By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today
FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Wednesday is an important date in Kentucky this year. That’s when most legislation approved during the 2020 General Assembly takes effect.
Tom Troth, who serves as legislative agent for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, noted that this year’s session, like activities for most of life right now due to the COVID-19 outbreak, were anything but normal for lawmakers.
“For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, the House of Representatives engaged in remote voting from their legislative offices,” he said. “Lobbyists and other interested parties were barred from the Capitol and Capitol Annex. Likewise, the legislative session was reduced from the authorized 60 legislative days to 53 which resulted in significantly fewer bills, being passed by the legislature.”
While legislation containing an emergency clause became effective upon the Governor’s signature and others had a specific date, most take effect on Wednesday.
Senate bills taking effect Wednesday include and their sponsor (in parentheses) include:
SENATE BILL 40 (Alvarado): This legislation, among other things, requires front line staff in child placing agencies to submit to national and state fingerprint supported background checks.
SB 45 (D. Carroll): Establishes operational standards for childcare centers, including such things as nutritional requirements, and screen time standards.
SB 115 (Wilson): Provides for a tuition waiver for Foster Care/Adopted children enrolled in graduate as well as undergraduate studies.
SB 191 (Raque Adams): Among other things, it encourages the employment of workers who are successfully engaging in substance abuse treatment programs. The bill also establishes requirements for alcohol and substance abuse drug counselors.
House bills taking effect Wednesday and their sponsor (in parentheses) include:
HOUSE BILL 2 (Miles): Adds offenses that qualify as sex crimes, requires airports, truck stops, and train stations to post a human trafficking hotline number in public restrooms. It also creates a new definition of human trafficking, requires a $10,000 minimum fine for conviction of human trafficking to be paid to the victim’s fund. In addition, it outlines functions that may be funded by the victim’s fund, and provides that certain legal defenses are not available to those charged with human trafficking.
HB 256 (Fischer): Prohibits a felony offender whose crime results in the conception and delivery of a child from obtaining custody or visitation of that child. It also requires an involuntary termination of parental rights of a person convicted of a felony offense which leads to the conception and delivery of child.
HB 312 (Meade): Provides for more efficient transfer and enrollment of foster children between schools. It also mandates sharing of information between schools, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and the child’s caseworker. The release of records will be made only to authorized individuals and requires written policies and procedures for cooperation and release of information. It requires that a caseworker accompany a foster child to the new school to be enrolled or contact the child by phone and requires that the sharing of records be confidential.
Other high-profile legislation includes:
SB 2 (MILLS): The Voter Photo ID Bill, will require voters to present photographic identification at the polls, starting with November’s general election. If a voter does not have a photo ID, they will be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. It allows poll workers to vouch for a voter they know even if that person has no valid ID. People who request mail-in absentee ballots must also provide a copy of a photo ID or complete an affirmation that they are qualified to vote. Another provision provides a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license.
SB 21 (EMBRY): Will allow veterinarians to report to authorities if they find that an animal under their care has been abused. Veterinarians are currently prohibited by law from reporting abuse of animals under their care unless they have the permission of the animal’s owner or are under a court order.
SB 42 (HARPER ANGEL): States that, starting on August 1, student IDs for middle school, high school and college students must list contacts for national crisis hotlines specializing in domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide prevention.
SB 132 (MILLS): Adds people with state-issued personal identification cards to the pool of potential jurors in the county where they live. Currently, the pool draws from driver’s license lists, tax rolls and voter registration lists.
HB 44 (GOOCH): Strengthens security for critical infrastructure across Kentucky by specifying above-ground natural gas and petroleum pipelines, in addition to certain cable television facilities, aren’t suitable areas for drone flights. It also defines tampering with the assets as felony criminal mischief.
HB 143 (MOSER): Establishes the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program. The plan is aimed at training professionals and members of the public to identify and assist people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The program would also promote access to trainers certified in mental health first aid training.
HB 204 (MADDOX): Prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a publicly leased playground. Sex offenders must already follow these standards for publicly owned parks.
HB 336 (FISCHER): Will let gubernatorial candidates select their running mate for lieutenant governor before the second Tuesday in August instead of during the spring primary campaign.
Two proposed constitutional amendments that cleared the General Assembly this year will appear on the November ballot for voter approval.
SB 15 sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, known as “Marsy’s Law,” would establish a crime victims bill of rights. Similar legislation won voter approval in 2016, but was struck down by the Kentucky Supreme Court, because the ballot language did not include the text of the proposed constitutional amendment. This year, Westerfield also sponsored enabling legislation, which would only take effect if the amendment is approved.
HB 405, sponsored by Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, would increase the term of Circuit Court Clerks and Commonwealth’s Attorneys from six to eight years, lengthen the term of county attorneys and district court judges from four to eight years, and raise the requirement of being a licensed attorney from two to eight years, beginning in 2022.
Tom Troth contributed to this report.