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Some Major Issues Remain Unresolved In 2015 Session
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 13, 2015) – The House adjourned a minute before midnight last Wednesday after a 10-hour lawmaking session that ended with House passage of 30 bills, including a bipartisan anti-heroin proposal approved unanimously by House members.
The anti-drug legislation, placed in a gutted Senate Bill 192, includes essentially all of House Bill 213 which passed the House unanimously last month. That bill, which has since stalled in the Senate, contains substance abuse treatment options for heroin addicts, tiered penalties for traffickers, and much more. Proposed state General Fund appropriations totaling $10 million to carry out drug treatment and related services were also added to SB 192 by the House.
The bill as amended was then returned to the Senate, which had passed its own anti-heroin measure in January and refused to agree with the House changes before both chambers adjourned late Wednesday for the governor’s “veto recess.” Fortunately, both chambers are committed to reaching agreement on heroin legislation this session, and hope to have a bill ready for final passage before session’s end. That could be as soon as March 23, when lawmakers return to Frankfort for the session’s final two days on March 23-24.
Another remaining issue left unresolved is how to address the impact on local and state road funds due to the fluctuation in the gas tax. House Bill 513, which sought to allow the gas tax to decrease while protecting funds made available to local governments for road and bridge projects, was not acted upon. It is essential that the dollars remain for our counties and cities to provide safe highways and bridges, but at the same time we need to allow Kentuckians to keep more money in their pockets due to lower gas prices. Hopefully we can reach a resolution on this issue before midnight on March 24th.
We were able to get some bills passed this past week before adjourning for the veto session, including an amendment to a House bill that will once again allow local school districts to seek relief from the number of days missed due to the severe winter weather over the past four weeks. Like last year, snow and ice have played havoc with the school calendar in many local districts, which is why we once again approved legislation that allows those districts to seek relief from the Kentucky Department of Education.
Among the other bills that received final passage in the House on the last day before the veto recess and are now on their way to becoming law are:
HB 92: This alcohol and drug counseling measure received final passage in the House by a vote of 98-0 and on Wednesday. It would define different types of alcohol and drug counseling, specify that certain professional titles cannot be used by those not licensed or registered in specific practice per state law, and require domestic violence and suicide management training for those seeking certain types of registration.
HB 69: Colorectal cancer screening legislation that would require complete screenings—including colonoscopy—to be covered without added deductible or coinsurance cost to the patient received final passage in the House by a vote of 74-25 on Wednesday. The final bill was amended with Senate language that would establish requirements for cost savings demonstration projects for the state employee health plan and Medicaid, and address state licensure reciprocity for home medical equipment providers. HB 69 has been sent to the governor for his signature.
As you can see, much has been done in finishing “The People’s Business” this session but, as is always the case late in a session, there is much left to do. The House and Senate conferees will continue to work over the governor’s veto days to reach agreement on bills including SB 192, the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System proposal in HB 4, and the issue of the gas tax fluctuation. We will have to wait and see how those discussions pan out in terms of votes on these bills (and others) when we return to Frankfort on March 23.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, there could be ideas and concerns important to you that need to be addressed in the final days of the 2015 Regular Session. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at email@example.com, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.