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Column: Overview of House and Senate Bills passed

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by Sen. Jimmy Higdon
This week we had exciting news on the high school sports front as the Bardstown Tigers basketball team got the win over Elizabethtown on Tuesday, earning a trip to the Sweet 16 tournament in Lexington. The Tigers’ first game is Thursday night. This time of year is always exciting and I congratulate Bardstown High on the hard work and success.As for Frankfort, Thursday, the 45th day of the legislative session, the House passed its budget bill. Now that the House has approved its preferred version of the budget bill, it’s our turn to go through the $20.3 billion spending plan line-by-line and make changes to ensure the final version of the plan best reflects our priorities and values.

A multibillion-dollar budget that funds education, healthcare services, infrastructure, public safety and so many other critical public services deserves more scrutiny than thirteen days.As we study the House’s proposal, more information will come out regarding our response, priorities and review.
In the Senate this week, we passed Senate Bill 159, which would allow nonprofit mobile dental clinics to provide care in schools for uninsured and underinsured children, as well as those covered by Medicaid. Statistics show that 42 percent of children in Kentucky under the age of five show signs of advanced tooth decay. Expanding access to dental care fulfills a fundamental need and positively affects the general health, school attendance, self-respect and future success of our children. The bill passed unanimously and a similar outcome is hoped for in the House.
Senate Bill 124, a bill I co-sponsored, would provide legal access to cannabidiol oil that is derived from the hemp plant and used to treat people with epilepsy and seizure disorders.
Cannabidiol oil contains an extremely low level of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), too low to produce any psychoactive or intoxicating effects.
Studies have shown that the oil successfully aids children suffering from seizure disorders when administered orally. These children can have hundreds of seizures in one day in extreme cases. It is critical that every available medication be legally attainable for the families dealing with this debilitating condition. The bill passed the Senate Thursday with no opposition.
Senate Bill 108 also passed the Senate this week. The Act would provide that a person convicted of a felony offense of rape in which a child was born as a result of the offense shall lose parental rights with respect to that child; provide for an exception at the request of the mother; and provide that a court shall impose an obligation of child support against the offender unless waived by the mother and, if applicable, a public agency supporting the child.
A bill that would allow more openness in some juvenile court proceedings was also among the measures approved by the Senate and sent to the House this week. SB 157 calls for a pilot program to encourage transparency in certain juvenile court proceedings by allowing in members of the public. Those viewing the proceedings would not be allowed to share with others the identity of children involved in court cases.
Members of the Senate also gave approval this week to a resolution that would direct the staff of the Legislative Research Commission to study family care-giving and long-term services. With a growing aging population, the demand for services that allow seniors to receive assistance in their homes and communities will continue to increase. SCR 102 is intended to provide policymakers with better information about the programs available and ideas about innovative and creative ways that the state can support those who provide in-home assistance to older adults.
The Senate also approved SB 170 that would allow more poisonous weeds and invasive plants to be targeted for eradication from state right-of-ways. Some plants that no longer pose a major threat are on the list for eradication, while noxious plants that cause bigger problems are not. In addition to targeting plants like kudzu and poison hemlock for removal from roadsides and other areas, the legislation also would give the Department of Highways authority to regularly review and make changes to its list of unwanted plants.
A measure approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee this week proposes an amendment to the state constitution to reduce the length of regular legislative sessions during even-numbered years from 60 to 45 working days. The legislation, SB 195, would also reduce odd-numbered year regular sessions from 30 working days to five working days. An additional ten legislative days could be used to extend an odd-numbered year regular session, or for a Extraordinary session called by legislative leaders anytime during the biennium.
SB 195 would save millions of dollars annually and would allow the General Assembly to better resemble the citizen-legislature envisioned by the state’s founders. If approved by the House, Kentucky voters would decide on the proposed constitutional amendment this November.
Other committee meetings this week were lively as well. Hot-button issues regarding waiver of missed school days, the issue of common core and medicinal cannabidiol oil were heard. Citizens attended in large numbers to the point that additional rooms were set up to accommodate the numbers. What a great sign of engagement in our democratic process.
A healthy debate on the subject of core content was held during the committee meeting. The committee heard Senate Bill 224, which would prohibit Kentucky from adopting the national common core content and require the Department of Education to create new standards that exceed the national common core. At stake is ensuring Kentucky students are ready and prepared for college and career after graduation. Testimony was heard from education experts around the nation regarding the failure of the common core to address student needs. Testimony was also heard in support of common core from the Commissioner of the Department of Education.