Local legislators sponsoring numerous bills

Published 8:51 am Friday, March 2, 2018

Boyle County’s legislators — state Sen. Rick Girdler and state Rep. Daniel Elliott — both are primary sponsors on numerous bills filed for consideration during this year’s General Assembly in Frankfort.

Here is a breakdown of some of the more interesting bills for which each legislator is the primary sponsor:

House Bill 5

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House Bill 5 is considered a “priority bill” by the state House this year, Rep. Daniel Elliott said. It would make several changes to how legal cases concerning adult guardianship are handled by the courts, with a goal of reducing workloads on the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, he said.

The bill is close to becoming law — it passed the House 79-3 on Feb. 5 and passed the Senate 38-0 Wednesday.

It would remove a requirement for a jury trial to be held in every guardianship case concerning disabled and partially disabled adults, Elliott said. Instead, when “certain requirements and safeguards are met,” a judge can choose to have a bench trial.”

Most of the cases the bill would address involve elderly family members who have Alzheimer’s or dementia, but there are also “rare” cases involving younger people with severe disabilities, Elliott said.

Avoiding a jury trial means less cost of paying jurors, but perhaps more importantly, Elliott said, it means family members don’t have to testify about their loved one’s mental problems, which can be painful.

Kentucky is currently the only state in the nation that requires a jury trial in every single one of these cases, he said.

The bill would also require judges to take into consideration the workloads of social workers before assigning adult guardianship cases.

“Right now, our social workers in adult protective services have three times the nationally recommended case load,” he said.

Elliott, an attorney, said he works adult guardianship cases and has seen how the current system is “draining a lot of resources.” His bill “improves the judicial economy.”

The bill retains protections for cases where there is still a question as to whether an individual is disabled enough to warrant guardianship, Elliott said.

Senate Bill 121

Sen. Girdler said Senate Bill 121 is the piece of legislation he is most passionate about this year.

“I’m praying for it,” he said. “If I’ve got one priority bill for me, this is it.”

The bill would allow car insurance companies to pay lower rates for the health care needs of someone injured in a vehicle wreck, Girdler said.

Currently, the car-insurance industry pays “100 percent” of the “full retail price” for medical care at a hospital. Health-care insurance companies, however, are able to pay lower rates they’ve negotiated, Girdler said.

Senate Bill 121 would let car-insurance companies pay less than the full retail price. It would also increase the cap on lost wages that can be paid out from $200 per week to $400 per week.

Girdler said he’s worked in car insurance for 40 years.

“I’ve been in the insurance business and I’ve seen how much in the last 20 years we’re paying for things,” he said. “I can go get a chest X-ray with my health insurance for a lot less than I can get a chest X-ray after a car wreck.”

The bill has passed a second reading but not yet a third reading in the Senate.

Senate Bill 160

Girdler said Senate Bill 160 is designed to provide more definition to a law that allows the governor to issue executive orders prohibiting price-gouging during emergencies.

The law currently states that when the governor issues an executive order, “no person shall sell, rent or offer to sell or rent … a good or service (during an emergency) … for a price which is grossly in excess of the price prior to the declaration and unrelated to any increased cost to the seller.” 

Girdler said it’s unclear to companies like gas stations what price increases would constitute price-gouging and what price increases wouldn’t. His bill “tells you where the foul lines are on the baseball field and where the fair lines are.”

Price increases of 10 percent or less on applicable products would not violate the price-gouging law under Girdler’s bill. The bill also allow price changes if they are “general consistent with fluctuations in applicable commodity, regional, national or international markets, or seasonal fluctuations.”

“Whether a price violates this subsection is a question of law,” Girdler’s bill would amend the state law in question to read. “In determining if a violation of this subsection has occurred, the court shall consider all relevant circumstance, including prices prevailing in the locality at that time.”

Girdler’s bill would also cap the fines a company could be charged for price-gouging during an emergency at $25,000 per day. Currently, a price-gouger could be fined $5,000 for an initial violation and $10,000 for each subsequent violation, with no cap.

“If you’re going down the highway and you’re doing 80 miles an hour and there’s no speed limit posted, you don’t know if you’re breaking the law or not,” Girdler said of the current law.

He said as the current law is written, he doesn’t think there are any price protections available to consumers at all.

“This is all about the consumer; it’s all about our constituents,” he said. “We’re trying to protect them from being price-gouged.”

House Bill 93

FRANKFORT, Feb. 26 — Rep. Daniel Elliott, R-Danville, reviews some bills before they are filed in the House. The last day for new House bills to be introduced in the General Assembly’s 2018 session is February 27th.

This is the second year in a row that Elliott has filed a bill seeking to allow financial brokers to place a hold on an elderly person’s account if they believe financial exploitation may be occurring.

The bill would provide immunity to broker-dealers and investment advisors who report possible financial exploitation to authorities. It would also make it legal for specific financial workers to place holds on transactions while possible financial exploitation is investigated.

