Week 5 1

Sen. Steve Meredith listens to testimony during a Senate Health Services Committee meeting.

During the General Assembly’s fifth week of the 30-day legislative session, March came in like a lion, with bills clearing the Senate chamber. However, the legislative forecast is not calling for March to go out like a lamb, as plenty of work remains in Frankfort before the final day of session on March 30.

Week 5 was particularly notable for me as I saw two more pieces of my legislation pass the Senate.

Senate Bill 29 establishes eligibility criteria for Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) and limits the number of MCOs contracted by the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services to no more than three. Potentially saving our commonwealth millions of dollars each year.

Senate Bill 43 is a measure to ensure we are considering the holistic good of loved ones in residential facilities. During COVID-19, families were closed off from those they loved, and sadly some residents in nursing homes passed away without the comfort of a loved one beside them. The General Assembly corrected this during last year’s legislative session. Still, this bill expands exemptions for essential personal care visitors from prohibitions relating to visiting a resident in a community, health facility, mental hospital, or those receiving home or community-based Medicaid waiver services. The bill also exempts essential personal care visitors from visitation prohibitions during infectious disease outbreaks in communities mentioned above, regardless of their communicable disease status. Senate Bill 43 carries an emergency designation, which means it would go into effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.

The additional bills gained the Senate’s approval and can now be considered by the state House of Representatives:

Senate Bill 4 aims to strengthen electric grid reliability in the Commonwealth and ensure Kentucky’s residents are not faced with the dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences of power outages, “brown-outs,” or “black-outs.” The bill would prohibit the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) from authorizing the retirement of fossil-fuel fired electric power generating plants.

Additionally, the provisions within the bill would require the PSC to submit an annual report by Dec. 1 to the Legislative Research Commission on the retirement of electric generating units. Senate Bill 4 carries an emergency designation, which means it would go into effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.

Senate Bill 30 is a consumer protection measure providing more information on and easing the process of canceling automatic renewals of service or product subscriptions. The bill would require businesses to be more transparent in subscription details and provide consumers with a simplified means of canceling them.

Senate Bill 33 establishes the Kentucky Cybersecurity Center (KentuckyCYBER) at the University of Louisville. KentuckyCYBER’s purpose will include educating state and local agencies and private sector participants about maintaining secure cyber infrastructure and accelerating the adoption of cybersecurity systems in the commonwealth by combining the assets of higher education, state and federal agencies, and private companies. KentuckyCYBER’s responsibilities will include providing nonpartisan cybersecurity advice and recommendations to Kentucky policymakers, workforce training to provide cybersecurity solutions for Kentucky businesses, state and local government, and federal, state, and local law enforcement, and enhancing economic development through cybersecurity initiatives. It would be responsible for providing cybersecurity resources, including, but not limited to, cyber ranges and incident response teams to assist state and local government, major economic sectors, including health care and manufacturing, and critical infrastructure systems operators throughout Kentucky. Additionally, it would be tasked to create a cyber-innovation ecosystem for the state and federal government, law enforcement, the private sector, and K-12 and higher education institutions to innovate rapidly. Finally, the bill would establish a cybersecurity research center and provide support to build the research capacity necessary to compete successfully for projects funded by the federal government and private industry participants.

Senate Bill 37 modernizes the expertise available to the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy by establishing a broad range of knowledge in pharmacy practice within the board’s advisory council. It also specifies the advisory council’s membership and responsibilities to the Board of Pharmacy.

Senate Bill 63, also known as The C.R.O.W.N. Act (Creating a Respectful World for Natural Hair) would prevent discrimination based on a protected natural hairstyle. It requires workplace policies and school board conduct codes to prohibit racial discrimination, including hair texture and protected hairstyles. Nothing in the bill should be construed to prohibit reasonable workplace policies.

Kentuckians can be fired or sent home from school because of how they wear their hair. Several Kentucky communities have passed local ordinances preventing discrimination based on traits, such as hairstyles, that are historically relevant and culturally significant.

Senate Bill 79 — Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest rates of domestic violence. The state’s Address Confidentiality Program, which currently serves fewer than 50 people and is operated by the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office, only allows victims of domestic violence to hide their addresses from voter rolls, which are available to the public. This bill strengthens the existing program by allowing protections without a court protective order and hiding their addresses from publicly available government records beyond voter rolls.

Senate Bill 81 allows certified private and parochial schools to adopt and operate a school calendar different from the local public school district in the county. The bill maintains the requirement of certified private and parochial schools’ calendars, including the statutory minimum school term and instructional year.

Senate Bill 89 helps to address law enforcement workforce challenges, allowing urban-county governments to rehire police officers who have retired while allowing rehires to continue receiving all entitled retirement and health insurance benefits. They would not be permitted to accept additional benefits after rehiring. Eligible candidates will be hired for a one-year contract and be subject to yearly review by the employing urban-county government. If enacted into law, urban-county governments could hire up to 25 retired officers, or a number equal to 10% of the police officers they employed in the previous year.

