by Senator Steve Meredith:
Following a long weekend honoring the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Kentucky General Assembly returned ready to work on your behalf in Frankfort. The atmosphere in the Capitol was one of anticipation as hundreds of citizens rallied for causes in the Rotunda and met with their legislators to discuss issues facing the Commonwealth.
This week included Children’s Advocacy Day at the Capitol, an event promoting children’s safety, health, education, and economic well-being. In light of this annual gathering, I would like to emphasize the importance of a complete count of our children and students in the upcoming 2020 Census. The Census count helps determine how much money communities receive for critical resources that our children and families will depend on for the next 10 years, including food assistance, housing support, child care, and public education. Knowing how many children there are and where they live is essential to getting them proper access to those critical programs and services here in Kentucky.
It is also imperative that we take necessary action to ensure the safety and security of our students. Two years ago, the Commonwealth grieved the loss of innocent lives due to a senseless act of violence at Marshall County High School. This tragedy prompted last year’s Senate Bill (SB 1), the School Safety and Resiliency Act, a multi-faceted approach to better secure Kentucky schools through increased physical safety measures, a supportive learning environment, and preventative behavioral health services. SB 1 passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law in 2019. On the anniversary of the tragic Marshall County High School events, the Senate Education Committee passed SB 8, a measure that would amend the current statute to expand school personnel, including the designation of a school safety coordinator for each district and by requiring one school-based mental health counselor per 250 students. SB 8 would also require school resource officers to carry firearms.
I am proud to update you that SB 38, a bill I am the primary sponsor of, was successfully voted out of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee this week. As vice-chairman of this committee, I was pleased to see it pass with a unanimous vote. Later on the Senate floor, SB 38 passed with overwhelming support with a vote of 35-2. This measure would allow guardians of the state to make decisions that are in the best interest of those they are looking after. It also provides cremation as an optional arrangement when all other options have been exhausted. SB 38 will now move to the House for consideration.
Also passing favorably through committee this week was SB 9. This Senate priority measure is a testament to our unwavering commitment to protect and defend the right to life here in the Commonwealth. Also known as the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” SB 9 requires a physician to take all medically appropriate and reasonable steps to preserve the life and health of a born-alive infant. I am a proud co-sponsor of this pro-life bill and I look forward to being a supportive voice of its passage on the Senate Floor. I’m hopeful for its success through the House and am eager to have it placed on the governor’s desk.
While it was only a four-day work week for the Kentucky General Assembly, the Senate passed a number of bills out of the chamber that will now go on to the House for consideration:
SB 2- A legislative priority that would require a voter to present photogenic identification at the polls. Under the amended bill, an expired photo I.D. would be accepted. SB 2 is supported by Secretary of State Michael Adams and promotes confidence in the integrity of Kentucky elections. I was happy to vote yes on this common-sense bill.
SB 5- An act requiring Special Purpose Governmental Entities (SPGEs) to seek approval from their establishing body to levy an ad valorem tax rate that would generate more revenue than the compensating tax rate, or a first-time ad valorem tax. I voted yes.
SB 56- Ensures Kentucky complies with the federal minimum legal age for the sale, purchase and use of tobacco products. It also eliminates possession penalties for youth up to age 21. I voted in favor of the bill.
SB 66- Amends the current statute to provide that someone who has been criminally charged in the death of another cannot make funeral, burial, or other ceremonial arrangement decisions for the decedent. I was a yes vote on this bill.
SB 72- A sensitive but vital piece of proposed legislation. Kentucky is among 15 states where FGM is still legal. FGM is any procedure involving the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or another injury to the female organs for nonmedical purposes. I was a co-sponsor of this bill and voted yes on the Senate Floor.
SB 20- Prohibits the certification of assisted-living communities if they are owned, managed, or operated by anyone who has been convicted of felony offenses relating to adult abuse, child abuse, drugs, homicide, kidnapping, sex offenses, robbery, arson, pornography, and other offenses.
Serving as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Health & Welfare committee, it has been one of the more productive committee’s thus far in the session. Several bills have cleared the committee. SB 20 and 56 were two of those. I am excited to continue working in this committee to vet and pass good legislation that will benefit the lives of Kentuckians.
During even-numbered years, the Kentucky General Assembly is tasked with preparing a balanced two-year budget for the state. The budget address by the Governor is one of the first steps in crafting this vital document that will guide the Commonwealth’s financial decisions for the next two years. Once the Governor outlines his plan, the Kentucky Senate and House will propose separate budget plans, and all three parties—after many hours of deliberation and input from stakeholders—will come together to craft a final budget. The Governor will be delivering his budget address on Tuesday, January 28 at 7 p.m.
The pace in Frankfort is quickly picking up, and I anticipate an increase of visitors and advocates from across the Commonwealth. As always, I welcome your input on these issues. It is an honor to serve on your behalf in Frankfort.
If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Stephen.Meredith@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.