(KY) Who is this legislature working for?

March 14, 2017

As this session of the General Assembly winds down, its recurring theme has been the transfer of power to those who already have it.

The dramatic rush of legislation in early January produced the new Republican majority’s crown jewel, a right-to-work law weakening the labor unions that represent Kentucky workers.

Since then, there’s been a steady redistribution of power and influence to those who already enjoy power and influence, from those who have much less of both.

Victims of nursing-home negligence and medical malpractice lost power to the nursing home and medical industries and will now have to go through “medical review panels” before taking their complaints to court.

Neighborhoods lost power to developers who were given a weapon in the form of a costly bond requirement to take disputes over zoning decisions to the Court of Appeals.

Coal miners are losing to the operators of unsafe mines as a bill progresses that would result in fewer state mine-safety inspections.

Workers in chain restaurants lost to corporations that are being relieved of responsibility for wage, hour, health, safety and other violations affecting their franchises’ employees.

Kentuckians will lose part of the public highways to longer, heavier trucks as a favor to the poultry, aluminum and trucking industries (though Kentucky’s short-line railroad industry is also losing).

School districts will be allowed to employ certain relatives of school-board members as lawmakers dismantle historic anti-nepotism rules piecemeal.

And women — especially low-income and rural women — will have less access to safe, legal abortions as a male-dominated legislature imposes even more constitutionally questionable barriers. At the same time, bipartisan legislation that would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations, such as breaks or unpaid time off, to pregnant or breastfeeding workers got nowhere.

The legislature’s new Republican majority is making Kentucky a guinea pig to test the theory that lowering wages and taking away Kentuckians’ rights will produce a better, more prosperous state.

In doing so, the new Republican majority is also carrying out the agenda of an organization founded and funded by the Koch brothers (who have plenty of power, influence and money) that opened shop in Kentucky in 2014. Americans for Prosperity does not report how it spends its money or where its money comes from. It does not give directly to candidates, but there’s no doubt its independent spending was a factor in last fall’s elections when Republicans won the House for the first time in almost a century and also in Gov. Matt Bevin’s victory in 2015.

Kentucky’s legislature and governors have long been captive to monied interests, most notably road builders and other state contractors.

This session is the first in which lawmakers have owed so much to out-of-state interests.

This session’s redistribution of power eventually will manifest itself in lawmakers’ hometowns and across their districts. They can pat themselves on the backs if, indeed, their constituents become more prosperous, healthy and safe as a result of their actions. If that’s not how it works out, however, voters will have to make a strong statement to be heard above the siren song of dark money.

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Where key bills stand with seven workdays left in the 2017 General Assembly

The Kentucky House of Representatives voted on bills on Friday, March 3, 2017, at the state Capitol in Frankfort.

By John Cheves

jcheves@herald-leader.com

Frankfort

The 2017 General Assembly enters its final phase Monday as Republican leaders prepare for Gov. Matt Bevin a stack of legislation on university funding, religious expression, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation and many other subjects.

The Kentucky House and Senate are scheduled to continue passing bills through Wednesday, then recess until March 14, when they will return for two days of voting on “concurrence” — deciding whether or not to agree with any changes that have been made to their bills by the other chamber.

Next, Bevin, a Republican, will get two weeks to veto legislation if he chooses. Lawmakers return to the Capitol on March 29 and 30 to act on Bevin’s vetoes, if there are any, and conclude their 30-day session.

Here is where some noteworthy bills that have passed at least one chamber stood on Friday:

House Bill 14, which would extend the state’s hate crimes law to include criminal acts committed against police officers and other emergency workers, awaits a final vote on the Senate floor.

House Bill 72, which would let judges set an expensive bond for parties who appeal a zone change case from circuit court, awaits a Senate floor vote. A Senate committee changed the bill, removing an exception for churches that appeal a case and adding an exception for anyone challenging a landfill, so the House would have to agree to that.

House Bill 128, which would allow school districts to offer elective Bible study classes, awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 151 would permit children to attend the school nearest their home, causing concern in Louisville, where a racial desegregation plan involves moving some children outside of their neighborhoods to create greater classroom diversity. It awaits a hearing in the Senate Education Committee.

