The 2023 Legislative Session is in the home stretch, with only six more days before we enter the veto period. This week we will be in session Monday through Thursday with two days being for the House and Senate chambers to find agreement on any qualifying legislation. Friday, March 17 will begin the 10-day veto period until Tuesday, March 29 for the Governor to consider all legislation lawmakers have sent to his desk.
The session’s week six began to include the House and Senate chambers taking the other’s bills into consideration through legislative committees, giving several final passages and sending them to the Governor’s desk.
Bills sent to the Governor for consideration in week six included measures addressing:
• Teacher workforce shortages (Senate Bill 49) and providing professional development opportunities to educators (Senate Bill 70).
• Unemployment insurance (House Bill 146).
• Educational opportunities and workforce challenges (Senate Bill 54).
• Strengthening Kentucky’s rich spirits industry and helping small farm wineries (Senate Bill 28).
Bills and resolutions approved by the Senate in week six and now with the state House of Representatives for consideration include:
• Senate Bill 115 is a simple bill consisting of barely over one page. It would protect children from exposure to sexually explicit performances in the public square. It defines “adult performance” as a sexually explicit performance. This would include a live performance or a performance involving male or female impersonators who provide entertainment to sexually arouse or appeal to sexual desires, regardless of whether or not performed for consideration, which taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value. A person would be guilty of engaging in an adult performance when the performance is held on publicly-owned property or in a location where the person knows—or should know—that the adult performance could be viewed by a person under 18. The bill outlines penalties for participants and business owners knowingly exposing minors to sexually explicit performances.
• Senate Bill 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board to improve the certification of substitute teachers. The measure will serve to address workforce challenges within school systems. The bill creates three certification categories for substitute teacher applicants after state-required preliminary screenings and background checks.
• Senate Bill 145 removes any reference to athletic eligibility, appropriately returning authority to Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) regulations. The KHSAA will continue to manage any potential situation of transfer for athletic advantage by those high schoolers who have already played varsity athletics.
Senate Bill 156 is follow-up legislation to the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2022 Read to Succeed Act. It establishes a statewide reading research center as a clearinghouse of research and evidence-based, high-yield instructional practices and coaching strategies. The bill requires the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to issue a Request for Proposals for a reading research center administrator, and reissue it every five years.
An RFP announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete a job or perform a task. KDE and the reading research center must set annual goals and performance objectives and create a yearly report. Additionally. KDE must make data-driven program and funding recommendations to the legislature, governor and Interim Joint Committee on Education by October 1 each year. Kentucky school districts would be required to adopt an evidence- and research-based reading program but it would not have to be any particular one.
• Senate Bill 158 would officially direct the Kentucky auditor of public accounts office to enter into a contract with a third party to conduct a thorough performance review of Kentucky’s Department of Juvenile Justice facilities. The measure defines the authority of the third-party entity and the scope of the review and would provide the necessary funding, $500,000, in the current fiscal year, for the audit.
• Senate Bill 162 is the start of a long-term reformation of DJJ and a commitment to finally address the needs of juveniles with serious mental illness. The bill carries an emergency designation meaning it would take effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.
Major provisions of Senate Bill 162 include:
- Investment of over $55 million in the next two years to support comprehensive reforms within the system. (Sections 7-12)
- Transitioning DJJ back to a regional model while continuing to segregate males and females, and violent and non-violent offenders. (section 5)
Section one reorganizes DJJ, including:
- Creating a Division of Compliance and an Office of Detention and requiring the eight DJJ centers to be under one person’s supervision who reports directly to the DJJ commissioner. This office will house the Division of Transportation.
- Moving the Division of Professional Development under the Office of Support Services.
- Requiring the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet to maintain a comprehensive, centralized data tracking system for DJJ. (section 2)
- Reforms membership and responsibilities of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Council. (section 3)
- Setting requirements for DJJ facilities and requiring DJJ to enter into sufficient contracts to ensure the availability of institutional treatment for children with severe emotional disturbance or mental illness as soon as practical. (section 4).
- Requires the Kentucky Department of Medicaid to take steps to provide benefits to eligible detained children. (section 6)
- Establishing staff retention measures and addressing workforce needs by implementing a Youth Worker-R program to bring retired workers back into facilities (section 5) and providing employee professional development opportunities.
