Week In Review Jan 15, 2010

The focus of the second week in the Kentucky House of Representatives was protecting victims of domestic abuse and promoting education at all levels.

By a vote of 97-0, House Bill 1 was passed which would allow judges to authorize electronic monitoring in domestic violence cases as a way to give real-time information to victims worried for their safety.  The legislation, called “Amanda’s Law,” was named in honor of Amanda Ross, who was killed on September 11th in Lexington by her former fiancée.

Fifteen states around the country use these devices and no domestic-violence deaths have occurred where monitoring was used. The cost of the device is estimated to be between $7 and $10 a day, paid for by the violator of the domestic violence order.  Counties could take on the responsibility of enforcing Amanda’s Law themselves, or by partnering with other local governments at no expense to them.

The bill would only apply in less than 20 percent of cases, based on experiences in other states.  Research shows that most victims feel that a domestic violence order is enough protection, but in those situations where violence is likely, Amanda’s Law provides additional security to the victims.  The legislation will now be considered by the Senate.

An important bill that would bring millions in federal funding to Kentucky’s low-performing schools passed the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote of 96-0 this week.   Kentucky could receive up to $200 million through the president’s Race to the Top contest which awards those who develop plans to improve student achievement.  House Bill 176 was considered an emergency bill because state education officials needed the program in place in order submit the application which is due next week.

The Race to the Top funds will be given to states based on their plans to improve low-performing schools. The legislation also qualifies Kentucky to compete for $45 million towards school improvement.  Kentucky’s application could be considered a blueprint of the education reforms the state wants to make after the House and Senate last year ended the statewide testing system known as CATS (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System).

The application includes more training and support for teachers, improving standards in most academic subjects, creating new plans to turn around failing schools and giving parents more online student information.  The Senate followed our lead and swiftly passed House Bill 176.  The governor signed it into law Thursday.

A bill that could increase the number of bachelor degree holders in Kentucky by making it easier for students to transfer from the state’s two-year community colleges to its public universities cleared the House Education Committee this week.

Under House Bill 160, credit for certain community college courses would be fully credited to related bachelor’s degree programs at Kentucky’s public universities.  Those universities would be prohibited from requiring graduates of approved two-year programs from repeating courses to earn a bachelor’s degree within their major. The bill would also limit the number of required lower-division course credit hours in most state associate and bachelor’s programs beginning in 2012.

HB 160 would also ensure that students with approved two-year degrees would not have to take additional general education or program-specific prerequisites upon entering a bachelor’s program at one of the state’s eight public universities. The bill would also give priority for university admission to graduates of the state’s two-year public colleges and create a uniform college transcript for Kentucky’s public colleges and universities.  It is expected that HB 160 will help the state reach its 1997 goal of doubling its number of degree holders to meet the national average by 2020.

I believe we have had a productive week in Frankfort. Next Tuesday, the governor will give his budget address to both chambers. The House will then analyze his plan, looking for the most efficient cost-cutting measures that will help balance Kentucky’s budget.

You can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you this session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.

I look forward to serving you in Frankfort in the busy session weeks ahead.

Paid for by Dennis Keene for State Representative Campaign
LRC photos courtesy of LRC Public Information