House Bill 222, which would prohibit shock probation for drunken drivers convicted of manslaughter or vehicular homicide, awaits a final vote on the Senate floor.

House Bill 281, which would set limits on how much the state’s attorney general could pay the outside lawyers he hires to handle complex litigation, awaits a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 296 would reduce the expenses paid by Kentucky’s workers’ compensation program at the request of insurers and businesses, angering worker advocates, who say labor was left out of the bill. It awaits a hearing in the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee.

Senate Bill 1, which would establish a new process for intervening in low-performing schools and reviewing classroom academic standards, awaits a hearing in the House Education Committee.

Senate Bill 4, which would create medical review panels comprised of medical professionals to decide the merits of malpractice and neglect claims before they could proceed as lawsuits, was given final passage by the Senate on Friday and sent to the governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 8, which would bump Planned Parenthood to the back of the line for about $300,000 a year in federal family planning funds, awaits a vote on the House floor. A House committee made changes to the bill, so the Senate would have to agree with those.

Senate Bill 17, which details the right of public students to express religious viewpoints in school, awaits a final vote on the House floor.

Senate Bill 75, which would double the amount that donors can contribute to state political campaigns and then allow additional increases tied to inflation, awaits a hearing in the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Senate Bill 107 would grant sweeping powers to the governor to abolish every public educational governing board in Kentucky, including those at state universities, the Kentucky Board of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Education. It awaits a hearing in the House State Government Committee.

Senate Bill 120, an expansive plan to make it easier for felons to get work experience while incarcerated and smoothly re-enter society after their release, awaits a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 153, which would create a new method of funding higher education, funneling $1 billion to state universities based on their graduation rates and other performance measures, awaits a hearing in the House budget committee.

John Cheves: 859-231-3266, @BGPolitics

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Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens Week in Review

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens
Week in Review

Members of the Senate took action on one of the issues of greatest interest to Kentuckians when we passed a major education bill this week that would begin aligning university funding with the state’s top postsecondary education goals.

Senate Bill 153, that I sponsored, changes Kentucky’s historical approach to college and university funding. In the past, postsecondary funding has been based on what each school received in the previous budget cycle. Under the proposal that the Senate approved this week, funding would instead be based on how well schools are helping the state reach major postsecondary education attainment goals. Among the goals the legislation focuses on are:

· Increasing student progress toward the completion of degrees or certification.

· Increasing the number and types of degrees and credentials earned by students, with a focus on those that lead to higher salaries, such as science, technology, engineering, math, health, and other areas of industry demands.

· Closing achievement gaps by increasing the number of credentials and degrees earned by low-income students and minority students.

· Boosting the accumulation of credit hours and the transfer of students from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System to four-year postsecondary institutions.

Under the legislation, which was approved by the Senate on a 36-1 vote, the postsecondary funding formula would appropriate 35 percent of funds based on student success tied to outcomes, 35 percent would be tied to total student credit hours, and 30 percent would be based on supporting vital campus operations.

The new funding model would be phased in over four years to provide stability to postsecondary schools as they move to the outcomes-based formula.

The legislation also calls for a postsecondary work group to review the results of the new funding model every three years to make sure it’s achieving its goals. The work group would make recommendations to the General Assembly as needed.

Senate Bill 153 has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration

During this midpoint week, we spent a large amount of time in committees and passing bills on the floor. Friday marked day 18 of 30 of the 2017 Session, so the window of time to pass legislation is closing. We passed quite a few important bills through the Senate, including:

  • Senate Bill 8 defunds organizations that fund abortions, such as Planned Parenthood;
  • Senate Bill 21 allows for the use of experimental treatments not yet approved by the FDA if the patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness;
  • Senate Bill 107 gives the General Assembly a check-and-balance means of ensuring balanced boards of postsecondary institutions. This is another step to ensure the leadership at our state universities follow the law and act in the best interest of the students.
  • Senate Bill 122 establishes a Gold Star Sons and Gold Star Daughters special license plate for children of the armed forces who were killed overseas;
  • Senate Bill 159 requires all public high school students to pass a civics test in order to receive a regular diploma. This passing score would be a minimum of 60 percent and the questions would be pulled from the test required of all people seeking to become U.S. citizens.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with questions, concerns, and your ideas for the future of our commonwealth. It is an honor to represent you in the State Senate.

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

Send this to your Kentucky Legislators NOW!!!!

 
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Thomas Tony Vance

12 mins ·

Send this to your Kentucky Legislators NOW!!!!

In 1969, the 1937 marijuana tax stamp act was declared unconstitutional.

In 1970 they began creating the 1970 Controlled substances Act and without any scientific input made marijuana schedule one, right up there with heroin. A schedule that cannot be questioned or changed without the approval of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Very few drugs are in this category.

Now we know it was all a political scam to use the drug war to go after and suppress Nixon’s enemies. We know this for sure because the Nixon Administration said so.

The cover story in the April 2016 edition of Harper’s Magazine was, “Legalize it all” written by Dan Baum. Mister Baum was asking Nixon aide John Ehrlichman questions about the politics of drug prohibition and as he tells it, Ehrlichman asked,

“You want to know what this was really all about?” He went on to say, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did”.

The new AG, Senator Sessions is saying he is going to step up the war on pot users. For what reason?

They claim States Rights when deciding whether or not to protect transgender kids’ right to go to the bathroom of their choice, but not when deciding a State Marijuana policy!

Please ease the fears of the tens of thousands of marijuana users in our State and send a message to the new administration that as a State we will not be bullied by the Feds.

PS: Scientifically, there is a 25% drop in opioid overdose deaths in the first year after passage of a medical marijuana bill that grows to 33% by year 6 after legalization. that means 250 of our citizens will die in the coming year if a bill is not passed this year.

So Git Busy!

You may never know but passage might save the life of one of your family members!

https://www.facebook.com/thomas.t.vance?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

Kentucky Bill Would Legalize Medical Marijuana, Take Step to Nullify Federal Prohibition

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 13, 2016) – A Kentucky Senate bill slated for introduction in 2017 would legalize medical marijuana for qualifying patients in the state, effectively nullifying the unconstitutional federal prohibition on the same.

Pre-filed by Sen. Perry B. Clark (D-Louisville), BR409 would “protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, as well as their practitioners and providers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture, if such patients engage in the medical use of cannabis.” The bill will be considered by the Kentucky State Senate during the 2017 legislative session.

Patients would be able to qualify for medical marijuana if they suffered from one of the following ailments listed in BR409:

A terminal illness, peripheral neuropathy, anorexia, cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, substance use disorder, mood disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, muscular dystrophy, post-traumatic stress disorder, diabetes, sleep disorder, fibromyalgia, autism, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, Tourette syndrome, anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or the treatment of these conditions

Medical marijuana patients would be allowed to designate a caregiver under BR409, which would permit another individual the legal authority to grow the plant on behalf of the qualifying patient. Dispensaries, called “compassion centers” in BR409, would be permitted to operate as well provided that they comply with the tax and regulatory structure established under the legislation.

“Most of my life we have expended tax dollars pursuing a ban on a plant,” Sen. Clark said in a WKYT news report from earlier this year. “Wasted dollars, they were. We have exponentially increased the power and scope of our criminal justice system by strapping it with issues concerning a plant.”

Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as SB409 remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.

LEGALITY

The federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970 prohibits all of this behavior. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

Legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky would remove a huge layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.

FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By curtailing state prohibition, Kentucky sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly annual budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution either. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

A GROWING MOVEMENT

With passage of SB409, Kentucky would join a growing number of states simply ignoring federal prohibition, and nullifying it in practice. Colorado, Washington state, Oregon and Alaska have already legalized recreational cannabis. California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts are set to join them after voters approved ballot initiatives in favor of legalization last November.

With more than two-dozen states allowing cannabis for medical use as well, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition any more.

“The lesson here is pretty straight forward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.

WHAT’S NEXT?

BR409 will need to be formally introduced and pass its committee assignments before it can be considered by the full Senate. Stay in touch with our Tenther Blog and our Tracking and Action Center for the latest updates.

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Kentucky Marijuana Legalization Not In Pre-Filed Bills For 2017

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Across America, Election Day showed strong support for marijuana legalization, but can Kentucky expect the same in 2017?