Elliott said the bill’s language applies to adults over 65 and people over 18 who qualify with certain impairments that prevent them from protecting their own interests. If a broker or a financial institution sees financial activity in a qualifying person’s account that makes them believe there may be financial exploitation going on, they can report the situation to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and get a hold placed on the account to allow further investigation, Elliott explained.

Elliott said his bill didn’t get “any movement” in 2017, but he’s hopeful it will get out of committee this year.

“I don’t know how it will fare in the full House,” he said.

House Bill 228

Elliott has also re-filed a bill similar to one he filed in 2017 that would allow physician’s assistants (PAs) to prescribe controlled substances.

“It would allow PAs to prescribe controlled substances in a collaborative agreement with a physician,” Elliott said. “They would be monitored by that physician. It would put them on equal footing with nurse practitioners, who already have the ability to do this.” 

Elliott said Kentucky and Florida had been the only states in the nation that didn’t allow PAs to prescribe, but Florida recently changed its law, leaving Kentucky alone in this regard.

“I think it’s unfair to prevent qualified medical professionals from practicing medicine without a justifiable reason,” Elliott said. “I can’t find a justifiable reason that we would continue this practice.”

Elliott suggested this may not be the year his bill passes into law.

“We may have to continue educating people as to the qualifications of a physician’s assistant and their role in the health care delivery model,” he said. “I think they’re a very important part of the health care delivery model in a state like Kentucky, where we have very limited access to primary care physicians in many areas of the state.”

House Bill 301

Elliott said House Bill 301 would allow the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to look up out-of-state criminal records for people who are being considered as emergency placements when a child is removed from a home.

Currently, judges only have access to individuals’ Kentucky criminal records during emergency placement proceedings, Elliott said.

“There is a blind spot, I’ll call it, for our judges … to make a decision on the best placement for a child in an emergency situation by not having all the pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “… That’s a glaring failure, in my opinion, in those particular cases.”

Elliott said his bill would allow CHFS to access the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) through Kentucky State Police when an adult being considered for an emergency placement has spent time living outside the state.

“It’s probably not very often going to arise because a lot of people in Kentucky have lived here their entire lives, so anything they’ve done is going to show up in a regular check,” he said.

Last year, Elliott’s bill passed the House but “the Senate Judiciary Committee failed to act; (it) died in the committee.”

There was opposition from CHFS last year because the bill would require the cabinet to pay the cost of the NCIC checks. Elliott said the bill is written the same way this year, but “I’m open to talking to the cabinet. There were some discussions over the summer, which weren’t fruitful. I’m open to requiring the person who is being checked to pay for the check. I think we can get that worked out.”

Elliott said he doesn’t know if CHFS would support the bill if that change was made.

House Bill 458

The description of House Bill 458 might make some think the bill would convert Perryville State Historic Site into a federal park, but that is not what the bill would do, Elliott said.

The bill would amend state law “to conform grant of acreage to the federal government to the size of the (Perryville) park at the time of the conveyance,” according to the Legislative Research Commission.

Elliott said currently, state law actually lists the size of the Perryville park at around 17 acres. The actual size of the park now is in the hundreds of acres.

House Bill 458 simply updates the law to keep it current with the actual size of the park, so that if the federal government ever does accept Perryville Battlefield as a national park, the size of the park will be listed appropriately.

“If it were to happen down the road, we needed to make sure that everything is correct,” Elliott said, adding that as far he knows, there are currently no discussions between the state and the federal government about the park. “… It has absolutely nothing to do with that other than having a statute that’s been on the book since the 60s or 70s updated to where it should be.”

Senate Bill 97

Girdler said Senate Bill 97 is the result of a situation in Pulaski County, where the City of Burnside annexed the land of Pulaski County Park into its city limits.

Burnside eventually undid its annexation of the public park, but it was concerning to some in Pulaski County that no one could oppose the annexation because it was public land no one lived on. Girdler said many had the opinion that the Pulaski County Park “should be for all of us.”

Senate Bill 97 would allow people living on land adjoining public land to contest annexation of that public land even though they don’t own or live on it, Girdler said.

“The people around that land that is a public park or whatever it is can have legal recourse” under the bill, he said.

Girdler said he expects his bill to pass into law. It passed the Senate 34-0 on Feb. 12; a first reading was held in the House on Wednesday.

Retirement bills

Elliott has proposed House Bill 65 and Girdler has proposed Senate bills 27 and 28, all three of which propose changes to the retirement system for legislators.

But none of those bills are expected to go anywhere, at least not right now.

“I don’t expect anything to happen with (House Bill 65) … until pension reform is addressed,” Elliott said.

Girdler said his bills are similarly off the table because the legislature is instead looking at much larger pension reform issues.

House Bill 65 and Senate Bill 28 propose closing the legislature’s separate retirement plan and shifting legislators into the Kentucky Employees Retirement System. Senate Bill 27 proposes allowing legislators to opt out of receiving a pension.