When I went to Frankfort last week, I was interested in doing two things – being your voice in the event of any bad legislation and ensuring the General Assembly passed legislation that helped you during this crisis.
Although I know the “norm” is to draft a budget, we really don’t know what that budget will need to look like once this emergency has ended. During an emergency, one of the most important things leaders need is added flexibility to do their job. Some rules that are necessary when life is normal can become hurdles when lives and livelihoods are on the line.
The General Assembly voted unanimously Thursday evening for Senate Bill 150, which will give Governor Andy Beshear, healthcare providers and others the leeway they need as we continue the state of the emergency the governor called on March 6th to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key provision in this legislation is the expansion of our unemployment insurance program. Those now eligible include such groups as independent contractors, small business owners, substitute teachers and those who may not have lost their jobs but have seen their hours significantly reduced.
More than three million Americans have filed for unemployment in recent days, and in Kentucky, this number is approaching 50,000. If you are among this group and haven’t already applied, please visit the state’s website at https://kcc.ky.gov/ to learn more about changes made to handle the increased caseload. Each day of the week, for example, has been set aside to process claims based on the first letter of your last name.
Another element of Senate Bill 150 is that businesses will see rules relaxed when it comes to licenses issued by the state. In addition, this bill also allows restaurants to sell basic staples like milk and bread and, where already allowed, to deliver alcoholic beverages as long as they are properly sealed and sold to those of legal age.
Senate Bill 150 expands telehealth options to limit the need for in-person visits, and it extends Good Samaritan protections for those providers acting in good faith to provide care. Similar protections also apply to companies that have changed their normal production to manufacture emergency items like hand sanitizer.
In January, when this work began, it appeared that we were poised to pass the first two-year spending plan not to have across-the-board cuts since 2006-08. It is too soon to say what the upcoming budget will include, but there is broad agreement that it will be difficult to do more than maintain current-year spending, since tax revenues are expected to decline significantly.
There are two other unknowns. First, we don’t know exactly how much Kentucky will receive from the just-approved federal stimulus, and with the income tax filing deadline moved to July 15th, there will be a delay in receiving this money next fiscal year.
Although Senate Bill 150 was the highlight of the legislature’s work on Thursday, there were several other noteworthy bills sent to Governor Beshear that day as well.
House Bill 2, for example, makes needed improvements to Kentucky’s human-trafficking laws. That includes requiring airports, bus stations and truck stops to post the hotline for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, to increase the likelihood that victims will be able to get the help they need.
House Bill 484 will give more autonomy to our local governments when it comes to running their public retirement system, something our city and county officials have been wanting for several years.
House Bill 415, meanwhile, will make it possible for those manufacturing alcoholic beverages to ship their product directly to adult consumers here in Kentucky and across the country, as long as sales where they live are legal. There are limits on how much can be shipped, too.
When legislators return to the Capitol this week, our primary focus will be to vote on some sort of a budget. While I believe this could have been handed in a special session later this spring, especially since the public is currently barred from being at the Capitol as a healthcare precaution, my hope is that we can take this vote quickly and head back home until the legislative session’s final days in mid-April, when we return to consider any vetoes that Governor Beshear might issue.
The Governor has now vetoed and signed some bills. They are listed here for your reference. (Thank you Northern Kentucky Tribune.)
HB 195 “I am vetoing House Bill 195 because, despite the commendable premise for the legislation in attempting to make publication of advertisements of local government actions more efficient, the provisions of the law would impede the public’s ability to receive the complete information of a local government’s actions and proposed actions, and further harm newspapers by removing the requirement that the advertisements be published in a newspaper,” he wrote in the veto message he sent to the General Assembly on Friday.
SB 5 “I am vetoing Senate Bill 5 because it could have the effect of depriving essential services to under-served citizens of the Commonwealth. Special purpose government entities are created to be flexible and to move rapidly to address community challenges. Senate Bill 5 would hinder the ability of special governmental entities to address community challenges by shifting the tax- or fee-levying decision-making authority of those entities,” Gov. Beshear wrote in the veto message he sent Friday.
SB 56 Prohibits the sale of tobacco, alternative nicotine, or vapor products to persons under the age of 21.
HB 327 Creates automatic expungement of acquittals.
