Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, I’m looking back over the past month and realizing what a busy — and informative — month it’s been for me. I’ve enjoyed visiting different parts of around the district as well as attending events across the Commonwealth to get a better understanding of our state as a whole. It’s been good to touch base with so many of you to discuss your concerns, answer questions relating to new legislation, and learn more about the special events being planned this summer in our communities.
Early in the month, I had the privilege of spending a couple of hours visiting with employees and area residents doing business at Vine Grove City Hall. I look forward to returning the second Monday of each month to keep abreast of community issues.
On June 9th, I attended a meeting t the South Hancock Elementary School regarding the proposed Interstate 69 corridor and its impact on Highway 69 in Hancock County. The next day found me in the north central Kentucky town of Cynthiana, attending a meeting of the Kentucky General Assembly’s Interim Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. During this meeting, we heard from several county extension agents regarding the use of tobacco settlement funds to fund worthy projects in our region and across the Commonwealth. Later that day, I attended my first meeting of the Kentucky Military Family Assistance Trust Fund, which was created by the legislature to assist military families with unexpected costs caused by deployments overseas. This includes helping military families pay for such things as housing, utilities and groceries. This trust fund has been a true life saver for many families and it’s another way we can help our men and women in uniform.
On June 13th, my family and I attended the concert at Fort Knox to celebrate the U.S. Army’s 240th Birthday. It was such a blessing to gather with others to celebrate the men and women who help make this country strong. Later that week, I attended an event hosted by the Hardin County Women’s Network in Radcliff that featured a discussion on economic development activities by Radcliff Mayor Mike Weaver and Radcliff Economic Development Director J.J. Duvall. It was good to hear of their future plans for the area and I can see a lot of great things on the horizon for Northern Hardin County.
Mid-month, I attended a forum in Hardin County hosted by the Kentucky Automobile Industry Association (KAIA). I feel this economic sector is a great fit for expansion in our district. Hancock County dominates the aluminum industry with Century, Aleris, and US Steelworkers. In Breckinridge County, we have great tool and die businesses and an available workforce. In Hardin County, there are great roads and individuals interested in providing their skills.
On June 23rd I attended the inaugural special committee on Advanced Communications and Information Technology. The Finance Cabinet presented their plan to bring high speed internet to all of Kentucky. This is of course a big undertaking and we need to move cautious to make sure we do not reinvent the wheel in areas where we already have good service.
We’ve also begun to hear testimony on issues that will face us when the Kentucky General Assembly convenes again in January 2016 for our longer, 60-day session held in even-numbered years when we prepare the state’s next two-year budget. As in years past, we’ll have our work cut out for us as we try to balance our many spending priorities with the Commonwealth’s limited financial resources, although there is some evidence that state revenues are up a bit. I look forward to embracing this task enthusiastically so that we can continue our efforts to create more jobs and economic opportunity for our region of the state.
On June 24, most new laws approved by the Kentucky General Assembly during the 2015 session went into effect. This was the official date because the state constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature, which ended on March 25.
There are some exceptions. Bills that contained an emergency clause, such as this year’s measure to fight heroin abuse, went into effect immediately upon being signed by the governor. A handful of bills also specified their own effective dates, such as a measure that goes into effect early next year to offer some civil protections to victims of dating violence.
But most new laws – 98 of the 117 passed this year – went into effect June 24, including the following measures below as described by the Legislative Research Commission’s Office of Public Information:
Charitable gaming. Senate Bill 33 allows electronic versions of pull-tab Bingo tickets at charitable Bingo halls.
Child abuse. SB 102 allows a death caused by intentional abuse to be considered first-degree manslaughter.
Child booster seats. HB 315 requires booster seats to be used in motor vehicles by children who are less than eight years old and are between 40 and 57 inches in height.
Drug abuse. HB 24 prevents youth from misusing certain cough medicines to get high — sometimes called “robotripping” – by restricting access to medicines that contain dextromethorphan. The bill will prevent sales of dextromethorphan-based products, such as Robitussin-DM or Nyquil, to minors.
Drunk driving. SB 133 expands the use of ignition interlocks for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol. An ignition interlock is a device about the size of a mobile phone that is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. A person convicted of driving under the influence must blow into the device in order to start their vehicle. If they have a measurable amount of alcohol in their system, the vehicle will not start.
Early childhood development. HB 234 requires early child care and education programs to follow a state quality-based rating system.
Emergency responders. SB 161 authorizes the governor to order that U.S. flags be lowered to half-staff on state buildings if a Kentucky emergency responder dies in the line of duty.
End-of-life care. SB 77 allows Kentuckians to use a health care directive known as a “medical order for scope of treatment.” These orders spell out patients’ wishes for end-of-life care. Unlike advance directives, the orders are considered to be physician’s orders and are signed by both the patient or patient’s legal surrogate, and the patient’s physician.
Hunters. SB 55 ensures that game meat can be donated to not-for-profit organizations to feed hungry people as long as the meat was properly field dressed and processed and is considered disease-free and unspoiled.
Kentucky Employees Retirement System. HB 62 makes sure the agencies that want to leave the Kentucky Employees Retirement System pay their part of the system’s unfunded liability.
Newborn health screening. SB 75 requires newborn health screenings to include checks for Krabbe Disease, an inherited disorder that affects the nervous system.
Retirement systems. HB 47 adds the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System to the Public Pension Oversight Board’s review responsibilities.
Spina bifida. SB 159 requires health care providers to give information about spina bifida and treatment options to parents whose unborn children have been diagnosed with the disorder.
Stroke care. SB 10 improves care for stroke victims by requiring the state to make sure local emergency services have access to a list of all acute stroke-ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, and primary stroke centers in Kentucky. Emergency medical services directors would be required to create protocols for assessment and treatment of stroke victims.
Tax check-offs. SB 82 places check-off boxes on tax forms to give people getting state income tax refund the option of donating a portion of their refund to support child cancer research, the Special Olympics or rape crisis centers.
Telephone deregulation. HB 152 is aimed at modernizing telecommunications and allowing more investment in modern technologies by ending phone companies’ obligations to provide landline phone services to customers in urban and suburban areas if they provide service through another technology, such as a wireless or Internet-based phone service. While rural customers can keep landline phones they already have, newly constructed homes in rural areas won’t be guaranteed.
I hope you’ll continue to share your news, opinions, and information with me by emailing me at [email protected] or calling the legislative hotline at 1-800-372-7181. I am honored to serve as your state representative and look forward to communicating with you more in the months ahead.