We are down to four days remaining in the 2017 Session of the General Assembly, a session that many have called one of the most productive. It is certainly one of the busiest sessions we have had in Frankfort mostly due to the unbelievable interest and participation in the process by constituents throughout the state. I spoke with Kentucky State Troopers and they confirmed that the number of visitors advocating for and against legislation has been enormous this year. I get such satisfaction seeing so much excitement back home from friends and neighbors regarding the legislative process. For the first time, they feel like the 28th District has a voice in Frankfort and a champion for their interests. It is refreshing to see democracy in action and to have supported many of the pieces of legislation that citizens in the 28th District and throughout the Commonwealth have wanted for decades.
We had another eventful week passing bills on a variety of subjects, and we await a few key education bills as the final days approach. Quite a few pieces of legislation have already made it to Governor Bevin’s desk to await his signature:
· Senate Bill (SB) 17, relating to student rights to political and religious speech;
· Senate Bill 101 would allow pharmacists to administer any immunization to children over the age of eight;
· Senate Bill 117, allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain special teaching certificates;
· Senate Bill 50 gives schools more flexibility in choosing their start date to allow for longer summer breaks.
The Senate also enrolled House bills to be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature, including House Bill (HB) 14, which makes committing an offense against a first responder a hate crime. I read the opposition to this bill and understand the passion behind it, but for me, there is no reason not to extend class protections to a group who have been subjected to violence simply because they are first responders. I will also note that expanding protection to a new class does not diminish those same protections of another class or group. And House Bill 189, increasing transparency within area development districts, was also enrolled this week
We also passed several bills that are now one step closer to becoming law. Senate Bill 215 establishes the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Fund to be used for the purpose of supporting efforts to diversify the economy of the coal fields within Kentucky and allocates $7.5 million a year toward those efforts. Senate Bill 9, the judicial redistricting bill, is also still in the process and has been needed for sixty years. I should note that regardless of its passage or not, the judicial branch in Clark and Montgomery Counties will not change. House Bill 222 prohibits shock probation if a person is convicted of second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide stemming from driving under the influence. Additionally, HB 333, HB 314, and SB 14 are all important bills which apply harsher penalties to heroin and prescription traffickers and extend treatment options to drug abusers.
As the final four days come upon us, all eyes will be watching the prospects of SB 1 and HB 520. Senate Bill 1 is the second part of an initiative to realign education standards nationally while empowering local districts to have more instructional freedom for their teachers and to get teachers back to teaching. The Senate Majority heard from educators around the state on this issue and all were very supportive of getting back to teaching in the classroom and being free from burdensome bureaucracy which has stifled their creativity and extended their already long workdays. House Bill 520 continues to empower local districts with the prospect of charter school implementation. This bill gives local districts the right to hear proposals regarding the inclusion of charter schools. It also gives parents the ability to choose this type of education for their child. I am a huge supporter of school choice in Kentucky.
We adjourned on March 8 and 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.