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Legislative update: Governor Beshear signs, vetoes bills from General Assembly

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State Representative

REP. CHAD MCCOY

Monday, March 29, 2021 — As we return to Frankfort to complete the final two days of this year’s regular session, we already know our agenda will be full. The Governor used the ten day veto period to issue 27 vetoes, bringing the total vetoes for this session to 34. Even though I am disappointed by his decision and question his motivation, it is his prerogative. As a co-equal branch of government, the General Assembly has the authority to override his vetoes with a simple majority vote. The override has been used hundreds of times in our state’s history and exists to protect the legislature’s role as the lawmaking body.

Among the bills and resolutions vetoed is legislation that clarifies the Fish and Wildlife Commission has the authority to hire and set contract details for the state Fish and Wildlife Commissioner (HB 394), modernizes how new hires are treated in order to address a funding crisis within the Teacher’s Retirement System (HB 258), gives the Kentucky Treasurer more oversight into state contracts (SB 165), updates the Kentucky State Fair Board to include appointees made by the Commissioner of Agriculture (HB 518), and creates a historic shift in our state’s approach to education by providing parents more options to meet their children’s educational needs (HB 563).

While I am disappointed by the Governor’s vetoes, I want to stress that vetoes happen. They are part of the legislative process. To provide perspective, consider that Governor Matt Bevin issued 46 vetoes during his four-years in office, Governor Steve Beshear 26 during his eight-year term, and Governor Ernie Fletcher 61 in four years. While the lack of agreement is frustrating, the Governor has signed more than 120 bills and resolutions into law. I will provide more information about all of these bills in the weeks and months to come, but thought I might share a brief review of a handful this week.

HB 7: Among the first bills to be signed into law, HB 7 takes direct aim at the addiction problem that plagues our state and its people. HB 7 would bring much needed consistency and collaboration to local substance use prevention, treatment and recovery efforts by creating the concept of certified Recovery Ready Communities. This idea is similar to the Work Ready Community Program and will be overseen by an advisory council tasked with developing standards for communities to organize existing resources and seek additional help with substance use.

HB 8: HB 8 protects the long-term health of the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) that covers more than 123,000 individuals. Until HB 8, the amount employers contributed was based on how many people they employed rather than their actual share of the liability. After working with stakeholders and studying this issue at length, it became obvious that some of the agencies and programs that participate in the KERS pay twice as much as what they actually owe, while others do not pay enough. This will ensure that employers pay their fair share of retirement costs and incentivizes agencies not to decrease their payroll in order to get out of pension liability.

HB 44: Firefighters experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and post-traumatic stress injury (PTSI) will have much needed access to licensed mental health professionals under the provisions of HB 44. This care is already available to law enforcement officers but will make a tremendous difference in the recuperation and healing of our firefighters.

HB 95: Kentuckians struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of insulin will get some relief under the terms of HB 95. This bill caps at $30 the copay on a 30-day supply of insulin under state-regulated insurance plans

HB 105: This important measure serves as a powerful tool in law enforcement’s efforts to locate missing persons. The legislation provides local law enforcement access to the electronic highway signs, the amber alert system, and other law enforcement communications systems to notify the public about a missing person. This is a simple, common sense change that could save lives across our state by engaging more people in the search.

HB 273: Otherwise known as the Bailey Holt-Preston Cope Privacy Act, HB 273 seeks to protect victims of violent crime from being victimized again by unnecessarily exposing photographs and videos of a death, killing, rape, or assault used in court proceedings. Named in honor of two 15-year-old victims of the tragic shooting at Marshall County High School in 2018, HB 273 protects the privacy of the family members and victims of both the Marshall County tragedy and similar.

HB 254: This public protection measure raises the penalty for possessing, viewing or wantonly distributing matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor under the age of 12 years to a class C felony. These materials normalize sick, inhumane acts, further victimize young children and cause irreparable harm, and we should do everything we can to protect the kids of our community.

HB 472: Victims of childhood sexual assault and other sexual offenses will have greater ability to hold those responsible for the crime accountable after HB 472 was signed into law. The measure extends the statute of limitations for misdemeanor sex offenses in criminal and civil cases, allowing more time for victims to report the crime. As you can imagine, children do not often come forward when they have been assaulted as predators use fear to silence them. Many times, they are not able to recognize the abuse they endured as a child until well into adulthood. This bill takes a compassionate approach to help childhood sexual assault survivors receive justice.

SB 64: Another important bill that would punish sexual predators was also signed into law, SB 64 would toughen the punishment for those who use the internet to prey on children. Unfortunately, there has been an increase in people who arrange for sexual encounters with children. Many times, predators will use social media or the internet to solicit sexual encounters with kids for other people. The new law also mandates longer sentences for those intermediaries who use the internet to peddle children under age 12.

SB 128: Kindergarten through 12th grade students will have a chance at a do-over school year through this bill. Students would have the option to retake or supplement courses or grades already completed. The need for this legislation became apparent because of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many students in all grades suffered academically and may need an extra year to be fully ready for the next grade or step in their educational career. Sole authority to establish this do-over program rests with local school districts, which must either accept all student requests or none.

As always, I hope you will feel free to contact me with any questions or issues. I can be reached here at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Please feel free to email me at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information about any legislation passed in these last few remaining days of the 2021 Legislative Session, please visit the legislature’s website legislature.ky.gov.

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