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Alvarado: Legislative session nears midpoint

It’s sometimes good to pause during session and acknowledge events taking place outside the Senate chamber.

In the Capitol rotunda, Col. Charles Young was posthumously promoted to the rank of brigadier general in Kentucky during the Legislative Black History Month Celebration on Tuesday. Despite being born into slavery, Young overcame stifling inequality to become a leading figure in the years after the Civil War when the United States emerged as a world power.

 He was the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1889. Young would go on to serve with the 9th and 10th cavalries. He was wounded leading a charge against Pancho Villa’s troops that’s credited with saving a large part of the 13th Cavalry. In 1903, Young became the first African American superintendent of Sequoia National Park. A year later, he was the first African American officer appointed to duty as a military attaché.

 From 1894 until falling ill on an intelligence mission and dying in 1922, Young was the highest-ranking African American serving in the Army. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, where he was eulogized by his friend, civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois.

The posthumous promotion was memorialized in Senate Resolution 143, adopted by a voice vote.

 Far away from the chamber, record flooding in southeastern Kentucky prompted some legislators to return home on Thursday to assist their communities.

The floods washed away at least two mobile homes, prompted more than 100 high water rescues and evacuations, created a mudslide that derailed a train and killed at least one person who was found in a submerged vehicle.

 Back in the Senate chamber, Kentucky’s four female senators were recognized during the adoption of Senate Resolution 153, declaring Thursday a Day of Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the League of Women Voters.

The group was founded by leaders of the suffrage movement after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The group’s goal was to help women understand and carry out their new responsibility as voters.

 On Monday, I had the distinct pleasure of being joined on the Senate floor by the boys and girls track and field teams of Liberty Elementary School. Liberty Elementary dominated the 2019 Elementary Track and Field State Championship, as the girls club took first place and the boys finished third.

My colleagues joined me in recognition of their extraordinary achievements as I had the honor of presenting them with a Senate Citation in recognition of their accomplishments.

Their incredible coaches and supportive families were present in the Senate Chamber to share the special moment with them.

In a report as chair of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, the committee was once again the most productive of the week.

On Wednesday the committee passed several bills, including SB 91, SB 141, and a bill I am the primary sponsor of, SB 150. SB 150 is a bill that will address phantom medical charges that some patients may receive in a bill from an out-of-network provider.

The bill would essentially remove the patient from the equation — protecting them from outrageous charges, leaving them with their co-pay — and leave the hospitals and the provider to negotiate. I hope to see this bill find success in a vote by the full Senate body soon. You can find more information on these bills and others by visiting legislature.ky.gov.

The governor has already signed a couple of House bills (HB) into law. HB 236 incorporates federal United States Department of Agriculture guidelines related to hemp into the Kentucky statute. It establishes hemp testing procedures for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and opens up private market testing to help address a backlog of hemp products.

This bill benefits our agriculture industry and Kentucky hemp farmers. HB 186 eliminates potentially costly requirements for the more than 171,000 Kentuckians who operate direct sale or multi-level marketing businesses.

 Main topics of discussion this week included measures relating to students, health care, and the overall well-being of Kentuckians.

 School safety legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 8, is heading to the governor’s desk following its passage in the House late last week.

If signed into law, SB 8 would require trained and certified school resource officers to be armed on public school campuses.

It would also allow a school superintendent to appoint someone other than a district level school administrator to serve as the district’s school safety coordinator.

This multifaceted measure also specifies the goal of having at least one school counselor or school-based mental health services provider for every 250 students.

This bill is a continuation of the General Assembly’s efforts to increase safety within our school walls, and I hope to see it signed into law very soon.

 SB 101 ensures dual credit hours earned in high school would be transferable to Kentucky’s colleges and universities. In dual credit, a student is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously.

Several years ago, the General Assembly passed similar legislation dealing with two-year colleges and four-year universities. That legislation aligned courses with the colleges so the credits earned for those course hours could be transferred to universities.

I was proud to support this SB 101 this session as it provides students an affordable and efficient avenue to obtain higher education.

 Nearly 900,000 Kentuckians, including almost 30,000 children, have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, an illness that is often overlooked. SB 82 targets access to care for eating disorders by establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council.

The group would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention, and research programs. The council would also be responsible for making recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes to improve access to care for those diagnosed with an eating disorder.

SB 122 would make a change to Tim’s Law of 2017, a much-heralded law that has rarely been used by the courts. The law allows judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who have been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 12 months. SB 122 would extend the period to 24 months so more Kentuckians with serious mental illnesses could receive help the law is designed to provide.

The goal of SB 122 is to stop the proverbial revolving door of mentally ill patients at state psychiatric hospitals and county jails. The law is named for Tim Morton, a Lexington man who was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment dozens of times over 36 years, often involuntarily and in police handcuffs, because he did not recognize that he had schizophrenia. A bipartisan measure, SB 122 passed by a 33-1 vote.

 SB 30 would limit Kentucky to three managed care organizations, known as MCOs in health care parlance, to operate the commonwealth’s massive Medicaid program. The goal with this legislation would be to reduce costs for medical providers.

Supporters of SB 30 said medical providers, particularly rural hospitals, were drowning in paperwork associated with complying with multiple MCO’s peculiar rules concerning everything from credentialing of doctors and facilities to pre-authorizations, appeals and payments for medical care.

They added that SB 30 would also save taxpayer money by reducing the state’s contract compliance monitoring of the MCOs. SB 30 reflects wider frustrations with MCOs, once touted as a way to reduce the cost of administering Medicaid, but SB 123 would confirm various executive orders reorganizing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

It would also create a new division of telehealth services after the state disbanded a telehealth board a couple of years ago.

The new division would allow the cabinet to continue to provide oversight and resources to Kentucky’s telehealth providers.

Telehealth is the use of technologies, such as videoconferencing, to support long-distance health care programs. It is seen as a way to reduce health care costs while expanding health care access to rural areas.

 As we approach the halfway mark of the 60-day legislative session, I would like to say thank you to those of you who have offered comments, questions and concerns. Your input is greatly appreciated.

As always, please do not hesitate to call me about this issue or any other public policy issue at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.ky.gov. I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the 28th District (Clark, Montgomery and Fayette counties) and encourage your feedback throughout the legislative session. God bless you and be safe.

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