FRANKFORT- The Kentucky General Assembly has reached the midpoint of the 2023 Regular Session. The state’s Capitol and the Annex building have been stirring with activity as lawmakers deliberate on legislation to improve the lives of Kentuckians. With several high-profile bills already passed, I expect lawmakers’ workloads will increase significantly in the coming days and weeks.
As the legislative session progresses, each milestone marks a step closer to the realization of goals and the fulfillment of promises. This week, lawmakers reached a crucial point in the legislative session: the deadline for filing bills. With a mere 14 days remaining in the session, the clock ticks faster with each passing day, and every moment counts toward making a lasting impact on the state’s future.
Another busy week in the Kentucky Capitol saw a flurry of activity as lawmakers worked to advance bills through the legislative process. One of the most important aspects of being a state senator is the opportunity to engage with constituents and hear their concerns. I have spent countless hours speaking with people from all walks of life, listening to their stories and learning about the issues most important to them. It’s an honor to represent the people of Kentucky, and I take my responsibilities to represent our state very seriously.
It was an honor to host city government officials in Frankfort for “City Day” at the Capitol this week, including local officials from Ashland, Grayson, and Raceland. This gives state lawmakers an opportunity to meet with their local leaders to discuss their needs and what can be done at the state level to provide them with the resources they need to better serve our communities.
Some of the other groups that were present included the Kentucky Optometric Association, which is lobbying for legislation to expand their scope of practice; social workers, who are advocating for better resources and support for vulnerable populations; and the Ashland Paul Blazers FBLA officers and FCCLA members, who are working to promote career readiness among young people. Additionally, Future Farmers of America and former fish and wildlife commissioners were also present, advocating for policies that support agriculture and conservation. With so many groups and stakeholders in Frankfort advocating their interests, lawmakers certainly have their work cut out for them as they navigate the intricacies of the legislative session.
One measure approved in the Senate this week, Senate Bill 9, dubbed “Lofton’s Law,” aims to establish specific criminal penalties for hazing. Current state law charges individuals with wanton endangerment for hazing-related incidents, but it does not fully cover all forms of hazing. The measure would make first-degree hazing, which intentionally or wantonly causes serious physical injury or death of a student, a Class D felony, while second-degree hazing, which involves reckless engagement, would be a Class A misdemeanor.
SB 9 is a measure brought before lawmakers after University of Kentucky student Lofton Hazelwood died after drinking alcohol during a hazing ritual at a fraternity house. The bill seeks to hold individuals accountable for hazing-related injuries or deaths and aims to prioritize student safety. I support this legislation and believe we must do more to protect students from hazing. However, I am concerned with the language as the bill is far too broad. Hopefully, the House will address the concerns of raising misdemeanors and strengthen the language when they receive and consider it.
Measures passed in the Senate this week:
SB 5 requires school boards to adopt a complaint resolution policy to address parent complaints about materials that are “harmful to minors.” School boards would have to perform a review of the material on appeal from the parent. The Kentucky Department of Education would have to write the model board policy. It passed 29-4.
SB 12 aims to prevent physician burnout in Kentucky by providing better access to mental health support. It seeks to protect doctors who seek assistance through wellness programs by allowing them to participate without reporting it, which ensures they cannot be dismissed for non-disclosure. However, the bill does not exempt physicians from reporting conditions that could impact their judgment. Burnout can result in negative consequences, such as decreased patient satisfaction, high staff turnover, low morale, increased substance abuse, and even suicide. The measure passed the Senate unanimously.
SB 28 allows small farm wineries to annually sell and deliver up to 12,000 gallons of wine to any retail license holder. The measure passed with favorable consent.
SB 46 changes the Office of State Veterinarian’s Division of Animal Health to the Division of Regulatory Field Services, the Division of Producer Services to the Division of Animal Health Programs, and establishes the Division of Emergency Preparedness and Response. It passed with unanimous consent.
SB 54 allows for the use of KEES funds for enrollment in a qualified proprietary school program. The measure passed with unanimous consent.
SB 60 streamlines the process for obtaining a motorcycle endorsement in Kentucky. Under the bill, individuals who complete the Basic Rider Course (BRC) or an equivalent will no longer be required to take the written test or obtain a motorcycle instructional permit to receive their full endorsement. Additionally, the bill provides a solution for active military personnel stationed out of state who want to add a motorcycle endorsement to their Kentucky license. The bill passed resoundingly.
SB 65 declares any administrative regulations deemed deficient by the General Assembly to be null and void. The amended version of the bill would include new Medicaid regulations that expand dental, vision, and hearing benefits for 825,000 Kentuckians. These regulations were found deficient by the Administrative Regulation Review Committee.
Denying or limiting access to such benefits can lead to untreated conditions, which can have a cascading effect on a person’s health and well-being. Ensuring access to these benefits can help prevent more serious and costly health issues down the line, which can be financially burdensome for both individuals and society as a whole. Therefore, I voted no. However, the bill passed 29-5.
SB 70 implements the performance-based professional development pilot project from the 2023-2024 school year through the 2025-2026 school year. The results would then be reported to the General Assembly by the Kentucky Department of Education before August 1, 2027. The measure passed overwhelmingly.
SB 80 prohibits a registered sex offender from loitering within 1,000 feet of the clearly defined grounds of a school, playground, daycare, public swimming pool
s, and splash pad s. It passed in the Senate with favorable consent.
SB 94 establishes the “Collaborative Agreement for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse’s Prescriptive Authority for Nonscheduled Legend Drugs” (CAPA-NS) and “Collaborative Agreement for the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse’s Prescriptive Authority for Controlled Substances” (CAPA-CS) committees and sets the parameters for membership. SB 94 passed favorably by a vote of 30-2-1.
SB 99 comes after several individuals not affected by the flooding in eastern Kentucky or the tornadoes in western Kentucky received checks for disaster relief. The measure seeks to enhance oversight of emergency relief funds that the state executive branch established in the aftermath. SB 99 would require a report and analysis of all relief funds created to accept and expend funds received from any source to assist persons impacted by an emergency. It passed the Senate by a vote of 33-2.
SB 107 establishes the Board of Education Nomination Committee, which would nominate candidates for the Kentucky Board of Education and set requirements for the committee’s appointees and term limits. The bill also requires the Commissioner of Education to receive Senate confirmation, undergo an annual review by the Kentucky Board of Education, and be employed under a contract that does not exceed four years. Lastly, the bill prohibits ex officio and nonvoting members of the Board of Education from being represented by proxy at any meeting. The legislation passed 29-4.
SB 135 requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to make information on postpartum depression and a postpartum assessment tool available on its website. It also directs the cabinet to develop and implement a collaborative program aimed at improving the quality of prevention and treatment of postpartum depression. It passed unanimously.
All bills passed in the Senate this week now go to the House for further consideration, where they will meet their fate by either being taken up and sent to the Governor or left to perish.
As we continue to work on important legislation, I will work closely with my colleagues to ensure the policies we craft are in the best interests of all Kentuckians. While the work can be challenging, I am confident that we will be able to make a positive difference in the lives of the people we represent.
For more information on the 2023 session, visit www.legislature.ky.gov, where you can see the weekly schedule, watch live and archived coverage of committee meetings, search legislator contact information, learn about the legislative process, and view informational materials.
If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, feel free to email me anytime at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711.