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HomeOpinionEditorialGuest Editorial: Nine good bills that came out of this year's KYGA...

Guest Editorial: Nine good bills that came out of this year’s KYGA session

By: Bruce Maples
Publisher, Forward Kentucky

Note that just as some really bad bills died during the session, so did some really good bills. Perhaps, if we continue calling out both the bad and the good bills, we will eventually see more of the good bills pass. We can hope.

And worthy of note: Of these nine bills, seven of them had sponsors from both parties. See what happens when we work together on issues that matter? Good things can happen. More of this, please.

SB 8 — Expanded child protection

This bill includes a number of improvements to our state’s protections of our most vulnerable: our children. Kentucky is one of the worst states for child abuse and neglect; this bill takes on that problem and includes some significant steps forward: it reworks oversight bodies to make them more effective; it adds rights for foster children; it expands the definition of “abused and neglected child” beyond just sexual abuse, and uses that expanded definition to push for education and awareness programs; and much more. A significant bill with real impact.

SB 9/HB226 — Read to Succeed

This bill greatly expands the impetus to have all children reading proficiently by grade three, and puts in place a number of programs to help that happen in all public schools. It gets very specific about the strategies to be used and the evidence of success, including various diagnostic tools. And, it gets into the teacher education needed to support this work, including a Read to Succeed fund to help pay for that training. If you care about children learning to read, I encourage you to read the bill.

HB 269 — Can’t execute seriously mentally ill

Just as it says: anyone officially diagnosed as seriously mentally ill cannot be executed for a crime, but must instead be given a prison sentence. The mental illnesses that qualify in this bill include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and delusional disorder.

HB 499 — Employee Child-Care Assistance Partnership program

This program establishes a fund to be used to match an employer’s monetary assistance for child-care costs for their employees. As one person noted, it still ties child-care to a job, which is not ideal; but, it does incentivize employers to help with child-care costs, which would be a big help to many families.

HB 564 — Codified voting expansion

This bill puts into law many of the voting expansions we saw during the pandemic, including no-excuse in-person absentee voting, excused in-person absentee voting, early voting, ballot drop boxes, and so on. It also lets disabled, military, and overseas voters use the same online system to request their mail-in absentee ballots.

HB 222 — Anti-SLAPP bill

No, we’re not talking about Will Smith here. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, which is a lawsuit designed to “shut someone up,” usually by suing for defamation. The goal is to make it so costly to continue reporting or protesting something that the reporter or protester gives up. This bill allows for dismissal of actions and immediate appeal when litigation is brought to stymie free speech or public participation.

HB 604 — Cannabis research center

Once again, we didn’t get medical marijuana passed (much less recreational marijuana), but we did get the establishment of a “cannabis research center” at the University of Kentucky. Numerous lawmakers, including President Stivers, have said they want “more study” about medical MJ before they can vote for it; let’s hope this new center can help get them on the right side of this issue.

HB 277 — Student loan forgiveness for teachers

This bill establishes a student loan forgiveness program for persons getting their teacher certification through an expedited process. There is a residency requirement. The loan forgiveness has a $40,000 cap.

HB 758 — Assistance fund for drinking water systems

Many county water systems in our state are in dire need of capital improvements. This bill establishes a water management assistance fund, administered by the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority, to provide assistance for both capital and non-capital expenses of government-owned water systems.

There were a number of other bills I could have included in this list that improve the state in one way or another. I thought these were some of the most impactful, though, and they give me hope that at least sometimes, our legislators can do good work and move the Commonwealth forward.

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