February 16 Legislative Update from Rep. Dennis Keene

DennisLegislation is moving fast and furious in the General Assembly.  Last week on February 12, the House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 60, which is a bill I have sponsored that would force convicted drunk drivers to have an ignition interlock system installed in their cars. This technology is proven to save lives because the offender has to pass a Breathalyzer test in order to be able to drive their vehicle. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway also supports this legislation, and it would come at no cost to taxpayers because the offender must pay to have the ignition interlock system installed in their cars at an estimated cost of $4 a day. The bill now progresses to the full House for consideration, and I am hopeful for its passage.

We made significant headway on issues I identified previously as priorities that have now moved on to the Senate for its consideration. With unanimous, bipartisan support, the full House approved House Bill 8, a proposal that would allow dating couples to seek civil protective orders in cases of domestic violence, abuse, sex abuse, or stalking. Kentucky is the only state without such protections. Rep. John Tilley, my colleague in the House Majority, has championed this legislation for several years, along with Gov. Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, and I was proud that the full House approved the measure by a 98-0 vote.

The House also received a great deal of bipartisan support for House Bill 213, our comprehensive effort to address heroin abuse and overdose deaths, especially in urban areas such as Northern Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville. The bill number given to the heroin bill carries special significance; it honors the memory and February 13th birthday of my colleague, Rep. Joni Jenkins’ nephew, Wes Jenkins, who died from a heroin overdose. The full House approved the bill on the anniversary of his birthday with a 98-0 vote.

We also passed legislation that would gradually raise Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 2017. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. Kentucky’s current minimum wage, which is tied to the federal minimum wage, is now $7.25 an hour. HB 2 would increase that rate to $8.20 this July, $9.15 in July 2016, and the final rate of $10.10 the following year. This would give the same buying power to minimum wage workers as they had back in 1968. Given the dysfunction in Washington, the trend across America is to reach out to those making minimum wage and give them a living wage at the state and local levels. More than 390,000 Kentuckians make less than $10.10 an hour, with most of those workers being women. The bill would also encourage equal pay for equal work between employees who are working similar jobs with a few commonsense exceptions like seniority, merit, or productivity.

House Bill 70 lets voters decide on a proposed a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to felons convicted of certain offenses upon the completion of sentences and probation. This legislation was approved by a 86-12 vote and now moves to the Senate for its consideration.

Kentucky’s veterans were also on our mind this week as the House Veterans Affairs Committee approved an important piece of legislation sponsored by House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly. House Bill 352 would provide a consistent pathway to college credit for military service by directing Kentucky’s colleges and universities to work together and determine what kinds of academic credit to award honorably discharged service members based on their service and specialties. This bill ultimately aims to help our active duty military personnel and veterans find employment and get ahead when they complete their service. I’m thankful for the service of all our military men and women and will enthusiastically support this legislation on the House floor.

This is just a sampling of the many bills we’re considering in this, our shortened, 30-day session held in annual years. With 13 legislative days completed, we’re almost half-way there with a lot of work remaining before us. I appreciate your opinions on the issues before us, and encourage you to contact me through the Legislative Message line at 1- 800-372-7181; by email at [email protected]; or writing me in care of the Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY, 40601.

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