Submitted by Senator Reginald Thomas
Now that the 2016 Legislative Session is behind us, I would like to update you on some of the accomplishments made by the Kentucky General Assembly over the past several months.
Most importantly, we fulfilled our constitutional mandate by approving an executive, legislative and judicial budget. (I shared some of the budget highlights with you last week.) We also passed a transportation plan to help keep the bridges and roads of Kentucky maintained and safe.
Below is a summary of some of the legislation passed during the 2016 Session:
· Autism. Senate Bill 185 made permanent the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders (established in 2013) and the state Office of Autism (created in 2014). The bodies will continue to ensure there are not gaps in providing services to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.
· Booking photos. House Bill 132 makes posting jail booking photos to a website or including the booking photos in a publication illegal when the person is required to pay to remove them from public view. Damages start at $100 a day for each separate offense, along with attorney fees.
· Budget. House Bill 303 will guide state spending over the next two fiscal years. The two-year state budget plan is aimed at creating savings in many areas and using more money to stabilize the public pension systems. It includes $1.28 billion for the state pension systems. The budget makes no cuts to K-12 education and increases pre-school eligibility.
· Children locked in cars. Senate Bill 16 protects prospective rescuers from being sued for property damage caused by saving the life of a child left in a locked vehicle.
· Child safety. House Bill 148 allows child daycare centers to receive prescriptions for EpiPen injectors to treat life-threatening allergic reactions. The bill also gives parents up to 30 days to legally surrender their newborn at a state-approved safe place under the state’s safe harbor laws.
· CPR in schools. Senate Bill 33 requires high school students be taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by an emergency medical professional. The life-saving measure is to be taught as part of the students’ physical education or health class, or as part of ROTC training.
· Disability-related expenses. Senate Bill 179 allows individuals with disabilities to set up an ABLE account to save money for disability-related expenses without it being taxed. Money saved in the account also does not count against Medicaid and other federal means-based benefits.
· Dog fighting. House Bill 428 makes it a felony to possess, breed, sell or otherwise handle dogs for the purpose of dog fighting.
· DUI. Senate Bill 56 allows law enforcement to look back 10 years to determine prior DUI convictions for penalty purposes instead of five years.
· Felony expungement. Under House Bill 40, Kentuckians convicted of low-level non-violent felonies can ask the court to permanently expunge their records 5 years after they have completed their sentence or probation. Sex crimes and crimes against children cannot be expunged.
· Harassing telecommunications. House Bill 162 adds electronic communications to those acts that can be harassment, if it’s done with intent to intimidate, harass, annoy or alarm another person. Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor.
· Noah’s Law. Senate Bill 193, also known as “Noah’s Law” after a 9-year-old Pike County boy, extends health insurance coverage to include expensive amino acid-based elemental formula needed by some children with gastric disorders and food allergies.
· Off-duty conceal and carry. House Bill 314 allows current and retired peace officers to carry concealed firearms at any location where current, on-duty officers can carry guns.
· Outdoor recreation. House Bill 38 directs the state to set standards for the use and operation of zip lines and canopy tours.
· Public private partnerships. House Bill 309 allows government and private entities to enter into public-private partnerships – known as P3s – to fund Kentucky’s major infrastructure needs, including transportation projects.
· Sexual assault kits. Aimed at eliminating a backlog of sexual assault examination kits, Senate Bill 63 establishes new policies and procedures for handling evidence. SB 63 requires police to pick up sexual assault kits from hospitals within five days and submit the kit to the state crime lab within 30 days. The bill also prohibits the destruction of any kits and notify victims of the progress and results of the tests.
· Vulnerable victims. Senate Bill 60 creates a new section of KRS Chapter 501, defining an “offense against a vulnerable victim” and creating a mechanism for charging someone with the commission of an offense against a victim who is under the age of 14, has an intellectual disability, or is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.
The legislation passed this session will have a positive impact on the lives of all Kentuckians. We took steps to protect our most vulnerable citizens, maintain our roads and bridges, and invest in education, public safety and job creation across the Commonwealth.
Unless a bill declared an emergency or contains a special effective date, the bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly will take effect on July 15, 2016.
Thank you for your continued input during this process and helping us move Kentucky forward. As always, you are welcome to contact me at any time if I can be of any assistance. You can email me directly at [email protected].
Above, the championship Dunbar basketball team visited us in the final days of session.