You know the old saying, “March comes in like a lion, and leaves like a lamb.” If true, maybe Kentucky will finally get some milder weather as we move toward the end of the month. As we came in from yet another snow storm, work on the floor of the Senate centered on cleaning up statutory language, fixing some areas of recent laws and addressing public safety and firearm policy. We also honored a historic event.
Wednesday, many lawmakers joined thousands of Kentuckians gathered along Capitol Avenue to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Frankfort. It was a cold and blustery March 5 when Dr. King led 10,000 others in a march up to the front door of our Capitol in support of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
Off of the floor, the members and staff of the Majority Caucus have been busy reviewing the budget situation in preparation for the House’s budget bill. Even though we do not have an actual piece of legislation to work with, we still anticipate certain requests and appropriations and can be ready to work quickly when the bill comes out of the House.
This week, we passed Senate Bill 36, which is a way we can continue to energize the real estate market in Kentucky with an easy change. The legislation reduces the time period for the right of redemption of real property from one year to six months. After researching the issue, no cases of redemption after six months could be found. This legislation helps purchasers rehabilitate and sell these properties rather than leaving them empty and vulnerable to crime, vandalism and other misuse that not only hurts the value of the property, but also those in its vicinity.
Another piece of legislation that passed the Senate this week, and generated a lot of discussion, was Senate Bill 81. The bill would define terms regarding employment, specifically “contractor,” “person,” “prime contractor” and “subcontractor.” Under the bill, any person determined to be independent contractor is not eligible for employee benefits or wages. It would also allow for an appeal process to circuit court in the county where the person resides or where the person has his principal office.
To ensure the information is clear and people understand the definitions, Senate Bill 81 would require the Labor Cabinet develop a corresponding training program to educate the public and workers on classification criteria used by Labor Cabinet as well as a workplace poster. The measure also sets penalties for violation of misclassification. The House will now consider the bill.
Other bills cleaned up work from previous sessions that addressed more comprehensive law, as well as making processes of utilities consistent. Senate Bill 123 places sewerage corporations on the same playing field as other public utilities allowing them to post rate changes in newspapers, rather than requiring them to mail notices to each customer. House Bill 197 also passed, and addressed some clean-up needs from House Bill 1 passed during the 2013 session.
Preventing youth access to nicotine, Senate Bill 109 passed. This would prohibit the sale of “electronic cigarettes” to minors. E-cigarettes are sometimes marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes because they are smokeless. But they still emit a vaporized form of nicotine to users that is reportedly addictive and unsafe for youth.
Two bills regarding the “conceal and carry deadly weapon” (CCDW) license process also received passage this week. With the increase of people applying for CCDW, the wait time to receive a license is growing due to the time it takes to process a paper application. A measure to relieve some of this backlog passed this week. Senate Bill 100 speeds up CCDW licensing by a simple measure; allowing electronic applications for licenses and renewals. This will take advantage of modern technology and make the licensing process more efficient. The convenience of the electronic application will cost the applicant ten more dollars, but if the applicant does not want to pay that, the paper application is available at the current cost.
Regarding personal protection, we passed Senate Bill 106 which would permit a person protected by an EPO or DVO to be issued a temporary concealed weapon license for the period of the protective order. A background check by the State Police will have to be conducted, and the recipient will have to receive training within 45 days in order for the provisional to convert to a full CCDW license.
I invite you to come to Frankfort for hearings of interest to you. Citizens are always welcome in our committee meetings. You can also view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org.