Kentucky legislators focused on protecting and educating children this week as two important bills passed out of the House Judiciary Committee and one cleared the Senate and is on its way to becoming law.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Kentuckians 15-34 years of age. In addition, in 2003 self-inflicted injuries accounted for almost 3,000 hospital admissions. House Bill 51, which will soon become law upon the governor’s signature, requires public middle and high schools to distribute suicide prevention materials to students every fall and require the state to post suicide prevention information on its web site. The web site would include information regarding suicide prevention training opportunities offered by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services or another agency recognized by the cabinet as a training provider. It is our hope that this training will save young lives and I look forward to it being implemented this fall.
With the explosion of new phone technology that allows for the taking of photos and the transmission of pictures through texting, a new and disturbing trend in our young people has developed. “Sexting,” which is the practice of sending sexual images or imagery through text messages – many times without the victim’s knowledge – would now be illegal under House Bill 143. Under this legislation, which passed the House Judiciary Committee by an 11-0 vote, teens under age 18 would have to perform community service and pay a $100 fine the first time they were caught sending or possessing nude images through text messages. It is hoped that such a law would protect victims and prevent teens from facing possible felony charges later by making first-time offenders aware of their behavior. House Bill 143 heads to the full House for consideration.
A bill that would allow some Kentucky family courts to be opened to the public also passed the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 407 would allow the state Supreme Court to open four to seven family courts across the state as a pilot project and directs the progress to be monitored for four years. The project would apply to child abuse and neglect cases and hearings to terminate parents’ rights to their children which are now currently closed to the public. It would give judges the discretion to close some proceedings including cases involving sexual abuse of a child. House Bill 407, which passed by a vote of 9-1 was written after a series of complaints and problems about the closed court system. The legislation now goes to the full House.
Budget talks continued as House and Senate Leadership look to possibly tweaking the tax code as a potential revenue producer. Suspending for a two year period a provision that allows businesses to deduct losses carried forward from prior years and eliminating a sales tax exemption on hotel rooms involving 30 days or more are just two of the measures currently under discussion. We hope to have a document in hand within the next week so we can study it, then vote it out of the House and send it to the Senate for their consideration.
There are several weeks still to go in the 2010 legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly and there is much work and many late nights in store. However, I am confident we will leave Frankfort with a balanced budget and good laws on the books that will protect Kentucky families, promote our economy and move our Commonwealth forward.
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.