Senate Bill 90 improves safety and care for addiction patients by establishing access to transportation services at chemical dependency treatment service centers. The bill’s provisions require any licensed chemical dependency treatment service program to provide transportation or access to transportation services to residents who wish to voluntarily leave the treatment program in cases where the resident’s family, guardian, or emergency contact does not agree to transport them. It also prohibits facilities and law enforcement officers from taking the resident to any location other than public transportation locations, places to meet the ride-sharing service driver such as Uber or Lyft, or the resident’s home. Before admitting a resident to a treatment center, a facility must determine if the resident has any outstanding arrest warrants.

Senate Bill 92 establishes protections for business owners by outlining questions and acceptable policies concerning assistance animals. It requires an assistance dog to be licensed, vaccinated, and have tags; prevented from disrupting or fundamentally obstructing an establishment’s services or goods; and be leashed—unless a person’s disability requires otherwise—and in control of at all times. It also establishes fines for those guilty of misrepresenting a dog as an assistance dog, regardless if the misrepresentation is communicated verbally, in writing, or non-verbally by placing a harness, collar, vest or sign on a dog that falsely indicates it is an assistance dog. Additionally, it allows the Animal Control and Care Fund, a special fund within the Kentucky Treasurer’s Office benefiting the Animal Control Advisory Board, to receive the fines. Finally, Senate Bill 92 clarifies the rights, privileges, and exemptions afforded to assistance dogs do not extend to emotional support animals.

Senate Bill 97 — This bill requires a little background. In recent years, lasers have been used to cause eye injuries among first responders and others. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, laser lights can emit a tight beam that does not grow in size at a distance, meaning the same degree of hazard can be present both close to and far from the laser. The eye can focus a laser beam on a tiny, intense spot on its retina, resulting in a burn or a blind spot. Current Kentucky law does not define a laser as a potential weapon. This bill would make laser use a crime under certain circumstances by identifying ‘laser’ as a potentially dangerous weapon in state law.

Senate Bill 104 comes in light of the concerning decision made by the Governor to appoint his active communications director to the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television board membership, which governs Kentucky Educational Television (KET). Many have concerns about the chilling effect political moves like that could have on the non-partisan operations of KET.

The bill would modify board membership by requiring the makeup of the board to have equal representation among the two genders, reflect minority racial composition, and reflect no less than proportional representation of the state’s two leading political parties based on voter registration.

Senate Bill 104 maintains five gubernatorial-appointed members but prohibits the appointment of individuals employed by the executive branch within one year of their appointment and no more than two. If enacted, the bill would expire current membership but allows the governor to reappoint any member meeting the act’s requirements. Finally, it designates the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education as a non-voting authority member, but terminable upon the president’s transfer or departure from the role.

Senate Bill 110 strengthens the safety and practice of nursing in Kentucky by making various updates to laws relating to the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) and nursing practice. The bill would allow KBN to take licensure action against a nurse listed on the adult caregiver misconduct registry or has a substantiated finding or judicial finding of abuse or neglect of a child. It would also allow a licensed nurse from a state, not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, to practice on a non-routine basis in Kentucky. Additionally, the number of nurse educators on KBN would be at least three and at most six.

Senate Bill 111 expands the requirements to serve as the public health director or commissioner of certain local public health departments. The bill would allow a non-physician with at least a master’s degree in public health or a related field and at least five years of managerial experience with a health department to serve as a director of health in a county containing a city of the first class or as a health commissioner for an urban-county health department. The bill would conform relevant governing statutes relating to the requirements to serve as a health director of an independent district health board. Senate Bill 111 would also clarify that the criteria to serve as a local health director in a county containing a city of the first class and an urban-county health department also apply to consolidated local governments.

Senate Bill 120 results from a collaborative effort between interested stakeholders providing a statutory framework for homeowner associations to better function and self-govern while implementing consumer protections and transparency for homeowner association members. The bill ensures homeowner associations set fees at appropriate levels to meet maintenance obligations, provides financial openness and financial audit provisions, and enforces fee collection in compliance with deed restrictions. The bill would also require a new homeowner association to file a declaration with the local county clerk’s office and provide bylaws along with organizing documents showing how the association will be organized that identify members of the board of directors and outline the board’s day-to-day functions.

Senate Bill 122 gives the General Assembly and Legislative Research Commission (LRC) control over all space in the Capitol Annex building except for certain identified areas. It grants LRC access to all Annex parking spaces, except spaces reserved for the lieutenant governor’s office, the Supreme Court of Kentucky, the attorney general and the secretary of state. The bill requires the Finance Cabinet to enter into a memorandum of understanding with LRC by February 1, 2024, and every two years to establish tenancy terms, including maintenance, janitorial services, and facility security. The measure would allow LRC to enter into a separate contract for janitorial services, resulting in a proportional reduction in rent and utility costs paid.

