Awful weather forced the Kentucky General Assembly to hold off on session activity during the week of Feb. 15. We returned to Frankfort on Monday to get back to work for you.
I hope you and your family kept safe from the heavy ice and snowstorms. Our region was hit real hard, and a majority of us lost power for a long time. We really can't say enough about the workers who keep our roads clear and the lights on. Stories from all over included counties h helping other counties, emergency efforts to get food and water to people without, and a lot more. Thank you to all involved in helping.
When legislators got back Frankfort, we kept working on bills and continued on the state budget.
Among a lot of bills that passed last week, one I'm particularly glad to see was Senate Bill (SB) 141. It's a bill that is going to help our miners. These are workers and families I've represented in court. It is important to me and to our region that we do right by them. SB 141 sets guidelines for the distribution of funds remaining in the Kentucky coal workers' pneumoconiosis fund. It would allow for the distribution of funds claimed by coal companies to pay wages, amounts owed to counties, cities, school systems, or school districts, and more. Finally, it provides excess funds to go to unpaid workers and the Kentucky coal employers' self-insurance guaranty fund. Two others were real good bills for our area. SBs 75 and 86. SB 75 builds on my four-wheeler, giving counties the ability to allow other off-road vehicles on some local roads. SB 86 lets counties get back some money collected from fines on illegal dumping.
Last week, a Frankfort Judge put another order blocking legislation into law by the Kentucky General Assembly. That comes on the heels of the governor filing litigation against the legislature's priority bills, House Bill (HB) 1, SB 1, and SB 2. The court order is only about HB 1. By the time you read this, the judge may have already ruled on the case. No matter that is, I think we can expect the case to go to the Supreme Court of Kentucky.
Something interesting from last week was during a Health and Family Services Committee meeting. A person from the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy testified in support of amending an emergency regulation about vaccinations. Them being able to do that is only around because of SB 2, which the governor is trying to keep from becoming law. The Board of Pharmacy said SB 2 lets them amend emergency regulations. They said that’s important during a state of emergency because a rough process is required to make changes without it. Thanks to SB 2, regulating and administering vaccinations was changed to allow Kentucky pharmacists to join in on the widespread COVID-19 vaccination efforts. This is a simple but vital update to the current regulation that will result in lives saved. We can all be grateful to the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy for their initiative to make this happen.
Bills considered "priority" focus on areas of the law that are of importance to Kentuckians. Several priority measures relate to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on us. Other priority bills try to find solutions to unemployment insurance and the economy, while some promote stronger legislative oversight to improve government transparency.
A few continued on through the legislative process this week. They included SBs 4, 6, 7, and 10.
SB 4 is a bill that will make things safer for all parties involved. It establishes procedures and requirements for the issuances of a warrant that authorizes entry without notice while maintaining the ability to act in situations involving a violent offender or life and death situation. Applications for warrants would have to be reviewed impartially by a judge and conducted in service with a SWAT or special response team trained for special situations. Additionally, due process protections would be put in place, making any evidence collected in violation of the law's provisions inadmissible in court. SB 4 serves to make dangerous circumstances safer for both law enforcement and the public while strengthening the public trust in agencies.
SB 6 puts safeguards in place to make sure there is ethical behavior within the executive branch, mostly for members of a governors transition teams. If passed, SB 6 would make the current Executive Branch Ethics Commission set standards of ethical conduct by putting together a standard of ethical conduct agreement for transition team members to sign and follow. It also makes other requirement like disclosure of certain employment and income information.
SB 7 looks to help with the state's Unemployment Insurance system (UI). Due to the system, some benefits were awarded to people who did not qualify. It was no fault of their own. This bill would set up a way for recipients of overpayments to request a waiver from having to pay that money back. Recipients would have to respond with a waiver request within a certain time frame, and the Secretary of the Labor Cabinet would have to approve.
While on this topic, the General Assembly received testimony from State Auditor Mike Harmon on his recent UI System findings. You can listen to his testimony at ket.org/legislature/archives. Find the Small Business, Tourism, and Labor Committee meeting from Tuesday, February 23.
SB 10 passed and sets up a commission to look for ways to help all struggling communities. I supported the bill as did almost everyone else. I shared my experience as a kid when there was still segregation. I had friends who were not allowed to go into the same part of the theater as me to watch a movie because of their color. I would always go to the area they were supposed to sit so that I could be with them. I think of things like that and am proud of how far we have come. We need to provide more and better education for all students. I think talking about more ways to improve can be a good thing.
Other bills passing in the Senate included:
SB 47 would be part in Audiologists and Speech-Language Pathologists to be able to practice in other compact member states. This can be a real good help for military spouses that practice in these areas who have to travel to different states when their spouse gets deployed.
SB 51 would make it easier for doctors to help patients with substance use disorders by not allowing insurers to require critical evaluations known as utilization reviews.
SB 52 clarifies that a peace officer who sexually assaults a person in their custody is guilty of the applicable class D felony in which they committed.
SB 55 prohibits copayments or cost-sharing from being paid by any medical assistance recipients. It removes deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance requirements for Medicaid telehealth services and copayments charged in the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program (KCHIP). SB 55 applies to Medicaid Services or any managed care organization (MCO) contracted by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
SB 56 limits the number of MCO contracts to operate the Medicaid program to three, down from the current six.
SB 65 gets rid of administrative regulations found deficient last year and does not allow re-enactment of them for a certain amount of time if identical to or similar.
SB 93 provides the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture authority to appoint board members to the State Board of Agriculture.
SB 115 seeks to build on and fund the Read To Achieve (RTA) program's tremendous success by increasing access to its successful model to more students.
SB 131 Moves the Motorcycle Safety Education Commission and Program—which offers motorcycle rider training courses for novice and experienced riders—from the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet's Office of Highway Safety. It also allows residents of other states to take rider training courses in Kentucky if they are eligible for a motor vehicle instruction permit in their home state.
SB 148 declares childcare essential by making CHFS identify emergency care providers who provide vital child care services during a state of emergency. It addresses a problem many families have struggled with throughout the last year concerning available childcare. The bill would return childcare classroom sizes to pre-COVID numbers and allow them to combine classes during the opening and closing hours once again.
SB 154 would allow advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants to prescribe and order home health care services and establish reimbursement for home health care services if certified.
Bills making it to the governor last week for his consideration included SB 3 and HB 6. SB 3 moves the current Governor's Office for Agriculture Policy, also known as GOAP, under the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture's jurisdiction. It passed the Senate earlier in the session and recently passed by the House with minor changes. HB 6 provides teeth to an already existing legislative committee, which with the passing of HB 6 would become the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee. The bill would codify subpoena powers, give the committee authority to maintain the confidentiality of investigative documents, and impose fines on those in non-compliance with the committee's efforts.
As you can see, the General Assembly is not taking any time for granted. We are now past the halfway point of the 2021 30-day session, with much work left to do. I will continue to provide weekly legislative updates in the weeks ahead.
If you have any questions about any of these public policy issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have. You can reach my office toll-free by calling, (502) 564-8100, or by emailing me at, firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless.