This past week was a buzz of activity as many school groups, local officials and musicians visited the capital and watched hearings and activity on the Senate floor.
It was a pleasure to host many local officials from the 30th District to Frankfort, including Mayor Wolff of Jackson, accompanied by Stephen Bowling and Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman and her grandson Hagan Hall, who paged for me on the floor of the Senate.
It was exciting to host many students from our district, including KCTCS technical students from Breathitt, Johnson and Perry Counties as well as Dr. McCall, Jordan Smith and Tim Burchum from KCTCS. These students and administrators were a welcome reminder of the fantastic opportunities provided by our college and technical programs. I would like send my appreciation to Gina Johnson, of Bell County, for making the trip to the capital to continue her advocacy for our school children and Debbie Potter, Candy Walton and Tracey Sturgill, also of Bell County, who brought the important vision from Pineville Horizon Health Care.
I was fortunate to host Jimmy Rose, a finalist in the popular television program “American’s Got Talent,” to the capital. Jimmy sang the National Anthem and his original song “Coal Keeps the Lights On” on the Senate floor. I personally respect Jimmy for the way he represented himself and our region on the national stage and wholeheartedly join him in his endless support for coal mining. Jimmy continues to make us proud!
As for legislation, the first bill to pass out of the Senate this week was Senate Bill 78. The intention of this legislation is to keep liability from automatically being attributed to landlords whose tenants own a dog in the event that the dog bites and injures someone on the property. Currently, a property owner can be held liable for a dog bite that takes place on his rented property. This bill enacts the logical conclusion that the dog owner is personally responsible for such an event.
Another bill that passed is Senate Bill 47 which requires the reporting of newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome, the medical term for babies born dependent to drugs due to the use of the mother during pregnancy. The legislation requires The Kentucky Department for Public Health to publish on at least an annual basis statistical data on the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome births. The report does not give any identifying information about the mother or the infant; it simply reports regional and county statistics. As we all know, prescription pill and drug abuse is an ongoing epidemic in our country, state and region. Senate Bill 47 is a measure to quantify and fight back against this abuse, especially against our most innocent- newborn babies.
Another health-related piece of legislation, House Bill 98, represents a bipartisan effort to solve an issue of safely treating diabetic students in schools, helping thousands of our students and citizens. House Bill 98 would permit students to inject themselves with their needed insulin while in school, and requires schools to have at least one trained staff member to administer medication for diabetes after they successfully complete the American Diabetes Association training program. With the permission of the parent, trained personnel would administer the shots needed. This would help students who are in need of their medication and will help relieve worries of parents who may not easily be able to get to the school. This bill also is similar to laws in over 30 other states in the U.S.
Regarding education, the Senate unanimously passed an important education measure on Thursday. Senate Bill 89 would help protect the data stored on a cloud of Kentucky students by prohibiting the sale or marketing of this information gathered through web-based services at their schools. There are instances of vendors doing this and I think we need to make information of our students only available to the Department of Education and the school system. The measure also would require school districts to inform parents of the types of student information given to third-party web-based service providers.
Another provision of SB 89 would allow local school districts to adopt academic standards that exceed standards approved by the state Board of Education. We want to give districts local control and freedom to choose more rigorous academic standards. They are better arbiters of their students’ educational needs.
To help our instate pastoral counselors, we passed Senate Bill 61 which designates pastoral counselors, who hold advanced degrees and extensive training in behavioral and mental health, as “licensed clinical” pastoral counselors rather than “certified fee-based” pastoral counselors. This change will make services eligible for private insurance billing and assist our state in complying with recent state and federal policies requiring Medicaid and insurance policies on the health care exchange to provide substance abuse and behavioral health services.
Please continue to contact me with your issues and concerns. You may call my office in Frankfort at 800-372-7181. You can also follow the work of our caucus on twitter at @kysenategop. I appreciate your time and input.
Note: Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry Counties. He is the Majority Whip; vice-chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee; and a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, the Committee on Committees, the Legislative Research Commission, the Rules Committee, and the Transportation Committee.