Alvarado: A history lesson and hope for future

Squeaky floors, two-century-old décor and commemorative paintings of noteworthy Kentuckians — that is what greeted the Senate when it convened for the fourth week of this year’s short session inside the Old State Capitol in downtown Frankfort.

The nostalgia commemorated Presidents’ Day and recognized one of Kentucky’s greatest sons, President Abraham Lincoln.

We passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 116, which immortalized the event and recounted how the Old State Capitol was constructed from 1827 to 1830 by Lexington architect Gideon Shryock when he was only 25 years old.

The resolution mentioned that the halls of the Old State Capitol were graced by the likes of Henry Clay, but it was also where the acrimonious words of secession echoed.

Union troops drove out Confederate Gov. Richard Hawes and later used the building as Civil War barracks.

The resolution also most eloquently captured one of the Commonwealth’s darkest days when in the winter of 1900, Gov. William Goebel was assassinated outside its halls.

The Old State Capitol has seen the true spirit of Kentucky, and it stands as a testament to Kentucky’s ingenuity, equanimity, and dedication to the rule of law.

Many in the chamber used the occasion to reflect on how far Kentucky has come and where it is headed.

The Commonwealth’s future will also be shaped by legislation passed during this short session.

Bills passed this week tackled issues like fair elections, health care, crimes, and midwifery.

Senate bill 34 would require the Kentucky Board of Elections to institute measures to help prevent inappropriate use of the voter registration roster before the May primaries. It would do this by granting county clerks, assistant county clerks, and the Board of Elections staff the sole authority to access, correct or alter the voter registration roster.

Senate Bill 85 would expand the use of ignition interlock devices (IID), breathalyzer-type devices connected to the ignition systems of vehicles of people convicted of driving under the influence (DUI). SB 85 would do this by allowing and incentivizing IIDs for all people charged with a DUI and shift administration of the program from the courts to the transportation cabinet. It would also move Kentucky toward a more compliance-based model, in which offenders would have to complete a 120-day period of sober driving before exiting the court-mandated program.

The state recorded 24,576 DUIs in 2017 alone, and an Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study from last year found the number of impaired drivers fell 16 percent when states required IIDs for all DUI offenders. SB 85 passed 34-0.

Senate Bill 67 would define, prohibit and set penalties for the sexual contact or trafficking of animals for sex. Kentucky is one of five states where the act of animal sexual assault isn’t already expressly prohibited in statute.

Senate Bill 12 would provide civil immunity for someone who enters a passenger car or truck to remove a dog or cat in immediate danger or death. The bill includes other stipulations that must be taken to gain that immunity.

I was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 30, which would require health benefit plans to cover genetic tests for cancer that are recommended by certain health care providers. Kentucky leads the nation in cancer cases and deaths. Less than 10 percent of the 2,500 Kentuckians who should be receiving genetic testing every year are getting the life-saving screenings.

I was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 22, which establishes the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact in Kentucky. This develops a streamlined process for physicians to become licensed in multiple states, including Kentucky.

I was the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 54, which reforms the ‘prior authorization’ process with health insurance companies. It increases access to electronic prior authorization, enhances the review process, establishes one-year approvals, enhances access to prior authorization information, and standardizes review timelines for approvals. This will help reduce delay in patient care.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 46 would create the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workforce Assessment Task Force to study the state’s health care workforce needs as well as the state’s long-term care services and supports infrastructure. The task force would be required to meet monthly during the upcoming legislative interim and to submit findings and recommendations by December.

Senate Bill 84 would recognize, certify and regulate home-birth lay midwives in Kentucky. The bill creates a council to advise the state Board of Nursing on the creation of regulations regarding qualifications, standards for training, competency, any necessary statutory changes and all other matters relating to certified professional midwives.

I have also received some questions regarding a potential pension ‘fix’ for this session. One House member has apparently filed a proposal, but I am not certain there is much initial support for the measure. Any proposed legislation would have to start in the House of Representatives and would require 60 votes for passage. According to Speaker Osborne, he is not certain there are enough votes to pass a pension bill this session. If we are going to pass a measure this year, it may have to occur during a special session.

The 2019 General Assembly has just passed the halfway point. For any students who are interested in being part of the legislative process, the Senate offers page opportunities for all ages. Those interested should contact my office to make a formal request. Full-time page opportunities are also available.

Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) represents the 28th state senate district, which includes Clark, Montgomery and part of Fayette counties. He can be reached toll free at 1-800-372-7181 or by email at Ralph.Alvarado@lrc.ky.gov.