Legislative update: General Assembly winding down the 2023 session

14th District State Senator

Friday, March 10, 2023 — The 2023 Legislative Session is in the home stretch, with only six more days before we enter the veto period. Next week we will be in session Monday through Thursday, with two days for the House and Senate chambers to find agreement on any qualifying legislation. Friday, March 17, will begin the 10-day veto period until Tuesday, March 29, for the Governor to consider all legislation lawmakers have sent to his desk.


I was happy to be joined in Frankfort this week by my grandson, Dawson Nagle, who served as my Senate page on Thursday. I am very proud of him and all he has accomplished. Blakyn James of Larue County assisted me on Friday as a Senate page. Earlier in the week, I had the pleasure of having Amelia Mattingly from West Marion Elementary in Loretto, and Preston Hutchins from New Haven and Thomas Nelson High School, who participated in the FRYSC’s Legislative Page Program. I appreciate all these young people’s interest in their state government. Their future is bright. Please remember to contact my office if you know a student between the ages of 12-18.

The session’s week six began to include the House and Senate chambers considering the other’s bills through legislative committees, giving several final passages and sending them to the Governor’s desk.

Bills sent to the Governor for consideration in week six included measures addressing:

· Teacher workforce shortages (Senate Bill 49) and providing professional development opportunities to educators (Senate Bill 70).

· Unemployment insurance (House Bill 146).

· Educational opportunities and workforce challenges (Senate Bill 54).

· Strengthening Kentucky’s rich spirits industry and helping small farm wineries (Senate Bill 28).

I’m happy to say Senate Joint Resolution 101, which I sponsor, was passed out of the Senate. As you know, I often try to keep everyone updated on issues related to the state’s transition in moving driver licensing and driver testing services to a regional model. Senate Joint Resolution 101 directs the Kentucky State Police to establish a pilot program of remote testing for instruction permits in counties that do not have a regional driver licensing office. Minimum requirements would have to be met with the pilot program, such as requiring regular testing intervals, coordination with local libraries and high schools to have a host location for testing, exploration of technological innovations that could allow someone to oversee remote testing and verify exam results, and coordinating testing schedules with pop-up remote drivers licensing services. I was a big proponent of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet offering pop-up and mobile licensing services, and I think a program for getting permits would work well hand in hand. I hope to see this make services more easily accessible to our residents.

Other bills and resolutions approved by the Senate in week six and now with the state House of Representatives for consideration include:

Senate Bill 115 is a simple bill consisting of barely over one page. It would protect children from exposure to sexually explicit performances in the public square. It defines “adult performance” as a sexually explicit performance.

Senate Bill 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board to improve the certification of substitute teachers. The measure will serve to help with workforce challenges within school systems. The bill creates three certification categories for substitute teacher applicants after state-required preliminary screenings and background checks.

Senate Bill 156 is follow-up legislation to the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2022 Read to Succeed Act. It establishes a statewide reading research center as a clearinghouse of research and evidence-based, high-yield instructional practices and coaching strategies. The bill requires the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) to issue a Request for Proposal for a reading research center administrator and reissue it every five years. An RFP announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete a job or perform a task. KDE and the reading research center must set annual goals and performance objectives and create a yearly report. Additionally. KDE must make data-driven program and funding recommendations to the legislature, Governor and Interim Joint Committee on Education by October 1 each year. Kentucky school districts would be required to adopt an evidence- and research-based reading program but it would not have to be any particular one.

Senate Bill 202 is a measure to address the increasing challenges related to student behavior our teachers and school administrators are dealing with regularly. The bill provides local school boards more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs if the student is considered a safety threat or is likely to cause a substantial disruption by allowing an expulsion to expand beyond one year. Students are to be placed—with review by the superintendent and due process for the parent—in an alternative education setting that may include, but is not limited to, a virtual program or academy and may include a performance-based program.

Senate Bill 148 would establish the Government Teleworking Task Force. It is important that your state government is functioning effectively and is responsive to your needs. We have an incredible increase in state employees working from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; some still have not returned to an office setting. The task force would be challenged to investigate and make recommendations regarding the following:

· How the on-site presence of state employees can be reduced and cost savings realized now that many workers have transitioned to different teleworking models;

· How much in-person work hours have decreased since the pandemic and whether and to what extent has public service suffered due to the decrease; and

· What in-person staffing levels are necessary for the state government to maintain a high level of in-person customer service for residents.

Task force membership would consist of four state House of Representatives members and four Senate members, which the House Speaker and Senate President will appoint. The Government Teleworking Task Force would meet at least monthly during the 2023 Interim.

Senate Bill 282 adds hit-and-run accidents to the definition of criminally injurious conduct. It increases the award caps for awards to crime victims from the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which has not been increased since the 1970s and 1980s. The bill would increase the lost wages for financial support caps from $150 a week to $300 a week so victims of crime will receive the financial support needed to recover from their injuries and losses. It would increase the funeral and burial expense cap from $5,000 to $7,500, providing more significant financial support to families who have lost a loved one to a crime. Additionally, Senate Bill 282 would increase the overall cap award for medical and mental health counseling expenses from $25,000 to $30,000, recognizing the high cost of medical treatment and counseling services for victims of crime.

Senate Joint Resolution 98 looks to ensure our postsecondary education institutions are keeping up with the needs of students. It would require the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) to study public universities and community and technical colleges and require the CPE president to report findings to the Legislative Research Commission and at least to the Interim Joint Committees (IJC) on Economic Development and Workforce Investment and the IJC on Education by December 1, 2023.

Additional Senate Bills passed included: 7, 96, 101, 108, 145, 190, 192, 199, 203, 226, 252, 263, 241, 277 and 281, and Senate Joint Resolution 54.

House Bills given final passage and sent to the Governor included: 13, 130, and 188.

I’m keeping an eye on some of my measures now with the House, including a biowaste bill that would benefit our local communities. Senate Bill 90, the bill helping those suffering from addiction get access to transportation services, and Senate Bill 92 about assistance animals, which I outlined last week, have not been assigned to a House committee as of the drafting of this legislative update.

Find each of these bills in full at legislature.ky.gov. Watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.

In closing, I’m continuing to engage in conversations about the bourbon barrel tax. I’ve spoken with superintendents and other leaders in the 14th Senate District and assure you we are all on the same page.

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 1-800-372-7181. You can reach me at 270-692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov.


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