- Implementing a limited duration program to allow previously resigned staff to return to employment classifications with the department’s approval.
The substantial appropriations in the legislation demonstrate the seriousness of the crisis and the Senate’s commitment to finding short and long-term solutions.
• Senate Bill 202 is a measure to address the increasing challenges related to student behavior our teachers and school administrators are dealing with regularly. The bill provides local school boards more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs if the student is considered a safety threat or is likely to cause a substantial disruption by allowing an expulsion to expand beyond one year. Students are to be placed —with review by the superintendent and due process for the parent — in an alternative education setting that may include, but is not limited to, a virtual program or academy and may include a performance-based program.
• Senate Bill 226 streamlines the environmental permitting process for coal mining and other industrial operations to create jobs and bolster Kentucky’s economy. It sets specific deadlines for the Energy and Environment Cabinet to process applications for water quality certifications and water discharge permits. It prohibits the cabinet from delaying its consideration of a permit application until the applicant secures a federal permit. Finally, it establishes reasonable and practical standards for evaluating the protection of threatened and endangered species.
• Senate Bill 241 provides the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources with autonomy in specific land procurement areas. There are approximately 54,000 acres of land in Knox, Bell, and Leslie counties aiming to become part of a three-state elk habitat. This bill enables an initiative between Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, to move forward. When completed, it would allow for hunting and other recreational activities. Senate Bill 241 clarifies the transition process of conservation easements and addresses issues and conflicts related to the Kentucky Finance Cabinet’s role in implementing the legislature’s intent. Finally, it creates an engineering and engineering-related services selection committee within the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and sets membership and responsibilities.
• Senate Bill 148 would establish the Government Teleworking Task Force. It is important that your state government is functioning effectively and is responsive to your needs. We have an incredible increase in state employees working from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; some still have not returned to an office setting. The task force would be challenged to investigate and make recommendations regarding the following:
- How the on-site presence of state employees can be reduced and cost savings realized now that many workers have transitioned to different teleworking models;
- How much in-person work hours have decreased since the pandemic and whether and to what extent has public service suffered due to the decrease; and
- What in-person staffing levels are necessary for the state government to maintain a high level of in-person customer service for residents.
Task force membership would consist of four state House of Representatives and four Senate members, which the House Speaker and Senate President will appoint. The Government Teleworking Task Force would meet at least monthly during the 2023 Interim.
• Senate Bill 282 adds hit-and-run accidents to the definition of criminally injurious conduct. It increases the award caps for awards to crime victims from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which has not been increased since the 1970s and 1980s. The bill would increase the lost wages for financial support caps from $150 a week to $300 a week so victims of crime will receive the financial support needed to recover from their injuries and losses. It would increase the funeral and burial expense cap from $5,000 to $7,500, providing more significant financial support to families who have lost a loved one to a crime. Additionally, Senate Bill 282 would increase the overall cap award for medical and mental health counseling expenses from $25,000 to $30,000, recognizing the high cost of medical treatment and counseling services for victims of crime.
• Senate Joint Resolution 98 looks to ensure our postsecondary education institutions are keeping up with the needs of students. It would require the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to study public universities and community and technical colleges and require the CPE president to report findings to the Legislative Research Commission and at least to the Interim Joint Committees (IJC) on Economic Development and Workforce Investment and the IJC on Education by December 1, 2023.
• Senate Joint Resolution 101 seeks solutions to make it easier for residents in rural counties to get their instructional permits in light of the state’s transition to regional driver licensing services. The resolution would direct the Kentucky State Police to establish a pilot program of remote testing for instruction permits in counties that do not have a regional driver licensing office. Minimum requirements would have to be met concerning the pilot program, such as requiring regular testing intervals, coordination with local libraries and high schools to have a host location for testing, exploration of technological innovations that could allow someone to oversee remote testing and verify exam results, and coordinating testing schedules with pop-up remote drivers licensing services. KSP would be directed to collect data and pilot program results and report to the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation no later than November 30, 2023.
Additional Senate Bills passed included: 101, 199, 252, and 281.
House Bills given final passage included: 13, 130, and 188.
Watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.
Senator Brandon J. Storm, R-London, represents the 21st Senate District, including Casey, Laurel, Lincoln and Rockcastle Counties.
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