Senator Robin L. Webb
The Kentucky General Assembly crossed another mile marker this week by reaching the deadline for the introduction of new bills in the Senate. With the filing deadline in the rearview, we now have a comprehensive scope of the issues lawmakers are taking up this year. The bills address a mixture of previous issues and new challenges.
One bill passed this week would set a goal of increasing participation in computer science courses by underrepresented groups. The aim of Senate Bill (SB) 193 is to bring computer science education to these groups, which include females, minorities, students with disabilities, English learners, and students whose families are eligible for free and reduced-price meals. The legislation will also require the Kentucky Department of Education to submit an annual report of computer science enrollment to see how these groups are progressing.
This measure will assist our young people in preparing for the technology and jobs of the future. It also attacks the social stigma and gender gap concerning computer sciences and helps individuals who may not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in these types of programs. The measure passed in the Senate with bipartisan support 37-1, and will now go to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
Another bill that passed in the Senate this week offers patients some protection from surprise medical bills. SB 150 requires insurers to cover surprise billing, also known as surprise balance billing. It happens when a patient receives medical care – often unwittingly – outside of his or her insurer's network. Subsequently, the doctor or hospital bills the patient for the amount insurance did not cover. Another provision will require the state insurance commissioner to establish a database of billed health care service charges. The bill will also provide a dispute resolution program in which medical insurers, providers, and patients can work out their differences over these out-of-network charges. The measure passed with bipartisan support, 30-3.
In the latter portion of the legislative week, the House finally submitted its two-year budget to the Senate. It will be several days before we are able to fully digest the entirety of its two-year spending plan. However, pay raises of one percent in each of the next two fiscal years for both state and school employees are found in the House proposal. Now that we have the budget blueprint from the House, we will return our budget recommendations to that chamber, at which point a conference committee will likely form to compromise and finalize a budget on which both sides can agree. We will know more as we begin to delve into the fine print of this lengthy proposal. I will keep you updated as the document makes its way through the budget process.
The budget will consume a majority of the headlines moving forward, but a stream of important, less-publicized legislation will pass in the Senate over the coming weeks. A few impactful bills are currently making their way through the committee process and will soon head to the Senate floor. Many will pass on bipartisan terms and benefit citizens of the Commonwealth, while others will be politically motivated and split votes down party lines.
Some of the less-publicized bills taken up in the Senate chamber this week include:
SB 21 allows a veterinarian to report suspected abuse of animals while in their care, and to release information to law enforcement. It also permits them to report if they suspect abuse of domesticated animals. The legislation passed 35-0.
SB 37 would amend the existing Boots to Business program to include veteran-managed nonprofit businesses. Through the program, new businesses that are majority-managed by a military veteran or an active-duty service member are eligible for fee waivers for the initial business filing. It also waives the annual report filing fees over the next four years of business. The measure passed unanimously.
SB 125 maintains the physician supervision of athletic trainers in all areas. It also allows athletic trainers to appropriately assist with the management of common medications used in the care of patients and practice both potentially lifesaving and medically standard care. The bill passed with bipartisan support, 35-0.
SB 136 requires staff who provide direct in-home care for a patient with Alzheimer's, or another form of dementia, to receive initial and ongoing training. Many who suffer from this disease do better in an environment they are accustomed to, and this measure seeks to help individuals stay in their homes while under care. The proposal passed the Senate overwhelmingly, 36-1.
SB 182 would make it a crime for a person in Kentucky to use online communications to intentionally disseminate identifying information about a minor with the intent to intimidate, abuse, threaten, harass, or frighten. The legislation passed 30-6.
House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 5 urges federal policymakers to expedite research regarding the safety and efficacy of the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The resolution passed 35-0.
From this point forward, an outpouring of bills will make their way through the Senate and House until we adjourn sine die. Legislation passed in the Senate this week will now go before the House for further consideration. House bills approved by the Senate without change will go to the Governor, at which point he can veto or sign the legislation into law, or let it become law without his signature. House bills with Senate changes must go back to the House for concurrence.
Many new issues are arising in Frankfort, and I encourage you to join in that dialogue as we enter the backend of this 60-day session. I will always listen to your viewpoints. You have a big say in the laws affecting you. You can stay up-to-date on the budget negotiations and other legislative actions throughout the session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at https://legislature.ky.gov/Pages/index.aspx.
As always, you can stay in contact throughout the 2020 Regular Session in the following ways:
To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1.800.372.7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the Kentucky Relay Service at 711.
You can write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to Capitol Annex, 702 Capital Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-3448.