FRANKFORT – With this year’s legislative session passing the halfway point last week, the pace of legislation moving between the House and Senate is set to pick up significantly in the days ahead.
Several bills have already cleared the General Assembly or are expected to soon.
That includes a bill the House finalized on Thursday to help students with diabetes or who suffer from seizures. Current law prohibits them from receiving medicine in school from anyone other than family or a licensed health professional, meaning parents often have to visit school when a nurse is not available. Now, those with diabetes will be able to self-administer insulin, and schools will be able to train staff to help them as well as those who have seizures.
Another major initiative – creating an adult-abuse registry to help ensure abusers never have the chance again to harm someone else in their care – cleared a major hurdle that day as well, when House and Senate leaders pledged their support during a press conference with Governor Beshear.
This has been a long-time priority in the House, and the Senate passed a version shortly after the press conference. It appears that a compromise will soon be reached, and that would enable care providers to know if a current or potentially new employee has had a substantiated case of elder abuse or neglect in his or her past. It is worth noting that money to create this registry was budgeted in 2012, meaning it can be operational quickly.
In addition to these health-related measures, the House approved another one last week that could have a major impact in reducing the number of people dying from cardiac arrest.
House Bill 205 would call on all high schools to include basic CPR as part of their health curriculum. Many schools are already doing this, but we want to make sure that all students have training that saves lives.
This is a major initiative of the American Heart Association, which reports that cardiac arrest strikes nearly 360,000 people a year outside of a hospital setting. Unfortunately, about 90 percent do not survive, and the lack of proper care like CPR is a main reason why. The American Heart Association estimates that, if all 50 states implement this requirement in their high schools, the country would have a million newly trained people every few years.
Another bill the House voted for last week is also designed to help others. House Bill 64, which has been through the chamber before, would give many who have been convicted of a Class D felony – the lowest of the four felony classes – a chance to have their record expunged five years after the completion of their sentence.
Many of these Kentuckians are having a difficult time finding work because of their felony record, which may have occurred years if not decades earlier. The expungement process is already allowed for misdemeanors, and there would be safeguards. For example, this would not apply if the person has a prior felony record, or if the crime involved abuse. Prosecutors and any victims would have a chance to be heard as well.
Two other bills clearing the House last week are targeted at those looking ahead to starting their education and those wondering what career to pursue as they near the end of their time in the classroom. Under the first, the state would establish a “Books for Brains” program that would build on various local efforts that are providing age-appropriate books to young children to foster a love of reading.
The other bill, meanwhile, would have state and postsecondary officials work together to post the employment rates and earnings by college degree at our public universities. This could prove to be a handy guide, especially for non-traditional students returning to the classroom.
With March just a few days away, the end of this year’s legislative session is starting to come into focus. The House is expected to finalize its budget proposal in the next week or so and, as always during even-numbered years, will be ready to work with the Senate on a comprise in the session’s last few days.
On a personal note, I was honored to host several county officials from Harrison, Pendleton, Robertson and Scott counties on Thursday last week as part of County Officials Day. Hundreds of local officials from throughout the state attended.
I will keep you updated on how the legislative session progresses during these final days. Please don’t hesitate to let me know your concerns. There is still plenty of time to contact me. My address is Room 332E, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or email me at Tom.McKee@lrc.ky.gov.