All Night Session in Frankfort Leads to Passage of Major Bills on Final Day of 2015 Session
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The House and Senate worked from the late night of Tuesday into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, adding an additional day to wrap up the 2015 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
During the final hours until we adjourned around 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning, agreements were reached on several key bills including what many consider to be the top priority for this session, addressing the growing problem of heroin.
Senate Bill 192, which was signed into law hours after it was approved by the General Assembly, takes a comprehensive approach to the scourge of heroin. It provides for tougher penalties for heroin trafficking, including the creation of a mandatory 10 year prison sentence for those who import heroin into the Commonwealth. It also contains a ‘Good Samaritan’ provision giving legal immunity to individuals who report an overdose to authorities in a good faith effort to save a life. The bill also provides more access to Naloxone, which can help reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, and Vivitrol for treatment of addicts to help them kick their heroin habit. The proposal also directs the use of $10 million in savings from the recent restructuring of the Department of Corrections to provide for additional treatment options, including the hiring of additional social workers to increase the utilization of alternative sentencing programs, and to increase funding for the Prosecutors Advisory Council to aid in the prosecutions of street level dealers.
Another major issue addressed in the final hours was how to stabilize Kentucky’s motor fuels tax as it related to decreased money for maintain roads and bridges in our cities and counties. House Bill 299 was a result of an agreement between the House and Senate as a bipartisan way to address it.
The bill which passed allows the motor fuels tax to drop to 26 cents for the coming year. This means Kentuckians will enjoy savings at the pump, while ensuring there is an appropriate level of revenue to continue to patch potholes and build roads. Of that funding, nearly half goes into the rural and secondary road aid fund which is directed to our local governments. While House Bill 299 addresses an immediate need, conversations have already started with hopes we can come up with a more comprehensive gas stabilization plan perhaps in 2016.
Dating violence is another front on which state lawmakers fought during the 2015 session. Intent on adding Kentucky to the list of states that allow civil protective orders for dating violence victims, both chambers voted in the final hours on Tuesday evening to give final passage to House Bill 8 which offers dating violence victims both security and peace of mind that they don’t now have.
HB 8 will allow Kentuckians who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking to receive “interpersonal” civil protections via the courts beginning Jan. 1, 2016. Currently, civil protections are only available to abuse victims who are married to, living with, or have a child with their abuser or stalker, while other victims must seek criminal protection from their abuser—a process that offers no immediate protection and can require a long wait as a criminal complaint works its way through the legal system. Legislators from both sides of the aisle lauded the bill’s passage, which received final passage in the House on a 100-0 vote.
Senate Bill 133 also passed in the late hours of the session. This legislation will add Kentucky to a list of at least 24 other states with an ignition interlock requirement for drunk drivers. It will allow courts to supplement hardship driver’s licenses for those who must get to work or school with ignition interlocks—devices that require a driver to clear a dashboard-based breathalyzer test before starting a vehicle. The devices would not be required for first time offenders unless that person is found guilty of an “aggravating circumstance” such as having a child as a passenger or traveling more than 30 mph over the speed limit. The bill was approved by a 100-0 vote in the House before receiving final passage in the Senate.
While those bills made it to the Governor’s desk, many others died in the final hours of the 2015 Session. Legislation dealing with local option sales tax, public private partnerships, reforming the teachers’ retirement system, as well as several bills dealing with pro-life issues, education, and local government issues did not make it to the Governor’s desk before the gavel dropped. I’m sure these and many other issues of importance will be discussed during our Interim Session which will start in June.
Despite the 2015 Regular Session coming to an end, I still welcome any ideas and concerns important to you as we start looking ahead to next year’s legislative session. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.