Legislators have busy week in Frankfort

The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives convened only two days this past week. But in terms of bills passed and the number of hours spent debating legislation, they were two of the busiest legislative days so far this year.

Bills that took steps forward in the Kentucky General Assembly this week include measures on the following topics:

• Newborn protection. House Bill 155 would allow the use of a “newborn safety device” when a newborn is being anonymously surrendered by a parent at a participating staffed police station, fire station, or hospital. The device would allow a parent planning to surrender an infant to do so safely using a receptacle that would trigger an alarm once a newborn is placed inside so that medical care providers could immediately respond and provide care to the child. The bill, which was already approved by the House, was approved this week by the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

• Fish and wildlife. House Bill 394 would ensure that the state’s Fish and Wildlife Resources Commission would have sole authority to appoint the commissioner of the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The bill was approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

• Administrative regulations. Senate Bill 65 would nullify administrative regulations that took effect after being found deficient by lawmakers last year during the legislative interim, the period of time between regular sessions of the General Assembly. The bill passed the House Licensing and Occupations Committee and now awaits consideration by the full House.

• School choice. House Bill 563 would give families more options when making decisions about schools. The bill would allow students to use education opportunity accounts, a type of scholarship, to attend a public school outside of his or her district. Individuals or businesses who donate to organizations that issue education opportunity accounts would be eligible for a tax credit. Under an amendment to the bill, the provisions of the legislation dealing with using education opportunity accounts for private school tuition would apply only to students in Kentucky’s most populous counties —Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton Counties. Another amendment to the bill would allow the state to fund full-day kindergarten for every public school district in the commonwealth. This bill passed the House 51-45 and now goes to the Senate.

• Capitol security. Senate Bill 227 would require Kentucky State Police to brief the leadership of the General Assembly and the Legislative Research Commission on security matters relating to the Capitol campus. The bill was approved by the House 91-0. It now goes back to the Senate for consideration of a House amendment to the bill.

• No-knock warrants. Senate Bill 4 would limit and set guidelines for the use of no-knock warrants, which allow officers to enter a premises without notice. Under the legislation, such warrants would be allowed in limited instances if someone was in immediate danger or in other cases, such as those involving violent crimes or terrorism. These warrants would have to be executed by a SWAT team or a team with special training. The bill would also specify in statute that it would be perjury if an officer made a false statement in an application for a no-knock warrant. The bill, which already passed the Senate, was approved this week by the House Judiciary Committee and now goes before the full House.

• Scholarships. House Bill 25 would expand access to Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships by removing a provision that prevents convicted felons from being eligible. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

• Probation and parole. House Bill 440 would allow meetings with probation or parole officers required under the terms of a person’s probation or parole to be conducted via videoconference. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

• Public safety. Senate Bill 211 would increase the punishment for crimes committed during a riot. It would provide consequences for local governments who are grossly negligent for failing to protect public safety and property. The bill includes sections intended to discourage local governments from attempts to defund law enforcement agencies and to prevent taunting a police officer in a way that “would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response from the perspective of a reasonable and prudent person.” The bill also specifies situations in which a person would be guilty of unlawful camping on state property. The bill passed the Senate 22-11 and now goes to the House for consideration.

• School breakfasts. House Bill 384 would allow a school that participates in the Federal School Breakfast Program to authorize up to 15 minutes of the student attendance day to provide the opportunity for children to eat breakfast during instructional time. The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and now goes to the full Senate.

• Driver safety. House Bill 439 would require a vision test when renewing a driver’s license, starting in 2024. The bill passed the Senate 31-4. It now goes back to the House, which already approved the original version of the bill, for consideration of Senate changes to the legislation.

• Commission on race and opportunity. Senate Bill 10 would create a Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity in the legislative branch. The commission would conduct studies and research on issues where disparities may exist in areas including educational equity, child welfare, health, economic opportunity, juvenile justice, and criminal justice. The bill passed the House 65-24 this week. It now goes back to the Senate, which already approved the original version of the bill, for consideration of changes to the bill made by the House.

Lawmakers are still working toward approving a state budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. Throughout this year’s session, lawmakers have said their intention is to pass a spending plan before the start of veto recess, which begins on March 17.

To offer your feedback to lawmakers on the issues under consideration, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 800-372-7181.