The passage of bills that would help children with disabilities, preserve rights of victims in criminal cases, and fight for the rights of the unborn highlighted another busy week in the Senate. As March 3 marked day 40 of our 60-day legislative session in Frankfort, we are still anxiously awaiting a budget bill from our colleagues in the House.
I wrote to you in a previous legislative update about the unanimous committee passage of one of my sponsored pieces of legislation Senate Bill 106, well-known as the “Charlie Brown Bill”. I am proud to report this bill unanimously passed the Senate chamber last week. This legislation ensures protection of freedom of religion in artistic and dramatic productions.
Another Senate bill I am the primary sponsor of is SB 225, which passed the Health and Welfare Committee last week. This legislative strives to prevent homelessness, a growing and heartbreaking problem in our region and Commonwealth.
The latest piece of pro-life legislation to pass the Senate was SB 152, which would require a woman to get an ultrasound prior to obtaining an abortion. Senator Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, who sponsored the bill, testified about his friend who was not allowed to see her unborn child during the ultrasound before her abortion. “She regrets to this day not being able to see it—knowing now, feeling certain, that had she been able to see it, had she been allowed to see it—she wouldn’t have made the decision that she did,” Westerfield said.
A few weeks ago we passed a bill that would reorganize the structure of the Kentucky State Fair Board in order to maximize state efficiency. Last week we passed a similar bill in SB 200, which would reorganize the Kentucky Horse Park Commission to create better financial planning and accountability within the Commission while also offering better representation of those who most use the park.
Here is a look at some other significant bills that passed the Senate last week:
*Senate Bill 179, known as the “ABLE Act,” would allow parents of disabled children the opportunity to establish a bank account for their child’s disability-related expenses without fear of losing eligibility for federal benefits.
*Senate Bill 175, also known as “Marsy’s Law,” would ensure that victims of crime have the same co-equal rights as the accused and convicted.
*Senate Bill 37 would give prosecutors the option to charge a minor younger than 18 giving or receiving a digital nude picture of himself, herself or another minor with strong but smaller penalties than a felony.
*Senate Bill 168, relating to municipal audits, would keep local governments accountable and provide increased transparency for their financial actions.
*Senate Bill 173 would encourage free enterprise by not giving government a leg up on local business when making purchases.
*Senate Bill 141 would encourage better local representation on municipal utilities boards.
*Senate Bill 188 would update regulations pertaining to oil and gas well sites.
March 3 was the last day to file bills in the Senate. We will begin hearing House bills in our Senate committees in the coming weeks. As we enter the third part of the 2016 session, some tough decisions will need to be made, along with some compromises.
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 Brandon.Smith@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry Counties. He is the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and the Transportation Committee; and a member of Appropriations and Revenue Committee. He is a member of the Federal Environmental Reg. Impact Assessment Task Force Special Committee.