Lawmakers work late to pass final bills

Published 11:32 am Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives both worked late into the evening several days last week to make sure priority legislation made it to the governor’s desk before the veto period officially began Thursday.

I am proud to have passed bills on many of the issues brought to me by constituents and people in the medical community.

Citizens in this Commonwealth can see how their vote mattered this session and how it will continue to pay dividends as the General Assembly turns its attention this summer to modernizing the antiquated tax code. Updating our tax structure makes further strides toward improving Kentucky’s business climate and putting our people to work.

Of all the legislation I voted on this year, none has given me more pause than HB 72. I fundamentally agree with the premise of the bill. I believe court systems are inundated with frivolous lawsuits — not just in health care, but in a wide range of areas — and such frivolity has real consequences for the rest of us.

I have written about those consequences as they relate to the medical community, but they are no less real for developers and construction crews. There has been good development, particularly in impoverished parts of Jefferson and Fayette counties, which has been blocked with a “run out the clock” approach. Jobs are lost, and resources are wasted.

The plaintiffs in these disputes have already had their voices heard by the planning/zoning commission, fiscal court members and the circuit court. Going to the appellate court will not likely yield a different result. However, I heard so much opposition from voices in Clark County on this issue I could not ignore the will of the people I represent.

As a result, I cast a “no” vote on the bill, which narrowly passed the Senate and has been sent to a conference committee for further work. This is democracy at its best.

And now, a brief summary of the bills that passed the Senate and an update on those waiting to be signed by the governor:

— Senate Bill 11 lifts Kentucky’s nuclear moratorium to expand our state’s energy portfolio;

— Senate Bill 89 removes barriers in health care plans to allow patients to access smoking cessation treatments;

— Senate Bill 91, also known as “Tim’s Law,” helps families of those with severe mental illness ensurethe individual receives proper outpatient treatment;

— Senate Bill 107 sets up a due process to remove members from dysfunctional or non-compliant state boards, such as university boards;

— Senate Bill 120 provides methods for re-entry and employment access as part of comprehensive justice reform;

— Senate Bill 159 requires all public high school students to pass a civics test in order to receive a regular diploma; and

— Senate Bill 236 allows for more thorough background checks on potential child care providers. Additionally,

— House Bill 38, known as the “Playground Protection Act,” prohibits sex offender registrants from being on the grounds of a publicly-owned playground without explicit permission from a local legislative body.

— Finally, with the passage of HB 520, Kentucky became the 44th state in the U.S. to pass a bill that permits school choice. None of the previous 43 states that have enacted charter school legislation have repealed it, which gives added confidence this was the right move for Kentucky. In order for a charter school to be established, it must first be authorized by a local school board.

We value our public schools, our teachers, and our students. It is important to realize charter schools were not designed to take anything away from our existing system, but to provide new opportunities for our students at struggling schools.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review thelegislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th State Senate District including Clark and Montgomery counties and the eastern portion of Fayette County.