There are six days left of the 30-Day Legislative Session. Important bills kept moving through the General Assembly last week, and good discussion and debate continued.

First, I want to talk about the recent storms. The governor declared a state of emergency for flash flooding, affecting communities from far southwestern Kentucky to far southeastern Kentucky. Recent flooding in a lot of our state comes only a week shy of a year since the governor declared a state of emergency for COVID-19. It seems we keep getting hit by storms. The pandemic has threatened the people vulnerable to it. It has also led to lost jobs and an unemployment crisis. The ice storm left thousands of people with no electric, and now heavy rain has caused flooding of homes and businesses. Several counties got over six inches of rainfall. A lot of others got between 4 ½ to 5 ½ inches. Please take pictures of water lines showing that water was up under your trailer or modular home or showing it was 3 inches in your residence. This is required to get payment from FEMA. Pictures are worth a thousand words. The maximum recoverable amount is $35,500 so take plenty of pictures.

The National Guard has been activated to help last weekend, and FEMA will eventually do assessments of damage. If you know somebody who the storms have hurt, please look for updates on possible help on the news and in your local papers. If you have a reliable connection to the internet, you can find info on fema.gov/locations/kentucky. In case of an emergency, make sure you call 9-1-1, but you can contact the FEMA Disaster Assistance Helpline at 1-800-621-3362 if you have questions about the help they give.

Make sure you work with Kentucky Emergency Management (KYEM) and local emergency management. You can go to kyem.ky.gov for state updates or call that office at 1-800-255-2587. For Floyd, Knott, and Letcher Counties, the Area 8 KYEM office can be reached by calling 606-435-6012 or 606-434-7325. Harlan County is in Area 9. The numbers for that office are 606-877-3149 or 606-524-2315. I am praying for everybody impacted by the storms.

Some bills passing in the Senate are as follows:

SB 53 allows some part-time instructors with the Fire Commission to start drawing retirement without having to quit that job.

SB 79 is a program for new legislators and judges that automatically enrolls them in Deferred Compensation. Other state employees were offered this two years ago.

SB 122 would keep a state contract from going to a business if it was already awarded the same or similar contract. It would prevent an executive agency lobbyist who has been convicted of a crime from being involved.

SB 128 gives any Kentucky public or private school student during the 2020-21 school year the chance to do their year over or retake classes. Local school districts would have to allow a program to start, but this bill lets them do that.

The past year has been hard for all of us, but students have had a bad time. The Lexington Herald-Leader story shows that students with failing grades are way up. The good news is that most school districts have gone back to some in-person learning, but the school year is almost over now. Most of the school year has been virtual, but distance learning has not been good for students. Some kids do not have the support they need at home. Areas like ours have internet problems. Students have missed their teachers, friends, and the learning and socializing they deserve. SB 128 gives them another chance to get back the education they have lost.

SB 146 requires a national and state criminal background check, by fingerprint analysis by the state police and the FBI, for the Labor Cabinet employees.

SB 172 requires persons who damage underground utility facilities, like pipelines and telecommunications lines during demolition or excavation, to stop and notify the agency of the facility.

SB 181 is a companion bill to House Bill (HB) 4, a bill that went to the governor this week. HB 4 is a constitutional amendment bill, so it does not need the governor's signature. Instead, it will go on your ballot for your vote. If supported by most voters, HB 4 would provide the General Assembly the ability to call itself into session. SB 181 would give the Senate President and House Speaker power to reconvene the General Assembly for up to twelve more legislative days by signing a joint proclamation. It would also let any bills filed by the session deadline to survive until December 31 of that same year to take up if extra days are used. This is needed so legislators can protect voter’s rights during a pandemic.

SB 228 changes how a U.S. Senator of Kentucky is replaced if they leave a vacancy. It requires a person of the same party to be appointed or allowed to be elected.

HB 7, a priority bill, made final passage in the General Assembly and headed to the governor's desk. That bill will help communities needing to help people with drug addiction.

Another bill reaching the governor's desk was signed into law fast, was HB 208. It gives schools extended flexible funding so that they can keep operating through COVID. Senate changes took away districts' ability to apply for more NTI days based on the COVID rate and require students to be back in school at least four days a week by March 29.

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, (505) 564-8100, or by emailing me at, johnnie.turner@lrc.ky.gov. God bless.

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