While Kentucky had some promise in 2016 that legalizing marijuana was in the works, they did not join the eight states that voted for either recreational or medical marijuana on November 8.

According to Marijuana Policy Project, marijuana was legalized for recreational use in California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. In addition, Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, and Montana all voted for medical marijuana.

Currently, 28 states in America have legalized medical marijuana, but will Kentucky catch up anytime soon?

The excitement with Kentucky marijuana laws started in December, 2015, when state senator Perry Clark introduced the idea after many previous attempts.

Dated March 6, the bill Perry Clark introduced was called the Cannabis Freedom Act in Kentucky.

 

Following this, updates about Kentucky marijuana laws hit a milestone on July 5. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, meetings were being held “behind closed doors” about a proposed medical marijuana law.

At the time, Kentucky senator John Schickel, said they needed to hold the meetings about marijuana legalization to “vet” the issue, according to WFPL.

On July 11, WKMS reported that Kentucky’s medical marijuana laws got a boost of support by the prestigious health organization in the state, the Kentucky Nurses Association. About legalizing marijuana in Kentucky, a representative for the nurse’s association stated, “providing legal access to medical cannabis is imperative.”

Although it was talked about in meetings at the Kentucky Senate, according to their notes posted in July, August, and October, the marijuana legalization issue appeared to be stalled.

In late September, WFPL concluded their article about the marijuana legalization attempts in Kentucky with “the bill was assigned to a committee but never received a hearing.”

They also quoted Kentucky state senator Jimmy Higdon, stating that the lawmakers were confused about how the bill would be implemented. Senator Higdon said he would mainly be interested in allowing medical marijuana “to be prescribed in end-of-life situations.”

Does the lack of new updates mean that the bill has completely dried up, and Kentucky will not be seeing more medical marijuana laws to vote on in the next election?

Sadly, the pre-filed 2017 Kentucky House Bills that are available online do not reflect any updates about marijuana as of November 25.

Despite this, there could be updates in the near future because the Cannabis Freedom Act that was discussed in 2016 was actually filed in early December, 2015. This means Kentucky still has some time to see if marijuana legalization might be a big part of elections in the state in 2017.

 

On the other hand, Kentucky could get a lot of new laws about controlled substances in 2017, but they are not marijuana-related. For example, pre-filed bill BR 201 states it will “create the offense of aggravated fentanyl trafficking” in the state of Kentucky law books.

Adding to this, pre-filed bill BR 210 that sits before the Kentucky state senate in 2017 states its purpose is “to make trafficking in any amount of fentanyl or carfentanil subject to elevated penalties.”

New proposed bills in the state of Kentucky are also targeting the medical community. For example, pre-filed bill BR 202 states the following.

“[A] practitioner shall not issue a prescription for a narcotic drug for more than seven days unless specific circumstances exist.”

Of course, Kentucky might not have time to vote on marijuana legalization because Donald Trump may not be building his cabinet with marijuana supporters.

For example, CNN reported on November 25 that Donald Trump is appointing a marijuana legalization opponent, Senator Jeff Sessions, as his Attorney General.

About marijuana, Jeff Sessions was quoted as stating the following at a senate hearing in April, 2016.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana. We need grown ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger.”

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Kentucky Senate Week in Review

Senate Week in Review

Submitted By Reginald L. Thomas

FRANKFORT — What should be the state’s spending priorities for the next two fiscal years? Should Kentucky give felons a clearer path to having rights restored after they have fulfilled their sentences? Should public and private partnerships be formed to work together on large projects?

Many of the big questions confronting our state were taken up and voted on in the Senate Chamber this week, the 12th week of the General Assembly’s 2016 session. As is typical in the home stretch of a legislative session, the number of bills moving through chambers and delivered to the governor’s desk continued to increase with each passing day.

The Senate’s big issue of the week, though, was undoubtedly the state budget. No one is denying that the budget process is difficult because every decision affects real people across the state.  As we debated differences in the House and Senate budget proposals, I found that the cuts in the Senate Majority plan were too deep and could not support that plan.  

