I had two pieces of legislation that I felt passionately about in front of committees for deliberation this week, Senate Bill 141 and Senate Bill 150. SB 141, a measure that resonates closely with our community in Hazard, allows judges to require certain custodial exchanges take place in state or local facilities, such as courthouses or police stations, where security measures, like metal detectors, are already in place. This option gives the judges another means to help keep all parties as safe as possible in potentially hostile situations.
While no piece of legislation protects anyone completely, I believe this bill will better prepare us to prevent violent incidents. Senate Bill 150 reduces the amount of time the Kentucky State Police has to approve a Concealed License, from 90 days to 60 days, removes the six-month residency requirement to apply for a CDWL, and removes the residency requirement for military personnel stationed in Kentucky to apply for a CDWL. Both bills passed unanimously out of their committees and will now head to the Senate floor for full consideration.
The Senate passed legislation that would strengthen the Health Access Nurturing and Development Services (HANDS) program. The voluntary home visit program is used in every Kentucky county with more than 11,000 families receiving help each year, including advice on proper childcare, from pregnancy to age two. This program has impressive results, including a 32 percent reduction in premature births, fewer developmental delays, reduced costs to Medicaid, and a reduction in the cost of remediation for children not ready for kindergarten. As a father, I know how important these early moments in our children’s lives are and was proud to support a program with proven results.
House Bill 7, the first bill to pass both chambers, was signed into law by the governor Thursday the 21st. This bill authorizes six of the state’s eight public universities to bond $363 million for 11 specific building projects, including a new science building and football stadium at the University of Kentucky, among other projects. The measure requires the bonds to be paid for by the universities and not with your tax dollars. This bill will help the universities with needed improvements and create over 5,000 construction jobs, many of them shovel ready.
Several constituents contacted me, supporting this measure, but expressing concerns about potential tuition raises. In an effort to protect college students, the Senate inserted a stipulation that the universities could not raise tuition in order to repay the debt. Passage of this bill is a perfect example of bipartisan governing. I believe this is a forward thinking piece of legislation that allows universities to do what they are capable of without bankrolling it on the backs of taxpayers.
In addition to helping our public universities, the Senate also focused on providing assistance to our high school students with its passage of Senate Bill 109, allowing students to use their KEES award money for dual credit courses, and Senate Bill 97, giving local school districts the option of raising the dropout age from 16 to 18 provided they have the funds and approved alternative programs necessary.
Another bill designed to help our young adults is Senate Bill 72, which mandates suicide prevention training for professional counselors, therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals in order to recognize the early warning signs of suicide, a leading cause of death among young adults.
The Senate passed two pieces of legislation Friday at the close of the week, Senate Bill 39 and Senate Bill 40, which would allow the legislature to weigh in on the implementation of key parts of the Affordable Care Act. The implementation of this federally mandated legislation stands to have a costly, statewide impact and these two bills are designed to slow down the takeover process and give the legislature time to responsibly weigh in on the expansion of the already stretched Medicaid program.
Lastly, I am particularly thrilled to say a bill which will create more than 500 direct and indirect jobs in eastern Kentucky using wastewood products to produce energy, Senate Bill 46, was passed by both Chambers. As the primary sponsor of this bill, it was very significant to see its rapid passage, the first senate bill passed by both chambers in fact! This “biomass” bill is now on its way for the Governor’s signature.
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 at www.lrc.ky.gov.