Kentucky Senator Ralph Alvarado’s Legislative Update Week 5

Published 5:15 pm Friday, February 11, 2022

Another week of the 2022 legislative session, we face another week of inclement weather in the Commonwealth. I hope you and your loved ones were not adversely impacted and remained safe and warm. The legislative session for Friday, February 4, was canceled in the safety interest of staff and lawmakers. On Monday, February 7, we are scheduled to resume day 23 of the 2022 Regular Session.

The Senate has officially begun the thorough process of reviewing the Governor and state House of Representatives’ budget proposals. I will keep you informed on significant budget developments from the Senate in the weeks ahead.

I enjoyed appearing on KET’s Kentucky Tonight on Monday, January 31. The discussion covered school choice, and I do not think the contrast of opinions could be more evident. School choice and opportunities for students of lesser means are personal to me. I will be penning an opinion editorial on this issue in the days ahead. I encourage you to visit KET.org/programs/Kentucky-Tonight, where you can watch the debate on school choice from last Monday.

I want to begin this week’s legislative update with a bill I felt compelled to introduce and sponsor upon hearing from Mrs. Stacey Burnett. Mrs. Burnett is my constituent and grieving mother. She not only had to experience the loss of a child but was notified by the Fayette County coroner in an unacceptably cold and traumatic manner.

Burnett testified to the Senate State and Local Government Committee that the coroner arrived and provided little to no information, saying “I have no details” and directing her to call the sheriff’s department in Utah, where her son, Nathan, was visiting with friends. He handed her a note with her and her husband’s names miswritten and left her screaming in the front lawn as her other children looked on.

Burnett made a powerful statement in asking for lawmakers’ support for the bill, saying, “The hardest thing I’ve ever had to hear was that my child died. The hardest thing I’ll ever have to do is to live every day since that moment.”

As a parent, the mere thought of losing a child tears at your heart, no parent should ever outlive their children, but we have to prevent trauma such as this in those tragic cases where they do. Nathan’s life did not deserve to be diminished.

Senate Bill (SB) 66, named ‘Nathan’s Law,’ takes the necessary step to give greater consideration to the grieving process of families by implementing requirements on how the news of a loved one’s death must be delivered. Within three years of assuming office, it requires coroners and deputy coroners to complete a minimum four-hour course that includes instruction of the grieving process and best practices for providing death notice to a spouse or next of kin. The bill also stipulates that news of the death must be delivered verbally and respectfully and requires a follow-up with the family member within 48 hours. Additionally, the bill would require emergency responders to be on standby.

I appreciate the Burnett family’s courage to step forward and make a difference on this front.
In the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, we heard several bills that I hope will eventually pass in the Senate and ultimately become law.

They were SB 97 provides greater means of investigating and gathering evidence in cases involving child fatalities or near fatalities, SB 105 adds testing for a virus known as CMV (Cytomegalovirus) testing as a part of newborn screenings, and Senate Joint Resolution 72 directing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to apply for a Medicaid waiver to better help those with mental illness.

Additional legislation passing this week included the following:
• SB 8 is one of the most consequential bills passed thus far. It was initially filed during Child Advocacy Week, then made its way to the Senate floor in week five.

Kentucky has led the nation three years in a row in child abuse and neglect rates, and passage of SB 8 in the Senate comes after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Journalism shone light on the backlog of cases regarding suspicious child deaths.

This bill expands the opportunity for family preservation services to keep children safe and families united and provided additional resources and support for Kentucky’s child advocacy centers. It broadens the scope and membership of the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board to include all forms of child abuse and neglect. One of the most critical facets of the bill is that it explicitly distinguishes the difference between poverty and neglect. Lastly, it updates the Foster Youth Bill of Rights by enabling those aging out of foster care to maintain access to resources while transitioning into adult life.

• SB 23 updates Kentucky’s mail theft statute, which only covers mail packages delivered by the United States Postal Service. If enacted, the bill will put packages delivered by common carriers such as UPS and FedEx under that same legal umbrella, making ‘porch pirates’ susceptible to more significant criminal charges.

• SB 32 relates to the Judicial Form Retirement System, the state judicial and legislative retirement system, recommendations from the Public Pension Oversight Board chaired by Sen. Jimmy Higdon and the bill’s sponsor. SB 32 changes the method for reducing unfunded liabilities, making the plan more financially sound and including administrative expenses to manage the program. This bill has no impact on the system’s funding or benefits.

• SB 33 continues Kentucky’s efforts to address workforce needs by allowing people convicted of misdemeanors and who have paid their debt to society to re-enter the job market. The bill’s primary focus is to clarify when a misdemeanor offense may qualify for expungement. Existing law does not allow for expungement of a crime that qualifies for additional penalties on an indefinite basis. Currently, a person convicted of a misdemeanor, violation, or a series of convictions arising from a single incident, can petition the court for expungement of their record. Sex crimes, child-related offenses, and violent crimes do not qualify for expungement.

• SB 61 was a cleanup bill that enjoyed unanimous support. It modernizes statutory requirements for early high school graduation by eliminating the need for benchmarks on end-of-course exams references to scoring benchmarks on the ACT. It also updates early high school graduation requirements and future revisions to be established through administrative regulations made by the Kentucky Board of Education.

• SB 64 allows public safety agencies to establish a peer support counseling program. This enables those within the same field to use personal experiences to help colleagues deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill will include emergency dispatchers, often the first line of communication for individuals in crisis, distress, or trauma, and other first responders.

• SB 60 maximizes education funds and services for as many at-risk four-year-olds as possible by making the commissioner of education a mediator between school district superintendents and local Head Start directors to determine when a local Head Start program has maximized the number of children it can serve. Determination of the full utilization of a local Head Start program is needed for the purposes of a local school district certifying preschool programs and receiving grant funding to support them.

• SB 94 expands the Work Ready Kentucky Scholarships to Kentucky students with special needs. It provides greater opportunities to capable Kentuckians and also addresses workforce needs.

• SB 96 adds the Bowling Green police chief to the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council.

The state House of Representatives can now consider these bills.

Please feel free to call me about these issues or any other public policy issue toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Ralph.Alvarado@LRC.ky.gov. Be safe. God bless.