FRANKFORT — Not every bill that passes through the Kentucky General Assembly impacts every citizen. The outreach of some legislation is minimal, while other legislation can have an effect on every Kentuckian. Some bills grab the headlines, while others are only footnotes.
Numerous bills have already cleared both legislative chambers, and many more are waiting in the wings. This week, we gave final approval on several measures and sent them to the Governor.
One bill that has already been sent to the Governor adds police, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel to those protected under Kentucky’s hate crime statute. Under House Bill 14 — Blue Lives Matter — 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, national origin, and sexual orientation are covered under the state’s hate crime statute.
I believe we owe our first responders a great deal of gratitude for putting their lives on the line for us every day, and this is just one small step in that direction.
Another bill nearing final legislative approval would help Kentucky families have an easier time keeping autopsy photos of their loved ones private. House Bill 67 would provide additional protections against the release of autopsy photographs, videos and other images to non-essential outlets such as the news media and Internet bloggers. The measure was prompted by the case of a young Kentucky boy killed in an accident whose parents were unsuccessful in halting the release of his autopsy photos to media outlets. It would not affect the release of autopsy reports, including images, to law enforcement officials or others who typically are entitled to receive that information.
HB 67, which will be designated as Jack’s Law in honor of the child whose death inspired it, goes back to the House for final approval.
Other legislation delivered to the Governor this week for his signature:
• House Bill 222 — People convicted of second-degree manslaughter while driving drunk would no longer be eligible for shock probation under this bill. Currently, judges are able to use their own discretion in deciding whether to shorten an offender’s sentence in favor of probation.
• House Bill 269 – This would allow relatives who are currently ineligible for employment in a school district to serve as substitutes for certified or classified personnel, so long as they are not employees or contract employees of the district.
• House Bill 35 — Kentucky would become one of more than 31 states that allow for the creation of public benefit corporations — companies that make investments in a public benefit, or public good, as part of their corporate philosophy. Although their mission is to maximize profits, a portion must go toward a charitable purpose.
• House Bill 195 – This would replace the G.E.D. with a High School Equivalency Diploma. Kentucky Adult Education would be required to align their programs with the state’s College and Career Readiness Standards, or similar standards, which upon completion result in a High School Equivalency Diploma.
• House Concurrent Resolution 59 – This measure designates April 6, 2017, as the World War One Centennial Day in the Commonwealth.
Other legislation that cleared the Senate and was sent to the House for final approval:
• House Bill 38 – This measure would add publically owned playgrounds to the areas that sex offender registrants are prohibited from, unless they have advanced written permission from the local legislative body with jurisdiction over the playground. It would be a Class A misdemeanor for the first violation and Class D felony for the second and subsequent violations.
• Senate Bill 215 – This legislation puts in statute the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Fund and appropriates $7.5 million annually from the general fund portion of Kentucky’s coal severance taxes to diversify the economy of the coal fields. It would also create the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Fund authority, whose members are appointed by the Governor from the eastern and western coal fields, to determine who receives disbursements from the fund.
• House Bill 374 – Anyone hired by the state whose position involves the care and supervision of children would be required to have a fingerprint background check. HB 374 also permits the use of ongoing FBI fingerprint check follow-ups on foster and adoptive parents, and on childcare staff. It also requires childcare staff to have a state and national fingerprint background check.
Having completed 26 of 30 days in the 2017 Legislative Session, the time to pass legislation is running out. Some bills are still languishing in committees awaiting the chance to go to the floor for a vote. Very few of these have time to gain final approval and head to the Governor’s desk before we sine die on March 30. I encourage you to get involved by contacting members of the legislature, especially committee chairs and leadership of both chambers, to encourage them to help move bills that are important to you. You can call the Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. To check the status of a bill or to find legislators you want to contact, go to http://www.lrc.ky.gov/. You can e-mail me directly at email@example.com.