From Rep. Meredith: Protecting Law Enforcement & First Responders, Also College Help For Those Raised By Grandparents
There has been no shortage of activity in Frankfort this week. The 40th day of the 2016 Legislative Session passed along with the bill filing deadline. In all, over 900 bills have been filed this session, however, only Senate Bill 4, has been signed into law. Many legislators were hurrying to file bills before the deadline and there was much other activity going on within the Capitol walls.
I filed two bills this week to take care of two of our most important citizen groups, veterans and public safety workers. House Bill 526 would raise training incentive pay for police and firefighters to $4,000 per year, and would raise the allotment for volunteer fire departments to $11,000 per year. Additionally, I filed House Bill 547, which expands access to Kentucky’s military license plate program in order to insure access for every interested veteran.
Continuing on the theme of taking care of our law enforcement and first responders, the House also passed bills to crack down on those who try to harm our police, firefighters and public health workers. With HB 137, approved 90-0 by the House on Tuesday, the House sent a strong message that we will not stand for attempts on the lives of our police or firefighters in this state. HB 137 would put criminal attempt to commit murder of an identifiable on-duty law enforcement officer or firefighter on par with other violent offenses by requiring those convicted of the crime to serve 85 percent of their sentence before they would be eligible for parole, regardless of whether the officer or firefighter is seriously hurt. The current threshold for parole eligibility in such situations is 20 percent of time served.
HB 137 goes to the Senate alongside HB 210, and would allow a charge of third-degree assault to be levied against those who recklessly or intentionally cause or attempt to cause physical injury to on-duty local health department employees. Ten types of professionals in Kentucky including teachers and social workers currently fall under the protections that would be offered to health department workers under HB 210. That bill passed the House by a vote of 88-0.
Education is always a priority in the Kentucky House and we are again attempting to provide additional educational opportunities for children though House Concurrent Resolution 133. This resolution would ask the state’s public colleges and universities to identify and give special admissions and tuition aid consideration to prospective students who lost their parents or were removed from the custody of their parents due to abuse or neglect and then adopted by a blood relative or raised by a permanent legal guardian. Kentucky law provides public post-secondary tuition assistance for foster children but not children being raised by grandparents, other blood relatives or permanent guardians. Approximately 49,000 Kentucky children are being raised by their grandparents today.
With only 20 legislative days remaining in this session, the rest of our days are sure to be focused on budget work. The 10 day veto recess is scheduled for March 30 and after the recess, two legislative days will be reserved to consider voting to override any vetoes to bills sent to the Governor. The final day of the session is scheduled for April 12. However, that can change should both chambers agree to push the session back a day or two. The session must end no later than midnight on April 15 per the state constitution.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues facing our Commonwealth during the 2016 Regular Session. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via email at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.