Legislative Update: Lawmakers Return to Frankfort

 

 

Senator Robin L. Webb

 

   Lawmakers returned to Frankfort on Tuesday following a prolonged holiday weekend to honor the decorated life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though it was a short legislative week, members in Frankfort continued meeting with various agencies and stakeholders to discuss significant legislation as it makes its way through the process. 

   In the first week of the 2022 Regular Session, the House and Senate passed several bills dealing with redistricting. Following the 10-day veto deadline period, Governor Andy Beshear chose to veto House Bill (HB) 2, the Kentucky House of Representatives map, and Senate Bill (SB) 3, the congressional map. Both were returned to the General Assembly and ultimately overridden by a majority in the legislature. The measures will likely go into effect pending any legal challenges.  The Senate map has not yet received action from the Governor.

   A bill designed to increase literacy for thousands of Kentucky’s children received approval from the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday. The Kentucky Read to Achieve Program was enacted in 2005 to support schools in implementing a reading diagnostic and intervention program for struggling readers. Senate Bill (SB) 9, known as the Read to Succeed Act, would amend the existing Read to Achieve Act by creating a comprehensive system of supports, interventions, and evidence-based learning to enhance early literacy outcomes in public schools. It includes specifications and requirements for the Kentucky Department of Education and local school districts. 

   One provision in the bill would establish the Read to Succeed Fund. The appropriations to the fund could be used to train educators on strategies to improve K-3 reading skills and provide statewide professional learning academies in reading. The funds could also be put toward creating a literacy training program. SB 9 also clarifies the intent for all elementary schools. Evidence-based reading instruction would be provided by designated “qualified individuals” to emphasize phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. 

   It also calls for more collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, Kentucky Educational Television, and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The Kentucky Department of Education estimates that implementing the requirements would cost between $15 million to $20 million in the fiscal year 2024, but education officials anticipate federal pandemic relief funds could help cover the cost. 

   The Read to Achieve Program has been in existence since 2005, and gets high marks in our district. It exists in high-performing schools as well as those that are not performing as well. I am all for efforts to boost reading comprehension; however, I fear that the Read to Succeed Act may compromise the existing successful programs. Hopefully, we can get more information, and the House will consider stronger language to preserve those programs. SB 9 now heads to the House for further consideration. 

   Other bills passed in the Senate this week:

   SB 11 aligns Kentucky’s Assisted Living social model with that in many other states. It calls for classifying Assisted Living as licensed long-term care and allows existing Personal Care Homes to convert to licensed Assisted Living. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 30-2. I voted yes.

   SB 43 intends to streamline the duties of the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee through the Legislative Research Commission. The measure passed unanimously.

   SB 55 seeks to clarify the name of a primary stroke center to a certified stroke center. The bill also adds thrombectomy-capable stroke centers to the required list of certified acute stroke ready hospitals. It passed in the Senate with unanimous consent. 

   SB 56 defines an opioid antagonist as any U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Kentucky has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud and proudly support any effort put forward to negate the effect of opioids in our communities. It passed by a vote of 35-0. 

   SB 100 creates an “essential compassionate caregiver” designation to visit a resident in-person at long-term care facilities, assisted living communities, and state mental hospitals. The purpose is to enhance a patient's physical, mental, or social well-being. SB 100 passed 35-0. 

   Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 20 creates the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CFHS) Organizational Structure, Operations, and Administrative Task Force to oversee procedures within CHFS. The adopted resolution passed with unanimous consent.

   Some heartbreaking news in the district as we lost a street department city employee due to a fire in Grayson this week. Everyone should be proud of our city and work as hard to make it better as Timmy Herron did. He loved his family and worked hard on everything he took on. From his day job to side jobs, Timmy was dependable and honest. He did some work for our family, and I will miss his messages and him. Please hold his family in your heart and prayers. The other folks that lost everything will need them too. Also, a big thank you to our first responders at the scene, we had great neighboring departments that came to assist Grayson.

   Grayson Fire Department had three firemen that required medical attention and I am happy to report that all have recovered and they are our hometown heroes!

   I want to give a huge thanks to our state and local road crews, who exceeded expectations in the weather events of the past few weeks! We appreciate all your work.

   We are now three weeks into the 2022 Regular Session. I expect budget deliberations to soon become a significant issue in the coming weeks. Please stay engaged! I will do my best to keep you updated and informed about what is happening in Frankfort throughout the session.

   If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, you can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1.800.372.7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711.

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