Last week at the State Capitol

Jan. 18-22

Staff Report

As Winter Storm Jonas approached Kentucky, many eyes turned to the forecasters whose Doppler radars and high-tech instruments could predict the wind chill and expected snowfall.

But when school superintendents must decide whether to call a snow day, they often depend on something less sophisticated but just as precise: Many are out in the dark checking roads at 4 a.m. so they know the driving conditions they face.

A similar point could be made about forecasting a legislative session. Polls hint at the public mood and commentators provide educated analysis. But often, it’s lawmakers’ direct contact with citizens—phone calls, coffee shop discussions, and meetings in the Capitol and in their home districts—that most clearly reveal which issues are picking up momentum and which are about to hit an icy patch.

At the end of Week 3 of the General Assembly’s 2016 session, it’s still too early for legislation to have gathered the momentum to reach the governor’s desk and be signed into law. But many bills are moving through legislative committees and a handful have already been approved by the Senate or House and sent to the other chamber for consideration.

Issues that took steps forward last week include:

Cancer. House Bill 115 would expand eligibility for screenings under the state’s Colon Cancer Screening Program to uninsured Kentuckians between the ages of 50-64 or uninsured persons deemed at high risk for the disease. Eligibility would be based on current American Cancer Society screening guidelines. The bill was approved by the House and has been sent to the Senate.

Drunken Driving. Senate Bill 56 would strengthen penalties for habitual drunken drivers by changing what is known in legal circles as the “look back period” from five years to 10 years. That means if someone is convicted of drunken driving multiple times in a 10-year period the penalties for the crimes can be increased. The bill has been approved by the Senate and has been sent to the House.

Elections. Senate Bill 10 would move elections for governor and other statewide constitutional offices to the same years as presidential elections. The bill has been approved by the Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration.

Human Trafficking. House Bill 229 is aimed at improving investigation and prosecution of human trafficking by including the Kentucky Attorney General among those with jurisdiction over those crimes. The bill has been approved by a House committee and is expected to be voted on by the full House next week.

Informed Consent. Senate Bill 4 would specify that consultations between a woman seeking an abortion and a health care provider that are required 24 hours prior to the procedures must take place in face-to-face meetings. Those consults are currently often done through recorded phone messages. The bill has been approved by the Senate and has received two readings in the House.

Legislator Pensions. Senate Bill 45 would disclose the value of state legislator’s public pensions by making those figures subject to open records laws. The bill was approved by the Senate and has been received by the House.

Victim Protection. House Bill 59 would make it easier for those at risk of violence to shield their home addresses from people who could harm them. Kentucky already has an address protection program that allows domestic violence victims and those at risk of violence to use a substitute address in cases where public records could make their home addresses accessible to those who pose a risk. House Bill 59 would allow people at risk of violence to apply for a substitute address without first obtaining a domestic violence order. A sworn statement would suffice for program eligibility. The bill was approved by the House and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on the issues confronting Kentucky with your state lawmakers, you can do so by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 800-372-7181.

Jan. 18-22

Staff Report

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