This week, the Senate passed House Bill 211, which will help school districts adjust their calendars for the remaining school year. The bill allows flexibility for districts, permitting them to submit a plan to make up the time missed to the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) detailing how each will meet the required 1,062 hours of instruction, upon which school funding is based.
For the school districts that cannot attain 1,062 hours, because of the overwhelming amount of days missed due to weather, the commissioner of KDE will have flexibility to help these districts work out a plan to meet the needs of their students, and on a case by case basis, waive the hours that cannot be reached.
We also took up and passed Senate Bill 221 - a very important piece of legislation that will give the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate standing to intervene in judicial proceedings when the constitutionality of any Kentucky statute or constitutional provision is challenged. A couple of weeks ago, Attorney General Jack Conway refused to defend the Kentucky constitutional provision that says that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.This bill would assure that the Senate President and House Speaker can go to court to defend our laws when the other constitutional officers will not.
Senate Bill 221 would also require constitutional officers to inform the court of statutes that funds obtained by the Commonwealth, by judgment or settlement, must be deposited in the general fund surplus account (rainy day fund) for future appropriation by the general assembly. This year, Attorney General Conway obtained a sizeable settlement against certain drug manufacturers and has attempted to spend the settlement funds without appropriation by the general assembly, which is required by the Kentucky constitution.
It is evident to those who have lived in Kentucky for several decades that population has shifted dramatically. However, our judicial districts have not been adjusted since the 1970s. Senate bill 72 requires judicial redistricting every ten years based on the National Census. Some judicial districts handle three or four times the case load as others. Judicial redistricting is crucial to reflect the population of each judicial circuit, and to make sure Kentuckians are equally represented and properly served. The bill would also require a work study to analyze the workload of each district, and ensure it is equally distributed.
The Senate also passed Senate Bill 194 which would require local option elections for alcohol sales to be held on primary or general election days to save counties money. A review of recent local option elections show that voter turnout for these special elections is extremely low, averaging 7 percent or less, and the cost to counties to hold elections is very high. In one case, a county spent so much to hold an election, it averaged out to be $200 per vote since only 13 people showed up at the polls. One provision of the legislation would allow a special local option election to be held outside of the general or primary day as long as the petitioner covered the cost.
House Bill 367 passed the Senate this week, as well. Multiple cities in Kentucky have elections that list all of the candidates for nonpartisan elections and instruct the voters to choose a certain number equal to that of the offices. HB 367 clarifies that voters do not have to vote for enough candidates to fill all of the seats, but they can vote up to that number if they so choose. This assures that voters know they can vote only for the people they want to win, and not be required to vote for candidates they do not support.
House Bill 47 would permit a physician’s assistant or advanced practicing registered nurse to sign the permit for a patient to obtain a disabled parking placard. It would also require payment for additional placards to discourage misuse.
We also passed Senate Bill 195 which would change the legislative schedule to decrease the number of legislative days we spend in Session from 90 to 60, but increase flexibility on how and when to use the days. This will help us be more efficient and provide more opportunity for citizens to be involved. It will in short, return the institution to its founding basis, a citizen legislature, and save taxpayers 3 million dollars annually.
Seeking to create more opportunity for Kentuckians seeking office, we passed Senate Bill 205, which would permit a candidate to seek two federal offices in the same election year. The philosophy behind the measure holds that when a Kentuckian is a potential nominee for President or Vice President, it is good for the state, and he or she should be allowed to pursue the office, even while a candidate for the United States Congress. Historically, this has been legal in other states. For example, Vice Presidential candidates Lyndon Johnson, Joseph Biden, Joseph Lieberman and Paul Ryan all ran for their federal legislative seat while running for Vice President. The legislation is similar to Wisconsin’s which permitted Congressman Paul Ryan to be on the ballot for the U.S. House and Vice President in 2012.
Senate Bill 176, also passed, and would permit kinship caregivers (family members caring for children related to them, but not under a formal custodial relationship) to authorize healthcare treatment and school decisions of minor children. It is important that the temporary official or unofficial guardian of children have the ability to consent to needed medical care and school-related decisions with the proper affidavit.
The bill also establishes penalties for misuse of the affidavit and conditions for revocation of the document.