 52 drug overdoses occurred over a 32-hour period in Louisville, and nine overdose calls came in over 12 hours in Madison County. A national publication reported that one rural Kentucky county filled enough prescriptions over 12 months to supply 150 doses of painkillers to every person in the county.

The same conversations held across the state about the way the drug crisis is impacting the court system, police, health care workers, treatment facilities, social workers, prison officials and families are also being held in the State Capitol. Those deliberations resulted in a number of bills aimed at addressing the issue, including several bills that took steps forward in the legislative process this week.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 14, which is aimed at getting drug dealers off the streets by strengthening penalties for trafficking in heroin and fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid. Under the legislation, which was approved on a 36-0 vote, trafficking in less than two grams of these substances would be elevated to a Class C felony punishable by five to 10 years in prison.

Later in the week, a pair of bills addressing the drug crises were also approved in the House committees.

House Bill 333 would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil – a powerful opioid intended for large animals – and related drugs. Trafficking any amount of these drugs could result in up to 10 years in prison under the legislation. The bill would also restrict prescriptions for some painkillers to a three-day supply, though exceptions would be allowed in some circumstances. House Bill 333 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full House for consideration.

The House Education Committee approved House Bill 145, which would help fight opioid addiction by requiring that public school students be educated about the dangers of prescription pain killers and their connection to addiction to heroin and other drugs.

Bills on other issues that advanced in the General Assembly this week include the following:

· Senate Bill 1 is a sweeping education reform measure that sets the course to change educational standards and accountability for public schools. The more than 100-page-long bill is an omnibus measure aimed at empowering state education officials, locally-elected school board members and teachers to decide the best teaching methods for their communities. It would set up several committees and advisory panels to review educational standards. The bill would change how students are tested, and it would also set up a new way for intervening in low-performing schools by placing more power in the local school district during those interventions. The bill passed the Senate on a 35-0 vote and now goes to the House for consideration.

· House Bill 14 would give police, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel protection under the state’s hate crime statutes. Under the bill, those who assault, kidnap, or commit certain other violent offenses against first responders could face stricter sentencing in court. Currently only the legally-protected classes of race, color, religion and national origin, as well as sexual orientation, are covered under the state’s hate crime statute. House Bill 14 passed the House on a 77-13-1 vote and has been sent to the Senate.

· Senate Bill 78 would require public schools across Kentucky would to go smoke-free by next school year. The bill would outlaw the use of all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on elementary, middle and high school campuses in addition to buses. The bill was approved by the Senate on a 25-8-2 and has been sent to the House.

· Senate Bill 75 would increase the amount donors can contribute to election campaigns. Under the legislation, individuals and political action committees could donate $2,000 in the primary and general elections in Kentucky– up from the $1,000 limit. The bill passed the Senate on a 27-10 vote and has been delivered to the House.

· House Bill 192 would make it easier for 16- and 17-year-olds in foster care to apply for driver’s permits and driver’s licenses. The bill, which passed 96-0 before being sent to the Senate,  would allow those in foster care to get a driver’s license or permit without requiring them to have a parent’s or other adult’s signature on the permit or license applications.

Members of the General Assembly are eager to receive feedback on the issues under consideration. You can share your thoughts with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.

You can also write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.

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