Grappling with budget options, attending committee meetings and working with constituent groups kept the Kentucky House of Representatives busy this fifth week of the legislative session. Bills are starting to move out of the House with some speed as more are passing out of committees.
There was much discussion on the House floor as a bill that would ban text messaging by drivers of all ages and cell phone use by drivers under age 18 passed by an 80-16 vote.
Violators of House Bill 43 would face a fine between $20 and $100 for each offense beginning in 2011. The bill would also require young violators with driver’s permits or intermediate driver’s licenses to wait an additional six months before applying for their permanent operator’s license. House Bill 43 would allow drivers to use cell phones in emergencies. It would also allow texting by emergency personnel as part of their official duties, texts to report illegal activity, or texts to summon help in an emergency. The legislation passed by a vote of 80-16 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Children with severe psychiatric disorders who must now be treated out of state because of a lack of options in Kentucky could return home under a bill that cleared the House this week. House Bill 231 would create a new level of licensed psychiatric residential treatment facilities for special-needs Kentucky children now being cared for in states as far away as Utah and Texas. The bill would set requirements for operation of the facilities, which could be located across the Commonwealth by qualifying applications. House Bill 231 passed by a unanimous vote of 94-0 and now heads to the Senate.
The Kentucky House passed legislation creating a new standard-issue license plate with the nation’s motto, “In God We Trust.” House Bill 100 would make the plate available to all drivers at no extra cost. If the measure becomes law, drivers would be allowed to choose either the “In God We Trust” plate or the current standard issue “Unbridled Spirit” plate. The bill passed the House on a vote of 93-1.
House Bill 35, which passed by a vote of 85-10, would give Kentucky judges discretion in considering punishment for those who fail to pay court-ordered restitution. Currently judges are required to revoke driving privileges of convicted thieves who fail to make their payment. Lawmakers realized an unintended consequence of legislation passed last year which prohibits the person from being able to drive to their workplace was that the person was then not able to earn money for the restitution. House Bill 35 would allow the judge to decide if the license should be revoked instead of mandating that action.
Another bill the House passed this week addresses wage discrimination. House Bill 133 prohibits wage discrimination against a person of the opposite sex who is paid less for doing a job of comparable worth. The legislation passed by a vote of 88-7.
House Bill 217 would give Kentucky auto dealers an opportunity to reclaim the franchise they lost in the auto industry’s economic downfall. The bill would apply to anyone trying to set up a new dealership in the same area where a previous dealership was closed by automakers like General Motors and Chrysler who closed hundreds of its dealerships around the country. Under House Bill 217, the new dealership would have to be offered first to the dealer who had his franchise closed as part of the downsizing. It would apply to any effort to start a new dealership within a 10- mile radios from the former dealership. It passed the House 98-0.
This week House Leadership helped kick off a rally to announce that special “Donate Life” license plates could soon be available. The Second Chance at Life organization, comprised primarily of Kentucky organ recipients and donor family members, received approval from the Kentucky Department of Transportation for a specialty license plate to promote organ donation. The group must secure 900 applications before the plate will be manufactured. The public can download the license plate application by going to www.kyorgandonor.org or www.kyorgandonor.org. The application must be accompanied by a $25 check and mailed to the address on the form.
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.