Mayfield: Brisk pace on bills expected in last stretch

Published 11:59 am Wednesday, March 15, 2017

We are in the final stretch of the regular session and the House of Representatives has been hard at work to better Kentucky, not only on bills from our own chamber, but reviewing Senate bills as well.

With just a few legislative days remaining, the brisk pace can be expected right up until the clock runs out.

We passed several measures this week, dealing with multiple issues facing the Commonwealth.

House Bill 410 passed the House, which aims to modernize our state’s driver’s license program. This measure would ensure Kentuckians are able to keep their standard driver’s license while also allowing an individual to receive a federally compliant ID. This was a necessary piece of legislation to make sure Kentucky complies with federal law.

The bill provides the means for those who want or need a federally-vetted ID to obtain one while protecting people who do not want a federally-vetted driver’s license.

The travel ID allows individuals to get onto TSA-controlled airplanes without a passport, and into federal base installations. I supported this measure as it directly impacts every Kentuckian who wants to fly, and also the military installments of Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. I want to stress this new travel ID is completely optional but available to any Kentuckian who seeks to apply for it.

Education also was at the forefront of House business this past week with our passage of charter schools legislation. Now awaiting action in the Senate, House Bill 520 would allow local school boards and the mayors of Louisville and Lexington to authorize the creation of public charter schools — public schools governed by independent boards instead of local school districts — beginning next school year.

Forty-three states now allow charter schools, which some say drain public education dollars while others praise the schools

for helping to close the student achievement gap.

Giving public schools more leeway in deciding how many instructional days will be on their school’s calendar was the purpose of another education bill that progressed this past week. SB 50, which received final passage and now goes to the governor for his signature, would allow school districts to use a “variable student instructional year” that would require the same hours of instruction now required by law but allow for fewer school days than the minimum of 170 days that the law requires.

Districts could instead use the variable schedule beginning with the 2018-19 school year if their first day of instruction is on or after the Monday closest to Aug. 26.

Senate Bill 17 is the religious freedom bill. Now before the governor to be signed into law, the bill would give Kentucky public school and public college and university students the statutory right to express their religious and political views in their school work, artwork, speeches and other ways.

House members speaking in favor of the bill before it was given final passage on a vote of 81-8 on Monday, said it protects liberties granted by the federal and state constitutions, while those concerned with the bill advised caution on the bill during what they called a time of national division.

The following is a list of other bills progressing through the final days:

— SB 218 is this industrial hemp bill designed to improve the industrial hemp production program in Kentucky, first established in Kentucky in 2013. The legislation passed four years ago authorized industrial hemp research programs at the state level. State Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said this year marks Kentucky’s largest industrial hemp crop under the program, with more than 12,000 acres approved for production. The bill was sent to the governor March 8 after passing the House by a vote of 88-3 on Tuesday.

— SB 79 would allow patients to enter into contracts with their primary care provider that spell out primary care services to be provided for an agreed-upon fee over a specific period of time. The “direct primary care membership agreement” would not require a patient to forfeit private insurance or Medicaid coverage. SB 79 passed the House 85-6 on Monday. It received final passage on Tuesday by a Senate vote of 37-1 and is now before the governor for his signature.

— HB 323 would allow anyone who was a Kentucky resident when they enlisted for active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or Reserves or the National Guard to pay the Kentucky resident rate for Kentucky hunting and fishing licenses and permits. HB 323 passed the House on a 92-0 vote on Monday and is now awaiting action in the Senate.

This column was produced by House Majority Communications, and made available for House Republican Members to distribute.