Each and every session, the General Assembly passes laws that affect various aspects of state and local government. Our constitutional officers, police departments, and local circuit clerks perform the necessary functions of government that help each of us live our daily lives. The laws we pass each year regarding these entities direct how the government serves you. With this week’s column, I want to share some of the work we did on state and local issues, work that demonstrates our commitment to Kentucky values and that helps move our Commonwealth forward.
One of the first pieces of legislation that we heard was HB 271, which protects line-of-duty death benefits for the surviving spouses of police officers killed in duty. This measure comes after a 2018 law that increased line-of-duty benefits. Previously, our state law mandated that surviving spouses who remarry will see their benefits cut to 25%. Under HB 271, the surviving spouse will receive 75% of the deceased spouse’s retirement if they choose to remarry. This law sends a strong message that we stand by those who risk it all for us and demonstrates our commitment to look out for our law enforcement families. Instead of defunding the police, I believe we should be defending them. I am proud to stand behind the law enforcement in the 18th District.
We continued to address our state pension problems by passing HB 484, which allows the County Employees Retirement System (CERS) to leave the Kentucky Employee Retirement System (KERS). This bill was passed to allow the CERS system to make the best independent financial investment decisions. If you are already a retiree in this system, you will see no change in benefits or administration. Also, employee benefits, filing for pension benefits, health care filings, and other administrative functions will remain as they are already.
House Bill 46 allows full-time state government employees 240 hours of paid leave for donating a human organ and 40 hours of paid leave for donating bone marrow. This measure also creates a tax deduction in an amount equal to qualifying organ donation expenses of up to $10,000. This bill will hopefully encourage live organ and bone marrow donation and ensure that state employees who choose to donate will have the proper time to recover before returning to work. I am hopeful that, when possible, private businesses will follow suit in enacting similar personnel policies.
We also tackled a difficult issue head on, and the result is a big change in how driver’s licensing is handled in Kentucky. As we have worked on REAL ID and other driver’s licensing issues, we learned from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) and our Kentucky Circuit Court Clerk’s Association that driver’s licensing just does not work at that level anymore. While it is convenient, it has almost nothing to do with the other responsibilities of these court clerks. HB 453 allows the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to take over the issuing licenses and personal identification cards. Just like most major changes, this will take some time to implement and will most likely require patience from all of us. KYTC plans to open regional offices throughout the state, with mobile units available to make sure each county can be reached and Saturday hours to help those of us who work during the week. As you can imagine, it will take some time to put into place. In the meantime, our circuit clerks will continue to issue them until a regional cabinet office is in place. I will continue to update you as we learn more about when and how as this develops. Also, please remember that the REAL ID requirement has been postponed until next year because of COVID-19.
I hope to continue providing you updates through this column. As always, I can still be reached through the toll-free message line; if you have any comments or questions, just call 1-800-372-7181. You can contact me via e-mail at email@example.com or follow me on Facebook @KYRepSamaraHeavrin for regular updates. Don’t forget that you can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page www.legislature.ky.gov.