Week nine of the 2020 Regular Session proved to be one of the most legislatively productive thus far for the Kentucky General Assembly. Those of us in the Senate successfully passed a multitude of bills that range from helping our military veterans to improving education and protecting our children in the Commonwealth. We received a special visit from star of the movie Miracles from Heaven, Ms. Jennifer Garner, along with the president of the Save the Children organization, Mark Shriver. Their visit was to promote the organization and detail the many benefits it has brought to the children of Kentucky. Ms. Garner grew up rural West Virginia and understands what life is like in regions like ours. It was great to meet them.
We reached another milestone of this year's legislative session last week as we surpassed day 40 of our sixty 60-day legislative session. Wednesday was the final day that lawmakers could file bills. In total, there were almost 1,000 bills filed. If you visit https://legislature.ky.gov, you can now find a complete listing of them, along with the details of each, such as the bills I will talk about in this legislative update.
First however, I want to inform you that discussions on the two-year state budget and the six-year road plan will be increasing substantially within the coming days. The budget discussion will demand very late nights in Frankfort. Still, the importance of the budget and road plan cannot be understated. The final product will touch the lives of every single Kentuckian in the years ahead. For that reason, I remain committed to this great responsibility and will be advocating strongly for the people of Laurel County.
Though there have been exciting events across the 21st District in recent weeks, such as district basketball tournaments and the London-Laurel Chamber Banquet, my responsibility is to you and the trust you have placed in me as your State Senator. I must remain in Frankfort and occupy our seat at the table to ensure the best opportunities and resources for our home. You have my word that you stay at the forefront of my mind as I represent you at the Capitol.
I would like to recognize my son, Steve Robinson, and thank him for representing me during the ribbon cutting of the St. Joseph London’s Progressive Care Unit while my fellow lawmakers and I are hard at work. This care unit is going to greatly benefit the people of Laurel County and the surrounding area. Thank you to all involved in seeing this come to be.
It is both joyful and helpful for me to receive visits from my constituents. Visitors provide me with beneficial insight into the thoughts and concerns of the 21st District. I understand many cannot make the trip to Frankfort due to their own responsibilities. Therefore, I encourage you to share your thoughts and concerns with me however it is most convenient for you. For those who want to visit me in Frankfort, please do so and provide me notice of your visit. It would be a pleasure to welcome you into the Senate Gallery so that you can witness the legislative process.
Mr. Shane Morris, a U.S. Army veteran, retired Jackson County High School U.S. history teacher, and JROTC instructor, did just that. He sat down with Rep. Robert Goforth and me during his visit to Frankfort to advocate for the conservative principle most important to us. Principles I have worked to champion throughout my time as your Senator. It was an honor to hear from him about how he thinks we can continue to protect our sacred Second Amendment rights, as well as our precious children in Kentucky schools. I trust productive conversations like these will lead to further victories for the values we hold dear. I was happy to introduce Mr. Morris on the Senate Floor and am truly grateful for his visit.
Bath County pastor and good friend of mine, Brother Lowell Rice, was with me on Monday as he provided a heartfelt prayer to open the Senate. I appreciate his friendship.
Each visitor had the opportunity to watch numerous bills pass the Senate.
There was no shortage of bills that moved through the Senate last week. I was particularly proud to vote "yes" for Senate Bills (SB) 182, SB 161, SB 158, and SB 149. SB 182 is a bill that adds protections for children by prohibiting people from intentionally putting out their personal information with the intent to cause them harm— known as "doxing". Violations would include communications such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. You likely recall the Covington Catholic High School story that was reported by major newspapers and even national news networks. The coverage caused outrage against Covington Catholic students who had gone to Washington, D.C., for a pro-life rally. Due to those reports, Covington Catholic students were targeted. Their names, addresses, and other personal information were spread across the internet and they received harassment and even death threats. The school had to close for a few days. This bill would provide statutory means to prosecute those who would try to harm innocent minors in this manner. I will always fight to protect our children.
In further efforts to do that, I was proud to vote yes on SB 161. In recent news, several men were arrested in Louisville on human trafficking charges. SB 161 increases the capabilities for law enforcement to capture those who, through electronic communication systems, seek to contact a minor to arrange for the sexual or other abuse of the minor. If passed, the law would strengthen the ability to prosecute these violators even if they are communicating with officers or informants who are undercover through electronic communications. Under current law, the argument is being made by violators that since they were not actually in communication with a child, that there was no real crime. This bill fixes that, and also increases the violations for each day the communication occurs, if the violator is a registered sex offender, or if they traveled from out-of-state to Kentucky with intent to harm a child.
Senate Bill 158 will better the state's efforts to improve education results. The bill would provide credit to schools that make improvements and provide clearer school evaluations. It also modifies graduation requirements and offers incentives for closing achievement gaps. SB 158 seeks to improve results for all of our Kentucky students as it assists the Kentucky Board of Education in developing strategies to achieve goals.
Finally, SB 149 is a measure that tries to ease the ongoing staff shortages at veterans’ centers by allowing the hiring of nurse aids through personal service contracts. Our veterans deserve quality care, and as Chairman of the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection (VMAPP) Committee, they are always a top priority for me. On that note, in last week’s VMAPP meeting, the committee overwhelmingly passed House Bill (HB) 204, which would provide additional measures to keep sex offenders away from our children. It would extend the law that says registered sex offenders cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school or public park to include any location that gets leased to become a park.
Additional Senate Bills that passed this week include SB 37, which is yet another step toward increasing Kentucky's appeal to our military personnel and veterans. It would free businesses that are majority managed by veterans from paying some fees to the Secretary of State's Office. SB 115 would provide additional educational opportunities for adopted children or those in foster care by extending scholarships to graduate programs and expanding the eligibility time period to ten consecutive or non-consecutive semesters up to age 28. SB 150 addresses surprise out-of-network bills that patients sometimes receive by ensuring patients are not billed for those costs. These bills, including some House Bills and Resolutions passed and now go to the Governor for consideration. Again; you can read these bills and others in their entirety at the https://legislature.ky.gov website.
In closing, I want to congratulate Laurel County educators on being recognized by the London-Laurel Chamber of Commerce. First, Mr. Dustin Estridge of North Laurel High School on his achievement in being named High School Teacher of the Year. Last year, Mr. Estridge led his outstanding team of students in the high school’s FFA program to victory in the National Environmental and Natural Resource competition. I want to also congratulate Mr. Tim Thompson of South Laurel Middle School on being named the Middle School teacher of the year, and Ms. Kailyn Smith of East Bernstadt Elementary School on being named the Elementary School Teacher of the Year. The students of Laurel County are blessed to be in the good hands of quality educators like them. We appreciate them and all members of the school district for their daily sacrifices for our students.
I appreciate your input on all matters and urge you to continue making your voices heard in Frankfort. It is a true honor to serve as your State Senator. If you have any questions or comments, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Albert.Robinson@LRC.ky.gov. Have a blessed week.
Senator Albert Robinson (R-London) represents the 21st District comprised of Laurel, Jackson, Estill, Powell, Menifee and Bath Counties. Senator Robinson serves as the chairman of the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. He is also a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee; the State and Local Government Committee; the Transportation Committee, and the Mileage Based Transportation Funding Task Force.