FRANKFORT — Meetings, proceedings and work days stretched past daylight’s end this week as the session calendar hastened legislative priorities. Important bills were debated and discussed, passed from committees, from chambers and from the legislature to the governor with the hallmark intensity of session’s final days.
Work continued on the budget as lawmakers met throughout the week to discuss various details of the state’s biennial spending plan. The legislature has already devoted many hours, days and weeks to the measure and much more work is still ahead before the $20.3 billion proposal will be finalized.
We also continued to work on a responsible plan to provide relief to school districts still reeling from the effects of the winter’s harsh weather on their instructional calendars. The Senate passed a plan in House Bill 211 on Monday that would allow local school boards to extend remaining school days in an effort to complete 1,062 instructional hours. The measure would give the Department of Education the flexibility to grant waivers for districts unable to complete the mandated hours after calendar adjustments. The House-approved snow day plan would allow school districts to waive up to 10 instructional school days.
A conference committee has been appointed on HB 211 to negotiate a compromise between the two proposals and should soon arrive at a plan.
The Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that proposes an amendment to the State Constitution that would cut the number of working days during regular legislative sessions by a third. Senate Bill 195 would also give legislative leaders the authority to call special sessions limited to 10 days total during the biennium.
Supporters of this measure say the change would more closely resemble the citizen legislature envisioned by the founders of our state and would allow more Kentuckians the ability to consider serving in a legislative office. If Senate Bill 195 is approved by the House of Representatives, the question will be posed to voters for final ratification in the 2014 general election in November.
Many other bills cleared the chamber as well.
Senate Bill 200 is a result of months of work by the Unified Juvenile Code Task Force. The measure would make changes to the state’s juvenile justice system by shifting more focus to early intervention and services provided to offenders of minor crimes. Supporters say this will help identify and address underlying issues for juvenile offenders and positively impact their outcomes.
Senate Bill 72 would require the judicial branch to undergo redistricting every 10 years following the U.S. Census. Our current judicial district maps were determined decades ago. Massive population shifts since that time have led to uneven case loads and unequal representation across the state. Timely redistricting would help alleviate those problems and ensure each Kentuckian is served equally by their judiciary.
Senate Bill 176 would give kinship caregivers the ability to complete an affidavit affirming their role to authorize medical treatment and educational services, including school enrollment, for the children in their care. Nearly 60,000 children in the state are primarily cared for by grandparents or other kinship caregivers. This measure would eliminate a barrier these families face when caring for their young relatives.
Senate Bill 225 would update the state’s voyeurism laws to reflect recent technological advances. The measure would outlaw a practice called “up-skirting” in which cell phones are used to take pictures underneath a woman’s skirt without her consent.
Senate Bill 234 would change Kentucky’s sex offense laws and provide victims with added protection. SB 234 provides that a defendant’s conviction or plea of guilty to a sex offense operates as an application for a restraining order that restricts the defendant’s contact with the victim of the crime.
Senate Bill 192 would make school special law enforcement officers eligible for Homeland Security grants for body armor and other equipment from the sale of confiscated firearms. These officers are committed, trained and sworn officers. They deserve to have the necessary equipment to address whatever situation arises so they can protect our children, teachers and staff – and themselves.
These bills now go to the House of Representative for further consideration.
I have been updating you on two bills that I filed that are making their way through the legislative process – Senate Bill 163 and Senate Bill 143. I am happy to report that SB 163 was passed by the full Senate and SB 143 was passed by the House Transportation Committee. SB 163 would permit county clerks to collect charitable funds raised from private sources for a statewide, charitable program sponsored by the primary association representing county clerks. SB 143 would remove hurdles for bioptic drivers. I will continue to keep you informed on SB 163 and SB 143.
Much work remains in the final days of this session. As always, I encourage you to stay informed and involved. To leave a message for me, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.