Two bills that would give public colleges and universities freedom to proceed with capital construction projects without relying on the state’s shrinking revenues passed the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee last Tuesday. Should House Bill 39 be enacted this session, they would be free to move forward with capital projects without prior legislative approval if 100 percent of the projects’ actual cost is funded with cash-restricted funds or a combination of restricted, federal or private funds. Under HB 42, capital projects at public colleges and universities could be funded with the institution’s agency bonds without adding to the state’s debt. Similar bills have passed the House repeatedly but never cleared the Senate, so their chances at becoming law remain uncertain at this time. Both bills now go to the Senate for a vote.
Last week saw attention turned to another issue of grave concern to lawmakers— the problem of domestic violence.
We in the House made our priority against domestic violence clear on Jan. 12 when we passed House Bill 1 or “Amanda’s Bill,” a measure that would encourage Kentucky courts to order GPS monitoring in serious domestic violence order cases. That commitment did not waver last week when an omnibus bill that would offer more protection to dating partners and strengthen the state’s domestic violence statutes was aired before the House Judiciary Committee.
Several changes were proposed to HB 189, leading members of the committee to decide to review the bill further and possibly vote on it sometime next week.
The safety of Kentucky’s children is another issue at the top of the House’s agenda each legislative session, and this winter is no exception. As part of that concern, we want them to have caring, safe drivers from the very first day they climb on a school bus and ramble down the road to the schoolhouse.
One way we can accomplish that is by making it easier for good bus drivers to keep their jobs. So we passed HB 14, which allows school officials — on a case-by-case basis — to waive state law that now requires school bus drivers to have a high school diploma or GED. HB 142 should allow us to retain competent drivers who have gone through the rigors of earning a commercial driver’s license but didn’t finish high school. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Foster children and their education are also important to lawmakers. It was just a few short years ago that we passed legislation allowing foster children and adopted children to attend college in-state for free once they graduate from high school. Under HB 84, which cleared the House Education Committee, Kentucky’s foster children could have their college tuition waived when they attend college or university before graduating high school through dual credit and dual enrollment programs. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
Helping Kentuckians live full, safe, successful lives begins with enabling our families to earn a steady income. Currently, our families and our state are struggling with high unemployment that has taken a toll the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which pays benefits to displaced workers. We addressed the trust fund issue on Thursday when the House Labor and Industry Committee approved HB 349. HB 349 is designed to help return the trust fund and the overall unemployment insurance system to solvency. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.
The Kentucky House also passed legislation creating a new standard-issue license plate with the nation’s motto “In God We Trust”. HB 100 would make the plate available to all drivers at no extra cost. If the measure becomes law, drivers would be allowed to choose either the “In God We Trust” plate or the current standard issue “Unbridled Spirit” plate. The bill passed the House on a vote of 93-1.
In other action, HB 217 would give Kentucky auto dealers an opportunity to reclaim the franchise they lost in the auto industry’s economic downfall. The bill would apply to anyone trying to set up a new dealership in the same area where a previous dealership was closed by automakers like General Motors and Chrysler, who closed hundreds of their dealerships around the country. Under HB 217, the new dealership would have to be offered first to the dealer who had his franchise closed as part of the downsizing. It would apply to any effort to start a new dealership within a 10-mile radius from the former dealership. It passed the House 98-0.
Finally, the House ended the week by passing a bill that would protect all travelers in Kentucky by banning anyone operating a moving vehicle from text messaging, and banning any driver of a moving vehicle who is under age 18 from using a cell phone. HB 43, which passed the House 80-16 and now goes to the Senate, would include certain exemptions — such as texting or making calls in times of medical or police emergencies — but violators would face fines of between $20 and $100 per offense beginning next year. The bill would also require violators with driver’s permits or intermediate licenses to wait an additional six months before applying for a permanent operator’s license.
Our busiest days in the House are still ahead of us as we await a working bill draft (or drafts) that will eventually be developed into a House budget plan. These budget scenarios, as we are calling them, are being formulated now and will be aired soon before the House budget committee. In the meantime, House committees will continue considering bills that also have great importance to our great state.
You can stay informed of action on bills this session by checking our website, www.lrc.ky.gov, or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, check the website or call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.
If you would like to share your comments or concerns with me or another legislator about a particular bill under consideration this session, please feel free to call the Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. You can also write to any legislator by sending a letter with your lawmaker's name on it to: Legislative Offices, 701 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601, or you may e-mail me at email@example.com.