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State representatives working on an internet security bill

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By Tom McKee

One of the biggest challenges in today’s connected world is making sure that our personal information remains safe.

It is becoming an increasingly difficult task, as we have seen in recent credit-card breaches at companies like Target.

The Kentucky House of Representatives is working with the state auditor’s office to make sure that this kind of problem – whether criminal or accidental – is less likely to happen among our state and local government agencies.

House Bill 5, which passed the House unanimously on Thursday, would do that by calling on the Commonwealth Office of Technology and the Department for Local Government to provide more training and guidance, while agencies would be given incentives to take additional cyber security measures.

If personal information is improperly released, however, the bill makes sure that those affected are aware of what has occurred.  This would have to include notifying national consumer credit reporting agencies if the breach is large enough.

Kentucky is one of just four states that does not require this type of warning by our governments.  That’s something that needs to change, hopefully with this legislation.

In other action last week, the Kentucky House spent much of its time voting on bills designed to help our schools in various ways.

House Bill 154, for example, would make our school district finances more transparent while streamlining the training requirements for school board members and superintendents.

If this becomes law, school districts would have to post financial information online each month and have their annual financial statements reviewed by the Kentucky Department of Education.  The department would also set guidelines for new school district finance officers to meet before being employed.

As for the annual in-service training, this bill would make sure that the subjects covered include ethics and school finances.

Student health was the focus of another bill to make it through the House early last week.  In this case, trained school personnel would be allowed to administer insulin to students with diabetes.  Currently, only health professionals can perform this function, meaning that parents often have to travel to school when nurses are not available.

Although not tied to legislation, the General Assembly did take time last week to recognize several important groups who came to the Capitol.  Tuesday was Arts Day in Kentucky, giving legislators an opportunity to hear from a variety of artists.  On Wednesday, we welcomed the United 874K Coalition, which for more than a decade now has rallied in support of improved services for the 874,000 Kentuckians who have a disability.

On Thursday, representatives of many of our non-profit organizations came by.  Collectively, they are one of Kentucky’s largest industries, employing one in nine workers.  I was proud to be honored with a plaque from the Kentucky Nonprofit Network for sponsoring House Bill 141 last year.  This legislation, which was included in another law, provides tax credits for farmers who give their excess produce to food banks.

Outside of Kentucky, but very important to our farmers, it appears that Congress is on the verge of adopting a five-year Farm Bill after about two years of debate.

If this becomes law, it would strengthen crop insurance and repeal or consolidate nearly 100 programs overseen by the USDA. 

Once this legislation is law, the House Agriculture and Small Business Committee I chair will take a closer look at what effect it will have on Kentucky farmers.  That includes a provision moving us a step closer to becoming one of the first states allowed to grow industrial hemp, an action made possible in part by the law the General Assembly approved last year.

For now, I encourage you to continue letting me know your thoughts or concerns about any issue affecting the state.  You can write to me at Room 332B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or by emailing me at Tom.McKee@lrc.ky.gov.

You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.

 I hope to hear from you soon.