FRANKFORT – The one thing a legislative session guarantees is that no two days are alike. My House colleagues and I may spend an hour or more debating a bill that could have a profound impact on education or public safety, and then pivot to discuss another important to farming.
Since some bills move through the committee system faster than others, their arrival before the full chamber is generally not coordinated. And yet, it is not uncommon for themes to emerge, as one did last week.
In this case, the bills were designed to help our students with matters that extend beyond the classroom, and all received strong if not unanimous support.
On Wednesday, for example, we voted to phase in financial literacy as one of the requirements to graduate from high school. Similar bills have been approved by the House before, because there is a need to make sure these students have a better understanding of the expectations and potential pitfalls they may face as young adults. A bad decision could haunt them for years.
The House also voted that same day in favor of legislation that would call on the Kentucky Board of Education and the Office of Drug Control Policy to work together to come up with more specific guidelines regarding drug-prevention education. In this case, we want students to have a better understanding of the connection between prescription opioid abuse and addiction to other drugs.
In another important life-saving matter involving children, the House voted on Thursday to require more suicide-prevention training as part of professional development for middle and high school principals, guidance counselors and teachers.
This will help tackle a problem that has unfortunately skyrocketed over the past decade. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last summer, the suicide rate for teen girls between the ages of 15 and 19 has doubled since 2007, and the rate for boys of the same age has increased by 30 percent.
While those bills are now in the Senate, another filed last week – and that builds on the same theme – should be joining them soon.
This legislation is House Bill 1, which is reserved each year for the chamber’s top priority. It seeks to codify the work of a bipartisan group of House members who spent much of last year focusing on ways to improve adoptive and foster care policies in Kentucky.
Among other things, this bill would tighten the legal timelines for terminating parental rights; give the Cabinet for Health and Family Services more oversight and accountability; and standardize home studies so the rules on what make a good home for children are clearer and more evenly applied. Foster parents would also have more of a voice in determining a child’s future.
Beyond our legislative work, my fellow House and Senate members and I welcomed hundreds of Kentuckians to the Capitol last week who have made their much-anticipated visits an annual event.
The biggest of those was the 874K rally, which recognizes the nearly one million Kentuckians who have a disability and which reinforces the need to maintain and strengthen the programs and laws that help them thrive.
On Thursday, the day after that rally, we celebrated Kentucky Non-Profit Day, which focuses on the wide-ranging and life-changing work these organizations do every day. They are also a major part of our economy, employing nearly a tenth of our workforce and generating more than $27 billion in annual revenue.
A partner in their work, United Way, also came to the Capitol for its own event last week, capping a time in which legislators were reminded of the importance of serving others.
It’s a lesson that will help guide us as we look ahead to the second, and much busier, half of the legislative session. I have heard from many of you since the General Assembly convened a little more than a month ago, and certainly hope to hear from many more before we complete our work in mid-April.