The omnibus package, filed as House Bill 189, includes provisions allowing state courts to grant domestic violence restraining orders to dating partners, whether or not the couple is living together, has lived together or has a child together. Currently only partners who meet those criteria are able to seek a DVO against one another.
Other changes would require counseling assessment for anyone under a DVO, require statistical reporting of domestic violence crimes, create the crime of “domestic violence shelter trespass,” require that law enforcement officers receive domestic violence training once every two years, and include intentional strangulation under the state’s definition of physical assault.
Now HB 189 goes to the House floor for consideration. It seems likely that the House — which earlier voted unanimously to pass “Amanda’s Bill,” allowing GPS tracking to enforce restraining orders — will lend this latest measure its support despite state budget constraints.
Another bill addressing employment passed out of the House last week. House Bill 321 requires that Kentucky contractors and subcontractors — when contracting with state or local government — use the federal verification system to ensure that workers are here legally. In a time where every job is precious, House Bill 321 will help contractors make sure construction jobs are given to workers who are here legally. The bill passed with a vote of 93-3 and now heads to the Senate.
Concerns about difficulties among a growing number of Kentucky combat veterans were also aired before a House committee this week. Emotional problems caused by years of war and multiple deployments have led some veterans to commit criminal acts — acts that some lawmakers believe could be avoided by providing vets with additional help for post-traumatic stress disorder and other post-deployment adjustments. HB 377, approved by the House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee, would give veterans that extra help by requiring combat veterans under arrest to be identified by pretrial officers and connected immediately to already-available assistance. The bill now goes to the full House.
Kentuckians would find some foreclosure relief with the passage of House Bill 166 which cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee. This legislation would further regulate debt adjustors from charging borrowers high miscellaneous fees. That practice helped fuel the 2008 economic downturn, cost Kentucky an estimated $158 million and currently puts hundreds of households into foreclosure every month. The bill, which passed 38-0, now moves to the House for its consideration.
Increased penalties for drunk drivers who receive a first-time DUI conviction also came to lawmakers’ attention last week when the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a bill requiring them to have a breath-sensing “ignition interlock” device installed in their vehicle. HB 58, which now goes to the full House, would also expand the list of factors that trigger higher DUI penalties and require a person’s license plates be impounded on a first or subsequent DUI offense. Under current law, the courts can impound a DUI offender's plates on second or subsequent offense while their license is suspended and may order an interlock device be installed in their vehicle once their license suspension ends.
Legislation that would allow gubernatorial candidates to choose their running mate before or after primary elections also got a green light in committee last week. HB 247 would let candidates select their running mate as late as the second Tuesday in August. The bill cleared the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and now goes to the House floor.
An issue on nearly every Kentuckian’s mind is the economy and the state’s growing unemployment rate, which has forced the state to borrow millions from the federal government to keep its unemployment insurance trust fund afloat. The House hopes to get the trust fund out of the red with a bill it passed on a 97-0 vote. House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, the sponsor of HB 349, said Kentucky has had to borrow over $640 million from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits because of a structural imbalance in the fund that his bill hopes to correct. Should the bill become law, Kentucky could beef up the fund by raising the taxable wage base that determines how much employers pay into the fund and by reducing the percentage of weekly wages paid by the fund as of 2012, among other changes.
Other bills that passed the full House last week were:
·HB 283, a bill that would allow the state to issue coal mining permits more quickly by raising certain permit fees. HB 283 passed the House 80-15 and now goes to the Senate.
·HB 70 would allow Kentucky voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would automatically restore the voting rights of thousands of Kentuckians with prior felony convictions, with the exception of violent felons convicted of intentional murder, sexual contact with a minor, rape or sodomy. The measure—which has passed the House in prior sessions but stalled in the Senate—passed the House by a vote of 83-16 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
·HB 321 would require public agencies to verify a potential employee’s immigration status through federal employment verification programs and prohibit public agencies— including state and local agencies and school districts— and their contractors and subcontractors from hiring unauthorized, or illegal, alien workers. The bill passed the House 93-3 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
House leaders continue to try to reach consensus on possible state budget scenarios, and could bring a budget bill to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee for a vote in a matter of days. The situation remains fluid.
You can stay informed of action in the House budget committee and all other legislative action during the 2010 Regular Session by checking our website, www.lrc.ky.gov, or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, check the website or call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. You may e-mail me at email@example.com.
If you would like to share your comments or concerns with me or another legislator about a particular bill under consideration this session, please feel free to call the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. You can also write to any legislator by sending a letter with your lawmaker's name on it to: Legislative Offices, 701 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601.