Senate Bill 126 is a clean-up measure to 2021’s House Bill 3, which relates to jurisdiction for constitutional challenges to state law, regulations, executive orders, and certain cabinets and departments. The bill would allow a plaintiff or defendant to have one change of venue in cases challenging constitutionality. A case transfer notice is automatic and is accomplished by the Supreme Court of Kentucky clerk through random selection of a different judicial circuit and order to the original jurisdiction to transfer the action.

Senate Bill 128 — Since 2017, with majority control of the state House of Representatives flipping Republican for the first time in nearly a century, Kentucky’s House and Senate majority lawmakers have prioritized stabilizing state pensions, which includes the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (KTRS). Senate Bill 128 is an additional legislative measure to ensure that total teacher benefits costs are accurately factored into the annual analysis. Under Senate Bill 128, each school district must report the sick leave balance annually for each employee and KTRS member to understand the state’s liability accurately.

Senate Bill 129 would define terms and establish limitations on using automated license plate cameras to protect Kentucky residents’ data. Entities, as defined in the act, may only retain license plate data for 90 days, except when the data is being used as evidence in a criminal prosecution or administrative investigation, has become subject to a subpoena, or for bridge toll collection activities through the request of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The bill prohibits any recorded images or data captured by an ALPR from being sold for any purpose and any entity from making the data available except to law enforcement officers or agencies in response to a subpoena.

Automated license plate reader cameras have been deployed in numerous Kentucky communities. No statewide regulations exist on these cameras’ storage and operation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 16 states have laws addressing the use of these cameras or retention of data. This bill provides a framework for data storage and uses that these cameras collect.

Senate Bill 144 would amend the statute related to the Kentucky Battlefield Preservation fund. It would require a private nonprofit organization seeking grant funding from the Kentucky Battlefield Trust fund to provide matching funds from any non-state, a dollar-for-dollar basis for Civil War sites, and $1 for every $3 from the account of Revolutionary War sites. The bill also prevents grants from the fund from exceeding 50% of the land, or permanent protective interests appraised value therein without the state historic preservation officer’s approval.

Senate Bill 163 expands from 2022’s Senate Bill 119 the General Assembly’s sole role to authorize honoring of an artist on the Country Music Highway, US 23. The bill also limits the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s ability to use state resources to advance partisan campaign interests. Specific mottos and slogans that may appear on a standard-issue motor vehicle license plate would include: “Bluegrass State,” “United We Stand, Divided We Fall,” and “In God We Trust.” Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration recently established a “Team Kentucky” license plate. “Team Kentucky,” is a slogan the governor originated during his gubernatorial campaign in 2019. This is wholly inappropriate and is something lawmakers had to put a stop to.

Senate Bill 169 would lower costs and expedite capital project completion for Kentucky school districts by authorizing local boards of education to engage in public-private partnerships (P3s). Our cities and counties are already authorized to engage in P3s under current law. The measure amends the P3s delivery method of awarding contracts for capital construction projects related to the Kentucky Local Government Public-Private Partnership Board by:

1. Adding “local school district” to the definition of a “local government;” and

2. Adding provisions saying the local board of education is authorized to enter into P3s on behalf of a local school district.

Senate Bill 229 would strengthen communication between agencies regarding suspected child abuse cases. It requires an agency that is the reporting source also to notify local law enforcement, the Kentucky State Police, the commonwealth’s attorney, or the county attorney when receiving suspected abuse or neglect of a child within their agency. Supervisors must cooperate with investigations of reports. The bill would also allow the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to determine whether an announced or unannounced visit is necessary after receiving an allegation of child abuse or neglect. Finally, it establishes a class A misdemeanor for anyone who knowingly causes intimidation, retaliation, or obstruction of an investigation of child abuse and neglect.

Senate Joint Resolution 79 would establish a nuclear energy development working group, set membership, and task the working group to:

● Identify barriers to deploying nuclear power generation resources and other related technologies in the commonwealth, including regulatory, statutory, financial, social, environmental, workforce and educational barriers.

● Develop recommendations for how a permanent nuclear energy commission could address the barriers to deploying nuclear power generation resources and other related technologies in the commonwealth.

● Consult with any federal, state, or local agencies, nonprofit organizations, private industry, or other impacted stakeholders on what the role of the permanent nuclear energy commission should be.

● Develop recommendations for a required report on the group’s efforts.

Joint resolutions carry the force of law without reforming existing statutory law.

Watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, represents the 5th Senate District, including Breckinridge, Butler, Grayson, Ohio, and Meade Counties. He serves as Government Contract Review Committee chair. Additionally, he also serves as the chair of the Senate Health Services Committee chair. Meredith will also be a Senate Education; Families and Children; and Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection committee member.

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