Legislature has sent many bills to governor

Published 7:20 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Guest columnist

Members of the House finished business and walked off the floor late into the night on March 14. Since it is late in the session, the majority of the bills we considered last week were from the Senate, or House bills that were amended in the Senate with changes that had to be agreed on by the House.

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We will reconvene for the final day of session on March 28, to consider overriding any vetoes the governor might issue and deal with any last minute business. When we adjourn then we will close the books on the 2019 Regular Session.

The governor has already signed 10 bills into law, including SB 150, legislation that would allow persons over the age of 21 to carry concealed deadly weapons without government-mandated permitting and annual fee requirements. Currently, a license is not required in order to open carry in the commonwealth. It is important to note that this measure does not allow the carrying or possession of a deadly weapon where prohibited by federal law. Also, according to testimony on the bill given in committee, similar laws have been in effect in three states for five years. In those states, the average crime rate is lower across all categories of violent crime five years following adoption.

The governor has also signed SB 77, which seeks to increase awareness and participation in our state’s organ donor registry program. There was a concern that there would be a decrease in the amount of people registering to become an organ donor because of the enactment of the new Kentucky ID system. This bill addresses it and makes it easier to become an organ donor.

Among the bills we sent to the governor before leaving Frankfort was SB 9, legislation that would outlaw abortions once the unborn child’s heartbeat is detected. This measure is critical to protecting the life of the unborn. A fetal heartbeat can be detected about six weeks into pregnancy. The measure would provide narrow exceptions for abortions, such as when the mother’s life is endangered.

This is one of several pieces of pro-life legislation we have considered and passed this session, including HB 5, which would prohibit abortion providers from performing an abortion based on gender, race, national origin or disability. We have also approved HB 148, which seeks to prepare Kentucky for the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade.

Senate Bill 50 would require that prescription medications given by a physician with the intent to cause an abortion be reported as an abortion so that there may be a more accurate statistical reporting.

The legislature has also sent the Governor SB 85, an important piece of legislation that amends existing driving under the influence (DUI) laws to increase the amount of time a first-time offender’s license is suspended and expand the use of a device that prevents vehicles from starting if alcohol is detected on someone’s breath. SB 85 increases how long a license is suspended from a minimum of 30 days to nine months. However, the bill also allows the suspension to be decreased to six months if an offender agrees to purchase and use an ignition interlock device. The bill has the support of Mothers AgainstDrunk Driving (MADD), prosecutors and traffic safety stakeholders.

Last Thursday, the House gave final approval to HB 296, which creates a higher education loan repayment program for registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who work in a Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs nursing home. The loan sets limitations to the program, which will become effective on January 1, 2020.

The House and Senate reached an agreement on a modified version of HB 354, legislation which builds on our efforts to transform our state’s tax code into one that stimulates job creation and allows Kentuckians to keep more of their hard earned money.

Last year, the Kentucky General Assembly took a major step forward in making the tax code more pro-business, moving Kentucky’s tax code in a more consumption based direction. HB 354 builds on that and also fixes some bad interpretations of existing tax law. The final version of the bill exempts all admission sales by nonprofit organizations, as well as all nonprofit fundraising event sales, including all sales of tangible personal property and digital property per calendar year.

In addition, the final version of HB 354 provides a credit for a group of households who, due to a fluctuation in federal poverty guidelines, are paying more in state income tax than prior to 2018.

We have also sent the Governor HB 268, which provides financial assistance for critical maintenance and repairs at many of our decaying state parks. The bill authorizes $50 million in bonding authority for improvements to Kentucky’s State Parks for vital maintenance and repairs. The bill explicitly specifies how funds can be spent, including projects like lodge roof replacements, wastewater treatment and infrastructure upgrades and ADA compliance projects.

Daniel Elliott is the state representative for Kentucky’s 54 District, which includes Boyle and Casey counties.