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McCoy: House reviews legislation as conference committees begin work

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State Representative

Friday, March 5, 2021 — As I work on this week’s column, only six days stood between the legislature and the end of this year’s session. While a handful of bills sponsored by House members are still up for a vote, we have moved on to considering Senate bills. Under the current legislative calendar, the House will break for three days to allow conference committees to work on several bills, including our state budget. We will reconvene on Thursday and Friday to consider the final product of their work and any other issue that requires attention. In this week’s column I want to share just a few of the bills passed out of the House this week that I believe will help make Kentucky an even better place to live.

REP. CHAD MCCOY

As you know, so many of our fellow Kentuckians are hurting as they try to provide for their families during this pandemic. Many have been met with silence and that is why one of our top legislative priorities this year has been to address the deficiencies in the state’s unemployment crisis. HB 367 increases access to unemployment insurance benefits by mandating public employment offices be open and operational in specified locations across the state anytime the unemployment rate in a local workforce area increases to above five percent.

This bill also would require a biannual review of area unemployment rates and make technical changes to ensure that the resources invested are still being used wisely. We also passed legislation that establishes criteria and procedures in which the repayment of an unemployment overpayment can be waived when a recipient is overpaid or receives unemployment benefits for which they did not qualify. HB 468 would require the secretary of the Labor Cabinet to waive unemployment insurance overpayment debts if the overpayment is due to an employer or agency error and not the result of fraud or misconduct by the recipient.

Supporting students continues to be one of my top priorities. I was proud to support three different bills this week that help our schools help our children. HB 90 would add the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to the list of qualifying exams a student can take to indicate they are college and career ready. If the bill is enacted into law, high school students who earn a benchmark score on the ASVAB test would achieve postsecondary readiness.

HB 184 relates to the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships (KEES). It would allow a student who attends an out of state high school or Department of Defense school due to a parent’s military transfer to earn a KEES award if the student earned a base amount in a previous year at a Kentucky high school.

We also approved HB 384, which would permit the administrator of a school that participates in the Federal School Breakfast Program to authorize up to 15 minutes of the school day to provide the opportunity for children to eat breakfast during instructional time and would allow an educator to give a child extra time at another time in the day to eat a meal if needed.

Another aspect of the General Assembly’s goal of making Kentucky a place businesses and families want to be is our goal of building a strong economy now and into the future. Sometimes, that means thinking outside of the box when it comes to attracting jobs and increasing investment.

HB 230 would allow cryptocurrency businesses to qualify for exemptions – specifically the sales and use tax levied on electricity – that other industries are eligible to receive. It positions Kentucky as an attractive location for future economic investment by companies engaged in the mining of cryptocurrency. Another bill we passed would provide incentives to deliver broadband service to households and businesses in hard to reach areas referred to as the “last mile.” The measure, HB 320, would allow electric cooperatives regulated by the Public Service Commission to qualify for the financial assistance available through the Broadband Development Fund. The measure also contains language that more than doubles the amount of money available to the Fund.

While we talk a lot about jobs, what we really mean is better opportunities for Kentuckians. Jobs go hand in hand with education, good health, and a better quality of life. HJR 57 creates a working group that would study bridge insurance for people in poverty. Bridge insurance would create a continuity of benefits and move low income individuals into independence. No one should ever have to choose between taking a job and losing health insurance benefits. The number of Kentuckians on Medicaid – the taxpayer-funded program that helps with healthcare costs for some people with limited income and resources – has skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and 1.5 million Kentuckians currently depend on the program. Our state must be prepared to help these individuals transition to independence and gainful employment.

We are also focused on eliminating unnecessary burdens to expanding access to health care. Among the bills we passed this week is HB 48, which would allow pharmacists to receive reimbursement for additional services and procedures they provide. Pharmacists collaborate with healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurse practitioners and are often the health care provider Kentuckians see most frequently.

Pro-life legislation continues to receive attention and this week I was proud to vote for legislation aimed at saving newborn lives by providing a safe surrender option. HB 155 would define and allow the use of a “newborn safety device” related to the anonymous surrendering of a newborn infant in the Commonwealth at a participating staffed police station, fire station, or hospital. Pro-life means supporting parents and children before and after birth. This bill provides parents who may be at the end of their rope a safe option to save the life of their child. We see it working in other states, and I believe Kentucky has a real opportunity if we can get HB 155 to the Governor’s desk this session.

Another bill that protects innocent life is HB 254. This measure, if enacted into law, would raise the penalty for possessing, viewing or distributing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor under the age of 12 years to a class C felony. Offenders will be charged with a class C felony for the first offense, and a class B felony for each subsequent offense. Our law enforcement community works tirelessly to identify, arrest, and prosecute those who take advantage of our most vulnerable. HB 254 gives them greater tools in their work to keep these severely troubled people off the streets.

Again, these are just a few of the measures passed this week in the House that I believe will help continue to make Kentucky a place where people want to work and live and raise their families. I hope to update you on more next week and provide an end of session review in the coming days.

In the meantime, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov or you can email me directly at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ly.gov.

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