A flurry of activity stemming from committee meetings and the passage of bills marked a short but intense Week 6 of the Kentucky General Assembly. Although the Senate was only in session from Monday to Wednesday of this week, committee meetings still met during the later part of the week to give final hearings to a few select bills.
I am happy to report Senate Bill 215, which I sponsored, establishes the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Fund to be used for the purpose of supporting efforts to diversify the economy of the coal fields within Kentucky, was passed by the Senate this week. The bill also allocates $7.5 million towards that fund annually. As we have felt in recent years past, the unpredictability of coal severance monies has hurt many of our vital programs. I believe this legislation will provide much needed stability where it is necessary.
Quite a few pieces of legislation have already made it to Governor Bevin’s desk to await his signature. Senate Bill 17, relating to student rights to political and religious speech, was given final passage by the House this week. Senate Bill 101 would allow pharmacists to administer any immunization to children, and Senate Bill 117, allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain special teaching certificates, were also finally passed by the House. Senate Bill 50 also passed the House and would give schools more flexibility in choosing their start date to allow for longer summer breaks.
The Senate also enrolled House bills to be sent to the Governor’s desk for his signature, including: House Bill 14, which makes committing an offense against a first responder a hate crime; House Bill 93, strengthening penalties for assaulting a law enforcement animal, also known as “Ernie’s Law”; and House Bill 189, increasing transparency within area development districts.
We also passed several bills that are now one step closer to becoming law. House Bill 222 prohibits shock probation if a person is convicted of second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide stemming from driving under the influence. House Bill 67 limits lawful distribution of autopsy photographs, images, video, or audio recordings to specified persons and agencies to help protect families’ privacy. House Bill 100, removing regulatory overreach on our growing bourbon industry, allows distillers to sell “vintage distilled spirits,” as defined in statute, at fairs, festivals, and similar events.
The General Assembly is now quickly approaching the end of the 2017 Session. We adjourned on March 8, marking day 26 of 30 of the session, and we will reconvene again on March 14 and 15 before going into the veto period. During that period the Governor has the power to veto bills, but the General Assembly can override vetoes on the last two days of session, March 29 and 30. If you have questions about the status of bills, please feel free to contact my office or review the Legislative Record online which can be found at www.lrc.ky.gov/record/17RS/record.htm.
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 at [email protected] You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin and Perry counties. He is the vice chairman of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and the Transportation Committee; and a member of Appropriations and Revenue Committee, the Federal Environmental Reg. Impact Assessment Task Force Special Committee, the Special Subcommittee on Energy, and the Free-Roaming Horse Task Force.