Through icy road conditions and frigid temperatures, the Kentucky General Assembly completed another 3-days of legislative business in Frankfort. I hope you have remained safe during the winter weather that’s rolled into the Bluegrass recently. Join me in taking a moment to thank the fantastic folks who have braved it to keep our lights on and our roads clear.
Budget discussions remain ongoing and key legislation to address challenges facing our state is continuing to advance through the legislative process here in Frankfort. Several priority measures have already passed this session, including Senate Bills (SB) 1 and 2 and House Bills (HB) 1, 2, 3, and 5.
Another priority bill came one step closer to join that list this week after it cleared a Senate committee with approval.
Senate Bill 5 aims to reassure many sectors of our society as they continue to navigate in the era of COVID-19. It would provide liability protection for everyone who owns, leases, or controls premises that the public enters to obtain goods or services or to conduct activities. If passed, public and private schools, churches, entertainment/sports venues, government agencies, homeowners, and more would be provided liability protection. SB 5, however, would not protect any business or other organization that acts grossly, negligently, or with malice regarding safety requirements.
The bill outlines services that may prove essential during a given state of emergency. We have all gained a greater appreciation for the various sectors in our society that are essential, even if only to an individual reliant on them. Parents have struggled to balance the need for childcare and work to provide for their families. Students have felt the negative impacts of virtual learning compared to their full in-person learning experience at school. Business owners and employees have experienced the stresses of meeting safety guidelines while still earning enough to keep doors open and bills paid. Under SB 5, those individuals and businesses providing services would be protected from liability during a formal state of emergency and for a year after the emergency is declared.
Additional legislation receiving passage in the Senate included:
Senate Bill 12 preserves the nonprofit nature of eye tissue donation by prohibiting for-profit entities from procuring any eye, cornea, eye tissue, or corneal tissue. It ensures that a person may not, for valuable consideration, knowingly purchase, sell, transfer, or offer to buy, sell, or transfer any human organ for transplantation or therapy.
Senate Bill 16 updates the Colon Cancer Screening Program with its fund and advisory committee to include “and Prevention” in the title. It requires funds from the sale of special cancer prevention license plates to be directed to the program fund and used solely for colon cancer screening and prevention. The bill also updates the membership of the program’s advisory committee. It requires the Department for Medicaid Services to present statistics on cancer services related to colorectal cancer annually and upon request.
Kentucky has done an excellent job in recent years on the cancer screening and prevention front. We were once ranked 49th in this area and have reached a ranking as high as 17th. We currently rank about 22nd. More work is left to do in our ongoing fight against cancer, but I am pleased that we are re-strategizing our efforts through improved legislation such as this.
Senate Bill 29 provides Kentucky’s Attorney General, Commonwealth Attorneys, and County Attorneys security against financial liability resulting from their sworn duties’ performance to prosecute state law. Losses would be compensated by funds appropriated to the Finance & Administration Cabinet.
Senate Bill 36 removes the automatic transfer of a child from a district court to a circuit court to be tried as an adult in cases involving the use of firearms. The bill brings juvenile cases involving a gun in alignment with the standards applied to any other juvenile case. It would require the district court to consider whether or not the child has a severe intellectual disability, as well.
Senate Bill 73 extends the timeline for action for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in cases before them. Currently, the commission is struggling with caseloads that staffing levels are not fully able to manage.
Senate Bill 74 renames the current Office on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to the Office of Dementia Services. The bill serves to elevate dementia-related services within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS). Additionally, it updates the membership and duties of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Advisory Council. SB 74 establishes a Dementia Coordinator position that will help refresh the state health plan every four years to improve diagnosis and treatment of dementia and help apply for federal grants that can be used to treat dementia.
Senate Bill 80 strengthens oversight of peace officers who conduct themselves in a criminal or unprofessional way by easing a council’s ability to revoke certification. The bill also puts in place hiring procedures that will help ensure an officer avoids consequences by leaving one agency to work for another.
Senate Bill 84 provides women in state correctional facilities who are pregnant with an understanding of the community-based resources available to them by connecting them with social workers to help in a child’s placement. This bill ends placing pregnant inmates, or those within six weeks of delivery of the child, in solitary confinement. I consider this a pro-life measure. We must keep the best interest of an innocent child in mind.
Tuesday evening, the KY Senate took up the subject of Historical Horse Racing (Senate Bill 120). This was the first time since the lottery was approved that the Legislature has officially taken a vote to expand gambling in Kentucky, even though the racetracks have been offering historical horse racing for over 10 years under the mistaken approval of the Racing Commission.
SB 120 passed 23-15. I voted “no” on the bill because I think it is bad public policy for the government to give a select few organizations an exclusive license to operate a lucrative business, which no other business has the right to compete in that business. Additionally, this business brings with it social costs that become an obstacle to some of our state’s citizens succeeding in life.
This issue was framed by the proponents as “for or against” horse racing issue. I saw it as a public policy issue and so did 50% of the Senate Republican Caucus. I support the horse racing industry and am thankful for the jobs and agricultural opportunities that it creates. I will continue, as I have for the last 4 years, to support the industry’s ability to operate via classic pari-mutuel betting.
I understand that there are some who normally agree with me that may disagree with me on this vote. I am confident that we can agree on future issues that lay ahead for our state and community.
I look forward to keeping you updated through the remainder of the session. God Bless!
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Robby.Mills@LRC.ky.gov.
Note: Senator Robby Mills (R-Henderson) represents the 4st District, which includes Caldwell, Crittenden, Henderson, Livingston, Union, and Webster Counties. Senator Mills serves as the chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on State & Local Government. He also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection and Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor. Additionally, Senator Mills serves as a member on the Budget Review Subcommittee on General Government, Finance, & Public Protection and the Public Pension Oversight Board.