FRANKFORT – The state Senate received the House’s version of Kentucky’s next 24-month budget during the 11th week of this year’s 60-day session. From my viewpoint, I think the House is on the right track. The nearly $21 billion state budget bill would restore some funding cuts proposed by the governor to many areas of state government and authorize less debt than proposed in the governor’s budget.
It restores funding cuts for constitutional agencies, PVAs, postsecondary education, several K-12 programs and several other offices while preserving per-pupil school funding and boosting pay for state troopers and other front-line state employees. It proposes a way to fully fund the state’s actuarially required contribution to the teacher pension systems and the ARC-Plus to the state employee retiree system. It also has the largest “rainy day fund” in the history of the Commonwealth with funding from its current $209 million to $282 million above the previous record set in 2001.
Now the Senate can begin to put its mark on the proposed budget. Typically, the budget bills passed by each chamber are different. Senators and representatives will work out those differences in a conference committee. Compromises agreed to by conference committee members are then subject once again to approval by a majority of members of each chamber.
While the budget is always the biggest priority during 60-day sessions held in even-numbered years, a number of proposed laws also passed the Senate. Those bills include:
Senate Bill 63, of which I am the primary sponsor, is a measure to eliminate a backlog of more than 3,000 sexual assault examination kits dating back to the 1970s. It would require Kentucky’s more than 300 police departments and 120 sheriff’s departments to pick up sexual assault kits from hospitals within five days’ notice that the evidence is available, submit the kits to the state crime lab within 30 days, prohibit the destruction of any kits and notify victims of the progress and results of the tests.
If the necessary money is included in the state’s next budget, SB 63 would also require the average completion date for kits tested not to exceed 90 days by July 2018 and not to exceed 60 days by July 2020. It currently takes about eight months for a kit to be tested once it has been submitted to the lab. The progress of the testing would be reported annually to the Legislative Research Commission and state auditor’s office.
House Bill 148 would require the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to write regulations allowing for licensed day cares or babysitters to get prescriptions for epinephrine auto injectors, commonly known by the brand name EpiPen. It is a medical device for the injection of a measured dose of adrenaline commonly used for the treatment of anaphylaxis.
A Senate amendment to HB 148 would expand Kentucky’s Safe Infants Act of 2002 by allowing parents of newborns to have up to 30 days to surrender their baby at a state-approved “safe place” without facing criminal charges. The amendment would also add churches or other places of worship to the list of approved safe places where an infant could be surrendered.
Current law gives parents 72 hours after a child is born to leave the baby at hospitals, police stations, firehouses or emergency medical services (EMS) facility. I voted yes.
· House Bill 160 involved the disposal of needles. It would require the Department of Public Health to establish guidelines for safe disposal of hypodermic syringes, needles and what’s known as “sharps” containers. In addition, HB 160 would require the guidelines to be provided to certain medical facilities and pharmacies.
The Senate amended HB 160 to place further restrictions on needle exchanges, legalized under last year’s anti-heroin legislation (Senate Bill 192). It would require a one-for-one needle exchange at needle exchange programs. I voted against this measure because of the amendment. If the goal is to decrease the spread of disease, public health workers should be able to hand out free needles without being required to collect a used one.
Senate Bill 206 would allow cities to employ retired police officers if the officer participated in the Law Enforcement Foundation Program fund or retired as a commissioned state police officer. He or she must have retired with at least 20 years of service credit and meets the separation of employment requirements. Those retired police officers employed by a city would receive the benefits they were eligible to receive upon retirement, but would not accrue any additional retirement or health benefits during reemployment. Currently, training officers takes longer than a year. This bill would give police departments the ability to bring in retirees to fill vacancies for limited periods of time. I voted yes
These bills now go to the House for consideration.
You can stay up-to-date on the budget negotiations, and other legislative actions, throughout the session:
Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at www.lrc.ky.gov;
LRC toll-free bill status line at 866-840-2835.
LRC toll-free meeting information line at 800-633-9650.
LRC toll-free legislative message line at 800-372-7181.
General Assembly’s Spanish message line at (866) 840-6574.
E-mail me personally at [email protected]
The following is legislation that I have filed as the primary sponsor:
· Senate Bill 63 – relating to sexual assault evidence kits. It establishes policies, procedures and timelines for the swift and proper handling of the sexual assault evidence kits. The bill passed the Senate and is in the possession of the House for further consideration. Please call the Legislative Research Commission Message Line (800-372-7181) and leave a message for members of House Democratic Leadership to assign the bill to a committee and have a hearing as soon as possible. This is an important issue and time is running out.
· Senate Bill 64 — relating to property valuation administrator fees. The bill passed the House State Government Committee and is before the full House for further consideration.