By a 90-6 vote, the House on Tuesday passed House Bill 3, which would require government contractors, subcontractors, and government agencies to electronically check each employee’s eligibility to work legally in the U.S. by using the federal E-Verify database or other federal verification programs.
Contractors or subcontractors who fail to do so would be banned from government contracts in Kentucky for one year after a first violation and five years for each subsequent violation. Also, an existing contract would be cancelled if a company allows its participation in a verification program to lapse.
The legislation OK’d by the House differs significantly from the Senate’s immigration bill. That measure, SB 6, would allow state and local police to enforce federal immigration laws by directly asking a person about their immigration status during routine police stops. In that sense, it resembles a controversial new law imposed in Arizona last year.
SB 6 passed the Senate in early January and has been discussed at length in the House Local Government Committee, which has not yet said whether it will vote on the bill.
HB 3 was turned over to the Senate for its consideration, and it is uncertain what compromises, if any, will have to be made to push any immigration bill through both chambers and to the governor’s desk before this legislative session concludes in late March.
Illegal immigration—and the costs associated with it—is an always-current issue in the U.S these days. So is the skyrocketing cost of Medicaid, which now accounts for around 14 percent of state spending nationwide, on average.
To fix yet another shortfall in the Kentucky Medicaid program this fiscal year, the House on Thursday voted 80-19 in support of HB 305, which would move $166.5 million from the state’s fiscal year 2012 Medicaid budget forward to this fiscal year to avoid around $600 million in reduced Medicaid services by mid-summer. HB 305, which now goes to the Senate, would also reallocate $18.9 million in higher education dollars from fiscal year 2012 to 2011 to meet new federal spending requirements.
The glut of social issues the House must address each session is dizzying, but it never detracts lawmakers’ attention from bills that honor, commemorate or offer assistance to our military veterans and active duty military. Honoring Kentuckians who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor—the U.S. military’s highest award for valor in action against an enemy force—was the motivation behind this week’s House passage of HB 200.
HB 200, which passed the House 94-0 on Tuesday, would both honor Kentucky recipients of the Medal of Honor on a state plaque and urge the state Veterans’ Affairs department to offer free admission to the Commonwealth’s veterans’ nursing homes to all Kentucky Medal of Honor recipients. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Without the freedom our military has fought to preserve, the U.S. would not be the great nation it is today. We all know that, but some of us may forget that we as citizens also have a role in preserving our freedoms. Two bills—one passed by the full House and another that cleared a House committee this week--would take a step in that direction.
HB 70 proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would restore the voting rights of convicted felons after they have completed their sentence, probation or parole. Identical measures have passed the House in previous sessions but never cleared the Senate. The proposal was sent to the Senate for approval again Thursday afternoon after it was approved 77-21 by the full House. I voted against this bill because the state already has in place to restore these rights, but it does take some effort on the felons’ part to get their voting rights back.
The other bill directed toward preserving an activity enjoyed by millions of Americans throughout our history—the ability to hunt and fish—was approved by the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee this week. Supporters of HB 1, which also proposes an amendment to the state constitution, say the bill is necessary because it would amend the constitution to make hunting and fishing a right, not just a privilege. Should both houses of the General Assembly approve the bill, HB 1 would go before statewide voters for approval in 2012.
Other issues tackled by the full House or in House committee this week include:
School dropouts. HB 225 would increase the school dropout age from 16 to 18 by raising the compulsory attendance age to 17 in July 2015 and to age 18 in July 2016. The bill also strengthens alternative education in Kentucky and includes provisions supporting the state’s career- and technical-education programs. HB 225 passed the House 91-8 on Thursday and is now before the Senate.
Ignition interlock for DUI offenders. The House voted 95-0 to pass HB 58, a measure that would make ignition interlock devices mandatory for convicted drunk drivers in the state. The device would be installed in the vehicle of any driver convicted of a first or subsequent DUI, with the estimated $3 per day cost to use the device paid by the offender. The bill would establish a state assistance fund, however, to help indigent offenders pay for the devices. The bill would also require DUI offenders to pay the cost of their blood-alcohol testing, along with other provisions. HB 58 is now before the Senate.
Domestic violence protection for dating partners. HB 35 would allow dating partners age 18 or older to seek protective orders against their significant other, effectively giving Kentucky’s adult dating partners the same domestic violence protection available to dating couples in 44 other states. HB 35 passed the House 93-3 on Tuesday and is now before the Senate.
There were 17 days left in this winter’s 30-day session at the close of business on Friday. From now until the session concludes in late March, you can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835.For committee meeting schedules, call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. Or, to comment on a bill, call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181 or e-mail me at email@example.com.