We have reached the half way mark of the 2012 session and I believe the House of Representatives has much to show for our 30 days in Frankfort.
Since January 3rd, we have been hard at work moving legislation through the committee process, working on budget issues within our subcommittees and meeting with constituents and stakeholders on issues of importance to Kentuckians,
As of today, the House has passed 68 bills that have been sent to the Senate for their consideration. These bills impact redistricting, education, public safety, healthcare, veterans and military affairs and economic development.
After a lively debate on the House floor, I am proud to report that my bill to raise Kentucky’s high school dropout age to 18, passed by a vote of 87-10. Specifically, House Bill 216 would increase the age limit for quitting school, now 16, to 17 by 2016 and to 18 the following year, changing a rule that has remained in place since the 1920s. I believe that HB 216 will improve student success and send a clear message about staying in school. The Senate will now consider HB 216 and I am hopeful they will give it serious consideration.
Legislation supporting education includes HB 216 which would increase the school attendance age in Kentucky from 16 to 17 on July 1, 2016. On July 1, 2017 the compulsory attendance age would automatically be raised from 17 to 18. HB 30 which would let school boards sell advertising on school buses. HB 37 would establish “districts of innovation” that school districts could employ as new approaches in teaching students. This could include lengthening the school calendar and establishing more alternative programs that could be provided outside a normal school day.
HB 40 would have the Kentucky Board of Education establish a statewide evaluation system for teachers, beginning in 2014-15. HB 89 would call on one of the two parents on site-based decision making school councils to live inside the district. Also, non-tenured teachers could not serve on a council unless no tenured teacher wanted to.
HB 99 permits tuition waivers for foster children in high school who are taking dual enrollment classes good for college credit. HB 281 requires coaches in schools to complete training on recognizing and treating concussions and head injuries and would specify when an athlete with a suspected concussion or head injury may return to play.
Public safety legislation that has passed the House includes HB 54 which would add judges and witnesses to list of people contacted upon the release or escape of an involuntarily committed person. HCR 38 directs LRC to create the Task Force on Children Exposed to and Affected by Domestic Violence.
HCR 129 establishes a task force to study issues involving juveniles caught in the judicial system. That includes status offenses – violations like truancy that wouldn’t be a crime for adults – and how children involved in domestic violence cases are affected. This would also include a review of those cases where children 10 and younger are charged with a crime. House Bill 70 would restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have served their prison sentences.
Supporting our military is a priority of the House of Representatives and HB 71 would exempt probate fees from estate of anyone in Armed Forces or who is eligible for state death gratuity benefits. HB 197 establishes an “I Support Veterans” license plate. HB 221 would put a veterans’ designation on qualified driver’s licenses. HB 224 establishes the Kentucky National Guard Adoption Assistance Program. This would allow up to $5,000 in unreimbursed direct costs if the adoptee is a child with special needs and up to $3,000 for any other child. This would come from the military family assistance trust fund.
Help for Kentucky’s economy can be found in several bills we’ve passed and sent to the Senate. HB 5 requires contractors doing business with the state to use E-Verify to ensure no illegal immigrants are being employed. All public agencies would have to use E-Verify as well before hiring new employees.
HB 135 requires life insurance companies to do more to find beneficiaries of unclaimed life insurance policies. Policies not cashed would revert to the state as unclaimed property. And HJR 88 would direct the Cabinet for Economic Development study the economic potential of our rural areas and how the state can do more to help.
Bills signed into law include HB 121 which would requires any POW/MIA flag bought and/or displayed by a public institution to be made in the U.S. HB 302 created a new Congressional redistricting plan.
Other bills to help streamline processes and save money include HB 90 which requires electronic filing of election finance reports for all candidates and slates of candidates running for statewide office, beginning in 2015. HB 293 would limit how special elections for vacancies in the General Assembly are conducted if only one candidate qualifies for the ballot. For example, voting might only take place in the county clerk’s office.
As these bills are being discussed and voted upon, we are also working on the state budget. Moderate growth is predicted – and there are significant savings from overhauls of Medicaid and the penal code – but it’s not enough to off-set end of federal stimulus funds and the use of other non-recurring revenue like debt restructuring. There are many challenges ahead as we look at the governor’s proposed budget which includes an 8.4 percent proposed for most state agencies. State agencies have already dealt with 25-30 percent cuts.
The days and nights will get even busier as we head into our next 30 days and I will continue to keep you informed of our progress. If you want to keep up with legislative action on bills of interest to you log onto the legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or cal the LRC toll free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll- free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.