A sizable snowstorm this week shut down schools and businesses across Kentucky but my colleagues and I plowed through committee meetings, constituent work and debate on the floor of the House of Representatives as we near the midpoint of the 2010 legislative session.
House Bill 349 passed out of the House with a vote of 97-0 and is supported by employer and labor interests alike. It implements recommendations of the Task Force on Unemployment Insurance with a Kentucky solution to the problem of long-term insolvency in the state unemployment insurance trust fund, a problem made worse by the weakest labor market in nearly thirty years. It avoids increased federal unemployment taxes by adjusting employer contributions and claimant benefit levels to keep Kentucky businesses competitive with those in surrounding states. It also preserves the unemployment insurance safety net that assures economic security for Kentucky’s working men and women. House Bill 349 goes to the Senate for consideration.
Another bill addressing employment passed out of the House this week. House Bill 321 requires that Kentucky contractors and subcontractors – when contracting with state or local government – use the federal verification system to ensure that workers are here legally. In a time where every job is precious, House Bill 321 will help contractors make sure construction jobs are given to workers who are here legally. The bill passed with a vote of 93-3 and now heads to the Senate.
Kentuckians would find some foreclosure relief with the passage of House Bill 166 which cleared the Banking and Insurance Committee. This legislation would further regulate debt adjustors from charging borrowers high miscellaneous fees. That practice helped fuel the 2008 economic downturn, cost Kentucky an estimated $158 million and currently puts hundreds of households into foreclosure every month. The bill, which passed 38-0, now moves to the House for its consideration.
An omnibus bill that would allow people in dating relationships to obtain domestic violence protective orders passed the House Judiciary Committee this week on a unanimous vote. House Bill 189 would require counseling for anyone under a DVO, require reporting of domestic violence, makes it an offense for someone subject to a protective order to trespass on the premises of a domestic violence shelter; and clarifies current law to make it clear that choking or attempted strangulation constitutes assault.
Increased penalties for drunk drivers who receive a first-time DUI conviction also came to our attention when the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a bill requiring them to have a breath-sensing “ignition interlock” device installed in their vehicle. House Bill 58 would also expand the list of factors that trigger higher DUI penalties and require a person’s license plates be impounded on a first or subsequent DUI offense. Under current law, the courts can impound a DUI offender’s plates on second or subsequent offense while their license is suspended and may order an interlock device be installed in their vehicle once their license suspension ends. The bill passed by a vote of 22 – 0 and will now be considered by the House.
House Leadership, the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and LRC staff have also been putting in long hours on the state budget and seem to be making progress. There are tough decisions to be made because Kentucky has no new revenue sources to help shore up the deficit we face in the next two years.
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. It is an honor to represent you in Frankfort.