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EKU GOV Weekly Report: Legislative Days 10 - 14

EKU GOV Weekly Report: Legislative Days 10 - 14

The 2017 session has nearly reached the halfway point, concluding the 14th of 30 legislative days Friday morning.  Despite widespread speculation that the session may be cut short to offset a potential special session, much work remains. Legislative leaders re-iterated early in the week that it would be irresponsible to conclude session early with so much work remaining. Thursday was the last day to file new Senate bills, and Friday was the last day to file new House bills. Senators filed nearly 250 bills, and 540 House Bills were filed, the most ever filed in a “short” 30-day Kentucky session. Although the deadline has passed, nearly every bill has the potential to be amended or substituted with new language.

Criminal justice and substance abuse issues dominated this week’s legislative action. On Thursday, Governor Bevin testified on behalf of SB 120, a bill aimed at reducing barriers to re-entry for individuals released from prison. That bill is the work product of months of discussions on penal code reform, which has been a top priority of the Governor since his gubernatorial campaign. In addition to his testimony on SB 120, Bevin also testified in support of HB 333, which attempts to crack down on the deadly fentanyl combinations that are so prevalent in Kentucky. The measure would also limit scripts on schedule II controlled substances to treat pain patients to a three-day supply. Freshman legislator Kim Moser moved a cleanup of the Casey’s Law involuntary treatment bill out of committee (HB305), and Sen. John Schickel’s effort to increase criminal penalties for heroin traffickers easily passed the Senate (SB14).

Two events took place Thursday that will keep focus on the state pension system. Senate State & Local Government Committee Chairman Joe Bowen filed SB 226, which proposes to separate the County Employment Retirement System from the larger Kentucky Retirement System (KRS). Earlier that same day, the KRS Board met and discussed system underperformance under leadership of former Governor Beshear-era appointees. The scope of the pension shortfall will likely be tied to revenue needs in a future tax reform package. This is likely have a significant impact on EKU and our obligations to both KTRS and KERS.

In the Senate, a bill making sweeping reform in school accountability passed through committee and off the full floor. SB1 overhauls the state's accountability system, implements the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, and give local schools more control over teacher evaluations. The omnibus bill would make a number of changes that are expected to have significant effects, including setting up a new way for intervening in low-performing schools. The bill would put a lot more of the power in intervening in those schools back into the hands of local school districts. In addition, the bill would leave the creation of teacher evaluation systems to the districts, saying such systems should have four different performance levels. The bill also says the results of the teacher evaluations won't be included in the state's accountability system, and that the Kentucky Department of Education won't require school districts to report those results. Another key part of the bill is the creation of a staggered review process for Kentucky's language arts and writing, math, science and social studies standards and assessments. The bill sets up several committees and advisory panels to review the standards. Sponsor Mike Wilson (R- Bowling Green), says the measure will reduce laborious program review processes and “let the teachers teach.”

Media tension simmered this week as Democrats alleged a “war on Louisville” being waged by Governor Bevin arising from HB 202. The bill gives the Governor the power to appoint replacements for the Louisville Mayor and Metro council members in case of death, removal, or retirement. Mayor Greg Fischer called the proposal “absurd,” and Democrats warn the move removes local control. 

High Priority EKU Bills

  • SB 153 - This is the performance funding billed filed by Senator David Givens. The bill has had a first and second reading on the Senate Floor and will likely be heard in Senate Appropriations and Revenue on Tuesday morning. 
  • SB 107 - This bill will restructure the appointment and removal of board members and entire boards for all public postsecondary institutions and other boards and commissions. The bill has two readings and will likely be passed out of committee and out of the Senate next week. 
  • SB 147 – This bill will remove the maximum number of advanced practice doctoral programs that may be offered by the comprehensive universities. This bill passed out of committee last week with 11 yea and 0 nay votes. Broad support from all postsecondary institutions should move this bill quickly from the Senate to the House. 
  • HB 152 – There have been several bills filed relating to education and teacher certification this session.  This bill would remove the requirement for the completion of a masters degree for increased rank and certification to teach. The bill also opens the reciprocity for teachers from out-of-state to be certified to teach in Kentucky.

Other Bills of Note Passed out of the House

  • HB 177 – Though benign in concept, members of the House were in good spirits over debate of this bill, specifying that motor vehicles cannot idle more than 15 minutes at a time and must be locked while idling. 
  • HB 192 – This bill gives foster children the ability to obtain a driver’s license in the same manner as their non-foster peers. 
  • HB 244 – Attempting to crack down on abuse of disability parking placards, the bill creates more stringent processes to obtain placards and establishes a $10 fee for initial or renewal placards.

Other Bills of Note Passed out of the Senate

  • SB 14 – Schickel’s bill increases penalties for trafficking of heroin and fentanyl to a Class C felony on the first offense. 
  • SB 17 – The bill allows voluntary student expression of religious and political views in public schools and adds traction by ensuring access to public school facilities during non-instructional time for religious student organizations and use of school media to announce student religious meetings.
  • SB 75 – Sen. Thayer’s bill relating to campaign finance essentially doubles the limits on contributions thresholds, adjusts reporting requirement dates to increase transparency, and removes the pre-existing provision that limits aggregate contributions, essentially allowing a committee, caucus, or PAC to fund in full any campaign.
  • SB 78 – Prohibiting tobacco products on public school property, including school vehicles, and at a school-sponsored activities, the bill sets out to address Kentucky youth smoking rate of 16.9 percent, the highest in the nation. The measure includes enforcement of electronic cigarettes. 

For more information, please review the bills in our Colonel Tracker below and contact our office if you have questions or concerns.

*Friday was the final date for House Bill filings. Due to the overwhelming volume, this week’s legislative tracker does not include filings from Friday.

REAL-TIME EKU BILL TRACKING: Click the image below to view bills we are tracking.

Published on February 20, 2017

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