Legislative Update – March 13, 2020

The Kentucky General Assembly paused during its 10th week in light of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In a bicameral and bipartisan statement, leaders from both chambers decided to exercise an abundance of caution and postpone legislative business for Friday and Monday. This will provide an opportunity to further evaluate safety procedures and next steps. The well-being of visitors, members and staff are of highest priority. 

I would like to reassure you that Kentucky health officials and state leaders are working closely with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal authorities and other health agencies to ensure collaborative and proactive measures are implemented throughout the Commonwealth. It is important that we remain calm during this time and utilize the resources provided to help all of us prevent the spread, and stay healthy. The state also issued a new hotline, 1-800-722-5725, to assist Kentuckians who have questions or need help.

We anticipate that we will resume regular legislative business on Tuesday, as we are constitutionally required to pass a balanced budget by April 15 and there is still much work to be done. 

The Senate received the state biennial budget bill from the House this week. The Appropriations & Revenue Committee and budget staff have been working long days to carefully review the bill and discuss any possible changes to be made in the Senate. Crafting the state’s two-year financial plan is no easy task, but I feel confident in the Senate’s ability to negotiate a responsible budget bill that Kentucky can be proud of.

In the midst of receiving the budget and a global health interruption, we continued to advance bills through committee and out of the Senate, including several House measures.

  • HB 59 seeks to address the problem of suicide within the farming community and requires the Governor to annually proclaim the Wednesday of “National Farm Safety Week” (the third week of September) as “Farmer Suicide Prevention Day,” and encourage citizens of Kentucky to recognize the mental health challenges faced in the farming community.
  • SB 63 would allow high school dropouts who are 21 or older to complete graduation requirements through “virtual instruction,” a non-traditional form of education that uses the internet to deliver distance learning. The House amended it to state the schooling could be completed in another district if the student had moved. The Senate concurred with the House change by a 34-0 vote.
  • HB 153 establishes the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It would be tasked with training professionals and members of the public to identify and assist individuals with mental health or substance use disorders. I am proud to support this legislation as mental health first aid helps communities address individuals’ mental health or substance use disorders before they lead to a more serious problem. 
  • SB 174 incentivizes a more relevant and economical pathway for teachers to earn Rank II status by allowing National Board Certification as a qualifier. Currently, the only way a Teacher can achieve a Rank II is by earning a Master’s Degree or equivalent.
  • SB 178 would regulate plaintiff lawyer advertisements that target consumers of prescription drugs and medical devices. A much-debated provision would require the ads to display this warning: “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting with your doctor. Discontinuing a prescribed medication without your doctor’s advice can result in injury or death.”
  • HB 266 would allow honorably discharged veterans to enroll their children in a school district in which they are building a house – even if it’s not ready for occupancy. This bill would simplify the relocation process for military families. 

Join me in praying for those who have been affected by coronavirus, and that our state and national leaders will be given the wisdom and resources necessary to maneuver through this pandemic. I will be sure to keep you informed of any additional changes to the legislative calendar in these final weeks. Thank you for allowing me to be your voice in Frankfort. 

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