As I said to my colleagues when I stood on the Senate floor on Wednesday to express my concerns, this budget shoots a hole in the city of Lexington and our growth will be stunted. The plan removed a provision for issuing $60 million in bonds for renovations to the Lexington Convention Center. The House’s plan proposed adopting a hotel and motel tax for funding the project – not use the general fund. Furthermore, the Senate’s plan mirrored the governor’s cuts to the University of Kentucky and other public education institutions. I could not, in good conscience, support this plan.

At the time of this writing, members of the Senate and House are meeting in a conference committee to iron out differences in each chambers’ spending proposals. The goal is to craft a plan that both chambers can agree on before the veto recess. I am optimistic that we will find a solution that will protect education, shore up the state employee and teacher retirement plans, enhance the economic development of Lexington, and invest in our infrastructure, while looking out for our most vulnerable citizens. 

In other business, the Senate approved a measure that would let voters decide on a proposed amendment to the state constitution regarding the restoration of rights to felons who have paid their debt to society. The measure, Senate Bill 299, would place a proposed amendment on this year’s November ballot that, if approved, would allow the General Assembly to set guidelines for restoring felon voting rights.

Another major issue approved by the Senate this week concerns public-private partnerships, also known as P3s. House Bill 309 would establish oversight and a framework for the use of public-private partnerships as an alternative funding source for major projects. Among the safeguards set up by the bill is the requirement that state projects costing more than $25 million be approved by the General Assembly and the establishment of the Kentucky Local Government Public-Private Partnership Board to review P3 deals with local governments.

Other bills that took steps forward in the Senate this week include:

· Senate Bill 256 would allow high school students participating in basic training required by a branch of the United States Armed Forces to be considered present for all purposes for up to ten days.

· Senate Bill 245 would bring Kentucky’s state ID program into compliance with federal standards. The legislation would make REAL ID-compliant state-issued identification available to Kentuckians. REAL ID is a federal program adopted in 2005 that would come close to establishing a national proof-of-identity program. By 2018, flyers from states that are not REAL ID compliant nor have an extension – or those individuals who do not choose to obtain an enhanced ID – will need a second form of identification to fly domestically. By 2020, all flyers will require enhanced identification.

· House Bill 38 would require the state to set standards for the use and operation of aerial recreational facilities like outdoor ziplines and canopy tours. The legislation was drafted with input from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, which would set the standards and regulate ziplines and related forms of entertainment. The department could rely on industry standards and third-party inspections when setting requirements, and could set fees to help administer those requirements. 

· House Bill 115 would expand eligibility for screenings under the state’s Colon Cancer Screening Program to uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50-64 or uninsured persons deemed at high risk for the disease. Eligibility would be based on current American Cancer Society screening guidelines.

· House Bill 59 would make it easier for those at risk of violence to shield their home addresses from people who could harm them.  The measure would allow people at risk of violence to apply for a substitute address without first obtaining a domestic violence order.  A sworn statement would suffice.    

As a growing number of bills were moving through legislative chambers this week, others were being delivered to the governor’s office to be signed into law. Some of the legislation delivered to the governor included:

· Senate Bill 43 would make the survivors of emergency medical services providers who are killed in the line of duty eligible for the state lump-sum death benefits. 

· Senate Bill 63, the SAFE Act of 2016, would eliminate a backlog of more than 3,000 sexual assault examination kits dating back to the 1970s.  This is a step forward to give victims justice. 

· Senate Bill 195 would extend state-paid survivor benefits to surviving family members of cancer-stricken firefighters by determining that some firefighters who succumb to certain types of cancers died as the result of an act performed in the line of duty.

On Tuesday, we recognized the 75th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Tuskegee Airmen were dedicated, determined young men who enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps to become America’s first black military airmen, considered to be an experiment.  The Tuskegee Airmen protected freedom in more than 1,200 missions.  It was an honor to welcome these heroes to Frankfort, including Frank Weaver of Louisville who was an original Tuskegee Airmen and a World War II veteran. The Senate passed my Senate Resolution 188 honoring these brave airmen and adjourned the Senate in their honor.

With only a few more working days remaining, the session is quickly winding down.  There is s still time, though, for important measures to become law. I encourage you to take this opportunity to have your voice heard in this legislative session.  You can leave me a message by calling the legislative message line at 800-372-7181 or e-mailing me at reginald.thomas@lrc.ky.gov.

 

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Prepared in part by LRC Public Information Office