Senator says legislative session is a success

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"I think it was a very good session for Taylor County."

By Calen McKinney


While they did pass a budget and road plan, several other legislative issues have died in Frankfort.

But with this year's legislative session now in the history books, legislators are now out of time to bring those issues back to life.

State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, says she believes this session was a success, as she and her co-workers passed a "fiscally responsible" $20.3-billion budget. That budget includes urgent needs money to help the Taylor County School District build new schools.

And with the passage of a road plan - which will see more than $11 million in state funds coming to Taylor County - Gregory said she sees no reason for a special session to be called.

There has been some talk about Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear calling a special session to address a bill drafted to help curb the commonwealth's heroin abuse problem, but Gregory said she doesn't expect that will happen.

"One of the biggest disappointments was the failure of the House to pass Senate Bill 5, to help address the heroin problem," she said. "We've seen dozens of heroin deaths in the state since the beginning of the year, and it's tragic that this bill did not pass."

In a statement released last week, Gregory said that while some worthy bills didn't make it through the legislative process, it's still too early to determine if a special session will be needed.

Perhaps the largest task of the session was to draft a budget for the next two fiscal years. Gregory said she is pleased with the final product, but didn't like that Beshear vetoed line items that would help the Kentucky Community & Technical College System avoid paying fees to cover the cost of projects on campus.

The measure that will likely impact Taylor County residents the most is the road plan, which Beshear hasn't yet signed.

In the plan, which is for the 2014 to 2016 fiscal years, Gregory said $9.1 million is included for right-of-way purchases for the first section of the Campbellsville Bypass from KY 55 to KY 70.

"The remainder of funding for Sections 1 and 2 of the bypass is scheduled over the next four years of the road plan," she said.

Also included in the plan is $1.5 million to replace a bridge over Green River, $150,000 to replace a bridge on Wise Road over Long Branch and $170,000 to replace the bridge over Stoner Creek on KY 70.

"Importantly, the new road plan also contains funding to begin work on the Heartland Parkway by adding passing lanes or truck lanes between the Columbia Bypass and Campbellsville," she said.

"The design and right-of-way acquisition money is included in 2014-2016, with construction funding scheduled in the out years. It was very important to me to see this project get underway."

Several bills that got lots of attention during the session failed to pass and make their way to Beshear's desk to become law.

Bills addressing expanded gaming, raising minimum wage, legalization of medical marijuana and restoration of voting rights for felons failed to pass. A smoking ban in all public places in Kentucky also failed.

Gregory said she was disappointed to see the House's health and welfare committee again defeat pro-life legislation. Bills were proposed to require that a woman have an ultrasound before having an abortion and another called for a face-to-face meeting before one.

But some of the bills Gregory sponsored and co-sponsored ultimately passed.

Senate Bill 108, which terminates parental rights of convicted rapists as to a child conceived during the rape, was the final bill passed during the session.

Gregory said Senate Bill 100 was also passed and will create an electronic system to help speed up the process to get a concealed weapon license.

She also sponsored Senate Bill 98, which creates an adult protection registry.

"The registry will be accessible by employers and will include paid caregivers who have committed a prior act of abuse, neglect or exploitation as substantiated by Adult Protective Services," she said.

"Currently, nursing homes, adult care agencies and families have no way of knowing if a potential employee has a history of abuse, or even if that person has been fired before for confirmed abuse or neglect. Also, those who are accused of abuse currently have no due process protection against a false charge. This bill addresses both issues."

State Rep. John "Bam" Carney, R-Campbellsville, who didn't return a request to comment for this story by press time, had some success this session.

Though some of his bills he sponsored, which mainly focused on education, saw some traction, none ultimately passed.

Some of the bills he co-sponsored are now law, such as a bill addressing public agencies and how they use public information, school employee health insurance contributions and city classifications.

Carney also sponsored pro-life legislation, which ultimately died at a House committee.

Despite many bills not being passed, Gregory said she believes Taylor County fared well this session.

"With the projects included in the road plan and the urgent needs school construction funding in the budget," Gregory said, "I think it was a very good session for Taylor County."

New Laws

According to the state's Legislative Research Commission, several bills from this year's legislative session have become law and will take effect in 90 days.

Some of the bills approved include:

• Acupuncture - Senate Bill 29 will require acupuncturists to be licensed.

• All terrain vehicles - House Bill 260 will allow an ATV operator 16 or older to cross a public roadway if the speed limit is 45 miles per hour or less without protective headgear in order to get from one ATV trail to another.

• Boaters - Senate Bill 66, known as the "Boater Freedom Act," will require boating enforcement officers to have a reasonable suspicion of violation of the state's boating laws before boarding and inspecting a boat on Kentucky waterways.

• Bullying - Senate Bill 20 will designate October as Anti-Bullying Month and a purple and yellow ribbon as the symbol for anti-bullying awareness.

• Consumer protection - House Bill 232 requires businesses and other entities to notify consumers if a security breach might have resulted in the unauthorized acquisition of consumers' personal or financial information.

• Diabetes - House Bill 98 will allow school staff members trained by health professionals to assist diabetic students with insulin administration.

• Driver safety - House Bill 90 will require parents or guardians to make a court appearance when a driver younger than 18 is cited for a traffic violation.

• Electronic cigarettes - Senate Bill 109 prohibits the sale of e-cigarettes to those younger than 18.

• Newborn health - Senate Bill 7 will require periodic reporting of health statistics relating to drug-addicted or dependent newborns.

• Voyeurism - Senate Bill 225 will update the state's voyeurism laws to outlaw a practice called "up-skirting" in which a cell phone is used to take pictures underneath a woman's skirt without her consent.

For more information, visit www.lrc.gov.