Legislative Update – March 13, 2015

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The 2015 Legislative Session of the Kentucky General Assembly adjourned near midnight on Wednesday, March 11, signaling the close of a complex and issue-laden short session. Thursday marked the beginning of the Governor’s 10-day veto period during which he will review the bills passed by both House and Senate for his approval or veto.

Senate Bills that will enable improvements to public safety, health, economic development and education policy were enrolled late into Wednesday evening as the Senate and House passed a number of measures either with or without amendments.

Senate Bill 10 received final passage and enrollment, which is a life-saving measure that establishes lists of certified stroke centers, so that EMS workers can provide aid to stroke victims as soon as humanly possible. The network and list also will be made available to the public. Quick medical intervention for stroke victims is vital to saving lives and preventing permanent damage.

Another health-related act is Senate Bill 61, which will make it easier to screen for colorectal cancer, the leading cancer in Kentucky, and one that can be successfully treated if detected early. Senate Bill 75 will call for screening of Krabbe disease in newborns – another disease that, if caught early, can be treated successfully.

Senate Bill 102 will consider child abuse that results in death a homicide and allow appropriate justice to be dealt out to these perpetrators. Current law makes it difficult to convict these criminals with homicide and violent offender felonies, resulting in short sentences and early paroles. Related to combating child abuse, Senate Bill 119 ensures that school personnel receive proper training to recognize abuse and neglect as well as how to report these signs to intervene on behalf of children.

Also within Senate Bill 119, language was inserted to allow school districts to waive some of their mandatory 1,062 instructional hours this year because of snow days, if the districts cannot make up the time by June 5.

Senate Bill 168 is an economic development bill that creates a funding mechanism for investment and infrastructure improvement grants to revitalize opportunities in the Appalachian region. Saving Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) will award projects using coal severance funds, and encourage economic vitality in the area where many thousands of jobs have been lost due to the war on coal.

These are only a sample of the Senate Bills now enrolled. In all, 34 senate bills and concurrent resolutions were enrolled as of midnight, March 11. Still, there will be more legislation receiving final passage on the final two days that follow the veto period.

There were three major issues that will continue to be worked on through House and Senate Conference Committee. The first is a major priority of this session – legislation to address the heroin problem in Kentucky. Though both chambers have some differing ideas on how to move forward, through many late night discussions and through meetings of the now-appointed conference committee, there are positive indications that a balanced and negotiated solution will be reached in time to be acted upon.

Falling gas prices that are resulting in decreases in road funds, and the bonding issue to fully fund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System are the other issues that will be worked on through conference committee. If agreements are reached, the bills would be voted on by Sine Die on March 24th. We plan to meet during the veto period and hash out the details of these remaining major issues.

If you have any questions or comments about the 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 atwww.lrc.ky.gov.