Now that the dust has settled from the 2015 Legislative Session, I would like to update you about the things the General Assembly accomplished over the past several months.
Despite this being a short session, we tackled several weighty issues and passed some significant new laws. Many consider the heroin bill to be the hallmark piece of legislation for this session, but we also stabilized the road fund, expanded domestic violence protections, and helped to make Kentucky a leader in medical research.
Below is a summary of some of the legislation passed during the 2015 Session:
Breeders’ Cup: HB 134 ensures that the Breeders’ Cup race will run this year at Keeneland in Lexington. Kentucky is the cradle of the breeding industry and where the idea of the Breeders’ Cup was conceived. The direct and indirect economic impact to the state should be about $65 million.
Child Booster Seats: HB 315 requires children who are less than eight years old and between 40 and 57 inches in height to use booster seats. A child in a booster seat decreases the chance of getting injured in a crash by 45 percent.
Child Abuse: SB 102 allows a child’s death caused by intentional abuse to be considered first-degree manslaughter.
Child Protection: SB 119 requires school administrators, teachers and others employed by a school district to receive child abuse and neglect prevention, recognition and reporting training.
Colon Cancer Screening: SB 61 removes barriers to colorectal cancer screening. Kentucky leads the nation in colon cancer.
Dating Violence: HB 8 expands court protections to dating violence victims, as well as victims of sexual abuse and stalking.
Drug Abuse: HB 24 restricts access to medicines that contain dextromethorphan (DM) to help prevent minors from abusing cough medicines to get high.
DUI: SB 133 expands the use of ignition interlocks for people caught driving under the influence of alcohol. Ignition interlocks are devices which will not let a vehicle start if alcohol is detected. Drunk driving deaths dropped 30 percent in other states which enacted ignition interlock laws.
Emergency Responders: SB 161 authorizes the Governor to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff on state buildings if a Kentucky emergency responder dies in the line of duty.
End-of-life Care: SB 77 enables Kentuckians to determine their own end-of-life care.
Feeding the Hungry: SB 55 allows game meat to be donated to not-for-profit organizations as long as the meat is properly field dressed and processed.
Heroin: SB 192 increases prison sentences for heroin traffickers while expanding addiction treatment programs. The bill increases the availability of Naloxone, which reverses the effects of heroin overdose. A “Good Samaritan” provision in the bill allows people to report drug overdoses without the fear of criminal prosecution. The bill also allows local governments to create a needle exchange program to reduce the spread of blood-borne diseases.
Medical Research Center: HB 298 authorizes the construction of a state-of-the-art medical research center to target diseases prevalent in Kentucky, including cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Newborn Health Screening: SB 75 requires newborn health screenings to include checks for Krabbe Disease, an inherited disorder that affects the nervous system.
Road Fund: HB 299 prevents the state gasoline tax from decreasing rapidly when crude oil prices drop. Gas tax proceeds are used to construct and repair state roads and bridges throughout the Commonwealth and to allow cities and counties to take care of local roads.
Sexual Assault: SJR 20, which I sponsored, directs the Auditor of Public Accounts to determine the number of sexual assault examination kits in the possession of Kentucky police and prosecutors that have not been sent to the state’s forensic lab for testing. There are federal grants available to help agencies eliminate the backlog once the number of untested kits is determined.
SOAR: SB 168 establishes the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development Fund as a vehicle for Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) to receive future appropriations from the General Assembly. The money will be used in support of job creation and retention, entrepreneurship, tourism, broadband deployment, workforce training, leadership development, health and wellness, infrastructure, and economic diversity in Appalachia.
Veterans: HB 209 creates “Gold Star Sibling” specialty license plates for Kentuckians with siblings who died while serving in the armed forces.
The legislation passed this session will have a positive impact on the lives of all Kentuckians. We took steps to protect our most vulnerable citizens, maintain our roads and bridges, and combat drug addiction across the Commonwealth.
Unless a bill declares an emergency or contains a special effective date, the bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly will take effect on June 24, 2015.
Thank you for your continued input during this process and helping us move Kentucky forward. As always, you are welcome to contact me at any time if I can be of any assistance.
Denise Harper Angel
Kentucky State Senator