Legislative Update – February 17, 2021

Through icy road conditions and frigid temperatures, the Kentucky General Assembly completed another 3-days of legislative business in Frankfort. I hope you have remained safe during the winter weather that’s rolled into the bluegrass recently. Join me in taking a moment to thank the fantastic folks who have braved it to keep our lights on and our roads clear.

Amid ongoing budget discussions, key legislation to address challenges facing our state continues through the legislative process here in Frankfort. Bills receiving passage in the Senate included:

Senate Bill 12 preserves the nonprofit nature of eye tissue donation by prohibiting for-profit entities from procuring any eye, cornea, eye tissue, or corneal tissue. It ensures that a person may not, for valuable consideration, knowingly purchase, sell, transfer, or offer to buy, sell, or transfer any human organ for transplantation or therapy.

Senate Bill 16 updates the Colon Cancer Screening Program with its fund and advisory committee to include “and Prevention” in the title. It requires funds from the sale of special cancer prevention license plates to be directed to the program fund and used solely for colon cancer screening and prevention. The bill also updates the membership of the program’s advisory committee. It requires the Department for Medicaid Services to present statistics on cancer services related to colorectal cancer annually and upon request.

Kentucky has done an excellent job in recent years on the cancer screening and prevention front. We were once ranked 49th in this area and have reached a ranking as high as 17th. We currently rank about 22nd. More work is left to do in our ongoing fight against cancer, but I am pleased to re-strategize our efforts through improved legislation such as this. 

Senate Bill 29 provides Kentucky’s Attorney General, Commonwealth’s Attorneys, and County Attorneys security against financial liability resulting from their sworn duties’ performance to prosecute state law. Losses would be compensated by funds appropriated to the Finance & Administration Cabinet.

Senate Bill 74 renames the current Office on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to the Office of Dementia Services. The bill serves to elevate dementia-related services within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). Additionally, it updates the membership and duties of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Advisory Council. SB 74 establishes a Dementia Coordinator position that will help refresh the state health plan every four years to improve diagnosis and treatment of dementia and help apply for federal grants that can be used to treat dementia.

Senate Bill 80 strengthens oversight of peace officers who conduct themselves in a criminal or unprofessional way by easing a council’s ability to revoke certification. The bill also puts in place hiring procedures that will help ensure an officer will not avoid consequences by leaving one agency to work for another.

Senate Bill 84 provides women in state correctional facilities who are pregnant with an understanding of the community-based resources available to them by connecting them with social workers to help in the child’s placement. This bill ends placing pregnant inmates, or those within six weeks of delivery of the child, in solitary confinement. The bill would also ensure the child gets to spend the first 72 hours of his/her life with their mother. I consider this a pro-life measure. We must always keep the best interest of an innocent child in mind.

Senate Bill 120 creates a pathway for keeping Historical Horse Racing (HHR) in Kentucky and, in turn, ensures the future of our signature equine industry in the Bluegrass. It redefines pari-mutuel wagering to be consistent with how the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission has regulated live racing for decades and HHR for the past ten years. The bill will ensure the futures of thousands of jobs within the horse racing industry and maintain millions in revenue.

I want to personally thank everyone who worked so hard to get this bill across the finish line. It was a genuine team effort. My colleagues who had the foresight to vote “yes” on Senate Bill 120 showed courage in the face of countless absurdities uttered by opponents of the bill.

Opponents in shortsighted fashion argued against preserving jobs and revenue that the industry has supported for years. While I do not believe that is their intention, I boldly say that it would have been the result should their position have won the day. Opponents pointed to phantom issues that have not been demonstrated in the decade that HHR has existed in Kentucky.

I find some of the comments opposing HHR to be insulting and degrading to everyone in the equine industry or any who choose—through their own will—to participate in HHR. Nobody in government should think their judgment should trump that of someone else. I trust people to make their own decisions on how to spend their hard-earned money. We should not take our state’s history for granted. I have such an abundance of appreciation that we are the horse capital of the world. I am proud to support maintaining that status and furthering measures to help the industry grow. 

As you can see, the General Assembly is hard at work. I am hopeful that inclement weather will not slow down our efforts. If the weather should remain as brutal as it has been, please be safe and mindful when you’re out.

I look forward to keeping you updated through the remainder of the session. God Bless!

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me Damon.Thayer@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.

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