Legislative update: Senate approves bills as session continues its fifth week

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Friday, March 3, 2023 — During the General Assembly’s fifth week of the 30-day legislative session, March came in like a lion, with over 30 bills clearing the Senate chamber. However, the legislative forecast is not calling for March to go out like a lamb, as plenty of work remains in Frankfort before the final day of session on March 30.


The following bills gained the Senate’s approval and can now be considered by the state House of Representatives:

I want to begin with a few bills I introduced, which were Senate Bills 90, 92 and 128:

Senate Bill 90 improves safety and care for addiction patients by giving them access to transportation services at chemical dependency treatment service centers. The bill’s provisions require any licensed addiction program to provide transportation or access to transportation services to residents who want to voluntarily leave the treatment program in cases where the resident’s family, guardian, or emergency contact does not agree to transport them. It also prohibits facilities and law enforcement officers from taking the resident to any location other than public transportation locations, places to meet the ride-sharing service driver like Uber or Lyft, or the resident’s home. Before admitting a resident to a treatment center, a facility must determine if the resident has any outstanding arrest warrants.

Senate Bill 92 establishes protections for business owners by outlining questions and acceptable policies concerning assistance animals and emotional support animals. It requires an assistance dog to be licensed, vaccinated, and have tags; prevented from disrupting or fundamentally obstructing an establishment’s services or goods; and be leashed—unless a person’s disability requires otherwise. Senate Bill 92 would help people distinguish between a service animal, which is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and emotional support animals that under law are not required to be admitted to especially food service establishments.

We all love our pets, and I say that as someone with a beloved grand-dog. Those who rely on a service animal know more than anyone how important our furry friends are. I am hopeful this bill will crack down on those who try to take advantage of the real needs those with service dogs have and will give our business owners the ability to accommodate customers’ needs while still providing their goods and services.

Senate Bill 128 resulted from my effort as co-chair of the Public Pension Oversight Board. Representatives from the state’s various retirement systems visit the board monthly to update us on actuaries and the implementation of previously enacted legislation. The board serves as a good way to consider measures that will help continue to stabilize our state employee and teacher pension systems. One thing the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System has not been able to provide the board is the cost associated with the application of teacher sick days toward their retirement benefit. We must continue giving these systems enough funding and chip away at the unfunded liability.

Since 2017, when majority control of the state House of Representatives flipped for the first time in nearly a century, Kentucky’s House and Senate majority lawmakers prioritized stabilizing state pensions. Senate Bill 128 is a necessary next step. It will ensure that total teacher benefits costs are accurately factored into the annual analysis by requiring school district to report the sick leave balance annually for each employee. This will allow the board to know what the liability is to the state.

Other Senate Bills passed in week five were:

Senate Bill 4 strengthens electric grid reliability in the commonwealth and ensures Kentucky residents are not faced with the dangerous and often deadly consequences of power outages. If enacted, it would prohibit the Kentucky Public Service Commission (PSC) from retiring an electric coal-fired generator unless the utility can demonstrate that taking the fossil fueled Electric generator offline will:

· Not harm the reliability or the resilience of the electric grid; and
· Not negatively impact the affordability of customers’ electricity utility rates; and ensure safety.

The bill will require PSC to submit an annual report by December 1 to the Legislative Research Commission on retiring electric generating units. Since the measure carries an emergency designation, it would go into effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office.

Senate Bill 29 establishes eligibility criteria for Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) and limits the number of MCOs contracted by the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services to no more than three.

Senate Bill 30 is a consumer protection measure providing more information on and easing the process of canceling automatic renewals of service or product subscriptions. The bill would require businesses to be more transparent in subscription details and provide consumers with a simplified means of canceling them.

Senate Bill 33 establishes the Kentucky Cybersecurity Center (KentuckyCYBER) at the University of Louisville. This will have a lot of economic benefits like workforce training and helping businesses and state and local governments with cybersecurity solutions.

Senate Bill 37 modernizes the expertise available to the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy by establishing a broad range of knowledge in pharmacy practice within the board’s advisory council. It also specifies the advisory council’s membership and responsibilities to the Board of Pharmacy.

Senate Bill 110 strengthens the safety and practice of nursing in Kentucky by making various updates to laws relating to the Kentucky Board of Nursing (KBN) and nursing practice. The bill would allow KBN to take licensure action against a nurse listed on the adult caregiver misconduct registry or has a substantiated finding or judicial finding of abuse or neglect of a child. It would also allow a licensed nurse from a state, not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, to practice on a non-routine basis in Kentucky. Additionally, the number of nurse educators on KBN would be at least three and at most six.

Senate Bill 229 would strengthen communication between agencies regarding suspected child abuse cases. It requires an agency that is the reporting source also to notify local law enforcement, the Kentucky State Police, the commonwealth’s attorney, or the county attorney when receiving suspected abuse or neglect of a child within their agency. Supervisors must cooperate with investigations of reports. The bill would also allow the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to determine whether an announced or unannounced visit is necessary after receiving an allegation of child abuse or neglect. Finally, it establishes a class A misdemeanor for anyone who knowingly causes intimidation, retaliation, or obstruction of an investigation of child abuse and neglect.

The Senate also approved Senate Joint Resolution 79 this week to establish a nuclear energy development working group, set membership, and task the working group to create a long term nuclear energy commission. The resolution sets expectations and membership, and I think it could help make Kentucky a leader in nuclear’s potential economic and energy benefits. I understand there have been some exciting scientific developments recently, so I look forward to seeing what the working group and, ultimately, the commission could do.

It was great to have the Stephen Foster Singers in Frankfort last Tuesday. They performed a rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home.” The Stephen Foster Story is Kentucky’s official outdoor musical, and I love promoting it each year. I encourage you to go and experience The Stephen Foster Story, The Songs of Stephen Foster, and more in Bardstown.

The Stephen Foster Story begins June 17 and plays at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through August 12. The Songs of Stephen Foster will be performed from June 24 to August 5 on Saturdays at 2 p.m. indoors at Nelson County High School. Lastly, the Budweiser Live at the Park Concert Series has been a popular summer attraction for over two decades. Visit the website stephenfoster.com to get your tickets. You can call 502-348-5971 or email info@stephenfoster.com if you have any questions.

In closing, I have had several meetings about the proposed House Bill 5, which seeks to phase out the bourbon barrel tax so many in my district rely on. I remain in opposition to the bill in its current form and I appreciate my House colleague Candy Massaroni standing with me in opposition. She’s doing a great job for Nelson County in the state House. Her, myself, Rep. Sarge Pollock, Rep. Kim King and others are united on this issue and I will continue working toward a better solution for us.

If you have any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues, please call my office toll-free at 502-564-8100 or the legislative message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can reach me at 270-692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov.


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