LEGISLATIVE UPDATE by State Representative Dennis Keene
Returning to legislative duties in earnest this week, we addressed many key concerns in the state Capitol, including shoring up teachers’ retirement, protecting our children against Internet intruders and increasing educational advancement for our veterans. It’s been a busy week, in one of the most active annual sessions on record in terms of the number of bills filed, but one that’s produced many possibilities for positive change.
With bipartisan support, we approved a House proposal to authorize $3.3 billion in bonds to shore up the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System’s pension fund. The legislation seeks to take advantage of historically-low interest rates and better ensure the system’s viability for years to come. This proposal will help us keep our commitment to Kentucky’s teachers and retirees who have shown so much dedication to our children. House Bill 4 now moves to the Senate for action. Rep. Rita Smart presented legislation on child abuse and neglect prevention and training in public schools (HB301).
In response to reports by the Kentucky State Police of sharp increases in the kinds of crimes perpetrated online, we passed House Bill 427. This is a way for KSP’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) to combat dangerous Internet predators. Known as “Alicia’s Law,” this act is named for a 12-year-old girl who was abducted and abused by a man she met online the legislation provides dedicated funding for state police efforts to find internet criminals and bring them to justice.
By a 97-0 vote, the House approved legislation that would require the development of a statewide policy to award academic credit for military service and training as a way of helping veterans gain a stronger foothold in the job market after the completion of their military service. We owe it to our Kentucky military heroes; our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen to assist them in every way possible for their courageous and dedicated service.
Economic development was also on our minds as we approved legislation that defines Public-Private-Partnerships — known as the “P3” proposal. These partnerships bring private capital to public projects when funds are scarce and would allow the state to move forward on important infrastructure projects. Local communities have been able to create P3 projects in Kentucky for some time, but this legislation helps clarify the processes and creates a way to monitor and approve such projects by the Kentucky General Assembly.
Legislation to modernize Kentucky’s oil and gas while providing significant new environmental protections also passed the House this week by a unanimous vote. House Bill 386 updates statutes – some more than 50 years old – to take into account new technologies in an environmentally responsible way with full disclosure to landowners potentially impacted by their use. The legislation was developed with the assistance of the Kentucky Resources Council, an important environmental advocacy group, and offers the regulatory certainty necessary to help spur investment and create new jobs.
The House also passed House Bill 152, commonly known as the “AT&T Bill,” which would de-regulate telephone service in urban areas where newer technologies are widely available; hopes to boost voice and broadband service in rural areas; and allows all customers to keep basic landline service or transition to newer voice technologies. An amendment that was approved by the House gives rural customers 60 days — rather than the just 30 days allowed in the original bill — to transition back to landline service from a newer technology should they desire to do so.
Under House Bill 40, also approved this week on the House floor, people convicted of class D felonies could petition a court for expungement five years after completing their sentence or probation. The bill would not apply to people convicted of sex offenses or crimes against children. A prosecutor or victim would have the right to present evidence to the judge considering an expungement motion.
Other important legislative measures included House Bill 234, which would require state agencies to work with early care and education providers to develop and implement a quality-based rating system; and HB 60, which would replace hardship licenses for DUI offenders with a breathalyzer-type device installed in a dashboard that keeps a vehicle from starting if the driver’s breath alcohol concentration level meets or exceeds 0.02. This is the sixth time this legislation has passed the House, only to fail in the Senate, making us the lone voice in the fight against drunk drivers. I hope that this is the year that the Senate joins the House in standing with the victims of drunk drivers.
All of these measures passed with favorable expression out of the House this week, and I hope that my colleagues in the Senate realize the importance of these issues for Kentucky communities and families and vote for their approval.
As always, I appreciate your input on these issues and encourage you to contact me with your questions or concerns by calling the Legislative Message line at 1- 800-372-7181. It’s an honor to represent you in Frankfort and I am thankful for the continued confidence you have placed in me as your representative.