SB 102 Reorganizes the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. CHFS supports the legislation.
HB 208 Related to commercial mobile radio service charges and declaring an emergency.
SB 148 The bill creates a process for farmers to apply for farm exemptions.
HB 135 Creates new rules for licensing physician assistants, especially those who prescribe medication.
HB 154 An act relating to powers of appointment involving power of attorney.
HB 229 Makes 911 services more efficient.
HB 276 Creates a new special military license plate.
HB 279 Corrects the list of military units in Kentucky that should be associated with the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs.
HB 284 Relates to probation program credits.
HB 271 Removes provisions that reduce line of duty or duty-related death benefits upon remarriage for military.
HB 313 The insurance fraud reporting and immunity provisions will provide another tool to identify and address suspected insurance fraud.
HB 374 Exempts collective bargaining from existing “rest period” requirements of 10 minutes for every four hours worked with the exception of those under the Federal Railway Labor Act.
HB 378 Offers protection to county clerks from any liability when they relied on a signed notarized statement by an insurance company on a form created by the Transportation Cabinet in releasing liens on a motor vehicle.
HB 417 Related to the requirement for the Department of Insurance to maintain financial accreditation by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
HB 453 Transportation Cabinet would be sole issuer of driver and operator licenses including REAL ID.
SB 38 To allow a court-appointed guardian or conservator to determine the disposition of remains after death if other alternatives have been exhausted.
SB 40 To require front-line Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services staff who work in child welfare and staff members of child-caring facilities to submit to national and state fingerprint-supported background checks.
SB 42 To require any student identification badge issued to a public middle or high school student to contain the contact information for national crisis hotlines specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide.
SB 60 Adds spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) to the list of required tests run on infants for heritable disorders.
SB 82 Establishes the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
SB 101 Limits the number of required credit hours for certain degrees. The Kentucky Council on Post-Secondary Education supports the change.
SB 134 Establishes the Optometry Scholarship Program.
SB 186 Creates a required appointment of an assistant auditor of public accounts by the State Auditor.
SB 193 Establishes a goal of increasing participation in computer science courses by underrepresented groups and requires the Kentucky Department of Education to submit an annual report on public school students participating in computer science courses.
SB 125 Adds regulations for athletic trainers, particularly related to their training.
HB 98 Allows a court award under KRS Chapter 198B or the Uniform Building Code to include attorney’s fees if a certificate of occupancy has not been issued.
HB 156 This bill will assist CHFS or any other guardian, conservator, or fiduciary in accessing the digital assets of individuals under guardianship, and depending on the value possibly aid in the financial support of the individual.
HB 312 Requires the Kentucky Department of Education to develop processes to promote more expeditious enrollment of students in foster care who are transferring to a new school or district, and the sharing of information among schools, school districts, Department for Community Based Services, and a child’s caseworker.
HB 331 This legislation conforms to the federal SECURE Act and allows the state-sponsored 529 educational savings plan trust known as KY Saves 529 to be used for apprenticeship programs, as well as for student loan payments for account beneficiaries or their siblings up to $10,000 per person.
HB 366 Establishes guidelines for the operation and management of the model and practice schools operated by Eastern Kentucky University.
HB 375 Changes the name of the Commission on Fire Protection Personnel Standards and Education to the Kentucky Fire Commission and clarifies that the attachment of the commission to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System is for administrative purposes. Also makes other changes to the makeup of the commission and its functions.
HB 420 Directs the Department of Agriculture to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act; establishes exemptions for covered produce and covered farms; authorizes a department representative to enter a covered farm or farm eligible for inspection; authorizes the department to promulgate administrative regulations; authorizes a department representative to issue a stop movement order for covered produce; establishes violations and a civil penalty.
HB 153 Establishes the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program or similar program to be administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
SB 50 To require the Department for Medicaid Services to establish and directly administer an outpatient pharmacy benefit program for all Medicaid beneficiaries; permit the department to contract with a third-party administrator on a fee-for-service reimbursement basis; require a third-party administrator to utilize the outpatient pharmacy benefit program established by the department.
As always, please continue letting me know your views and concerns on these legislative matters. My email is Maria.Sorolis@lrc.ky.gov, and the legislative message line is 1-800-372-7181.