We have passed the midpoint of the General Assembly, and the activity has continued to be energetic and fast paced. I was pleased to celebrate President’s Day back in the district with events in Hazard and Hyden alongside United States Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.
Upon returning to the Capital, I was delighted to spend much of the week with visitors from home. Paintsville Councilman Mark McKenzie, Johnson County Commissioners Paul Daniel, Kathy Adams and Darren Gamble and Bell County Magistrate Rick and Betty Cornett visited Frankfort this week. Barbara Ledford visited my office on behalf of University of Kentucky educators as well as Bell County Board of Education’s Jeff Saylor and Yvone Gilliam. Wilson Jeffery, of Pineville, stopped by my office as well as Magoffin County Board of Education’s Stanley Holbrook and Grayson Smith.
As I have noted before, I especially enjoy hosting our young students at the capital and was pleased to welcome Hazard Boy Scout Troop 90 on Wednesday. These impressive young men handled themselves with the utmost dignity and I must thank their parents and chaperons for making their visit possible! As a former troop and den pack leader, I know the hours of dedication it takes to provide for these boys and praise their commitment; thank you Charles and Lori Boggs, Melissa and Kevin Vermillion, Ann Robinson, Michael Claussen and Kenneth Combs.
The Senate took up historic legislation this week in House Bill 70. House Bill 70 would amend the Kentucky Constitution and allow certain felons with specific crimes that meet the standard to have their voting rights restored. Wednesday, the Senate State and Local Government heard testimony for this bill from the sponsors as well as U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
With the Senate Committee Substitute One, the bill provides two paths to restoration of voting rights for certain felons. One grants the rights after five years from the end of the sentence. The second is the current system in which an executive pardon is sought from the sitting governor. Upon committing another crime, however, voting rights would be lost. This measure strikes a balance between giving citizens who want to serve their sentence, pay their debt and become participating members of our governance, and the automatic restoration of rights to everyone upon release, which forfeits some accountability on the part of the convicted person. The measure passed the Senate and now goes back to the House.
Educational success is critical in our state. Senate Bill 54 passed and will help children be better-prepared for kindergarten. Statistics and data show that early childhood education is critical to future academic success. A recent state screening showed only 49 percent of Kentucky’s children were kindergarten-ready when they entered school. However, students who go through preschool programs have much higher readiness. Senate Bill 54 would permit children to attend preschool for 15 hours per week, rather than 9 without changing licensing requirements. This measure would benefit preschool aged children with two extra days of instruction, equipping them for Kindergarten, and giving a foundation for future academic success.
On the other end of the age spectrum, we worked to protect our vulnerable adults this week. Senate Bill 98 received overwhelming bipartisan support. This bill would require entities that provide personal care services to vulnerable adults to query the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for a prospective employee, contractor, or volunteer to find out if the prospect has been the subject of a validated substantiated finding of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation. An individual can also request the registry for a potential employer.
Senate Bill 66 is a bill aimed to make our lakes more hospitable to visitors and vacationers. The legislation sets requirements for the Department of Fish and Wildlife peace officers to only enter boats if there is reasonable suspicion of a violation. Too often, our guests enjoying the lakes in Kentucky are boarded, searched and often for no apparent reason. This hurts the tourism industry of Kentucky which is important to our small businesses and economy. Along with the measure, the officers would be trained in hospitality toward the people enjoying outdoor activities and tourism.
As legislation continues, I appreciate your comments and input. Please contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also, you can follow the work of the General Assembly at www.lrc.ky.gov. In addition, you can see activity of our caucus via twitter at @kysenategop.