Before going to Frankfort on Monday to begin week five of the 2020 Legislative Session, I had the pleasure of joining my colleague in the House, Rep. Samara Heavrin, in providing a legislative update to various county elected officials.
They included Leitchfield Mayor Rick Embry, City Councilman Clayton Miller, and Caneyville City Council members, Debbie Embry and Mike Geary. We had a great discussion, and I want to thank county Judge-Executive Kevin Henderson for hosting us.
It was a busy but productive fifth week of the 2020 regular session as we passed a wide array of bills through the Senate and continued biennial budget discussions.
As we wait to receive a budget proposal from the House of Representatives, where all spending bills must originate, the Senate the Appropriations & Revenue Committee has already begun an intensive review process of the budget proposed by the governor. Crafting the Commonwealth’s two-year financial plan is a lengthy process. Still, I am confident that the final product will be fiscally responsible while ensuring sufficient funding for our critical programs. I will keep you updated on the status of the budget in the coming weeks.
The senate majority made notable progress on the 2020 legislative agenda, successfully passing 11 bills over the week, including Senate Bill (SB) 1 and SB 7.
Also known as the Federal Immigration Cooperation Act of 2020, SB 1 ensures the cooperation of state and local governments with the federal government in the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The bill will create no additional responsibilities for law enforcement or agencies, but it does require no less be done than what federal statutory law states.
SB 1 preemptively prohibits local municipalities from enacting sanctuary immigration policies. There had already been discussions in one of Kentucky’s major cities to adopt such policies. That would be irresponsible and dangerous. While many can agree that federal immigration law needs to be addressed by congress, current laws should be enforced to ensure the safety of the public, and provide law enforcement with the assurance that they can enforce laws in good faith.
SB 7, priority legislation relating to School-Based Decision-Making Councils, returns the appointment of the school principal to the superintendent after consultation with the school council and equalizes council membership of teachers and parents.
I am pleased to report that an essential piece of legislation, SB 30, in which I am the primary sponsor, finally got a committee hearing on Wednesday. SB 30 has been a priority of mine for three years. The bill would limit the number of managed care organizations our state can contract with to administer the Medicaid program. Presently there are five which create a bureaucratic nightmare for healthcare providers, especially in rural communities and unnecessarily drive up the cost of care. Limiting it to three will reduce healthcare costs for providers and, eventually, the patient. My bill passed out of committee and will now go the Senate for a floor vote.
Several bills with bipartisan support passed through the Senate this week. SB 63 is a measure that would allow high school dropouts who are at least 21 years of age to complete their graduation requirements through online programs. SB 45 requires licensed child-care centers to have standards on nutrition and physical activity. SB 45 also incorporates state and national expertise in developing new standards regarding screen time and sugary drinks.
Also passing in the Senate this week was SB 102, legislation to remove unnecessary red tape in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services by repealing 48 outdated and obsolete statutes. SB 87, an act to remove the automatic transfer of a child from a district court to the circuit court to be tried as an adult in cases involving the use of firearms, was approved. SB 40, legislation that would provide additional protections for Kentucky’s vulnerable children by requiring fingerprint background checks for employees of child protection and child welfare agencies were approved. SB 60, a measure to add SMA to the list of heritable conditions tested at birth, was passed. This screening would be provided at no additional cost to the family or the Kentucky taxpayer.
Finally, SB 42 would require issued student identification badges to contain emergency hotline numbers for domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide prevention. Suicide rates among young people is a real epidemic. I encourage you to have honest conversations with the young people in your life and let them know they are loved. Tragic stories arise far too often of someone who has taken their life out of depression or perceived hopelessness. Life is precious, and we should take the time to let others know their life is precious to us.
I had one such precious young person join me in the senate chamber on Thursday as my Senate page, Ms. Maggie Cox, an eighth-grader from Grasrayson County Middle School. Maggie is a wonderful young lady whose future is nothing but bright. I was blessed to share time with such a gifted and talented young person who has a dream and vision for her future.
Thank you, Maggie, for spending part of your day with me. I invite other ambitious young people like Maggie to join me as a page in Frankfort. It’s a unique and fulfilling experience.
If you know a student who would enjoy a day in Frankfort learning about state government and the legislative process, please do not hesitate to reach out to my office at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Stephen.Meredith@LRC.ky.gov. I invite you to reach out to me on any other matter of importance to you as well. Don’t forget; you can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.
(Headline photo: Grayson County Middle School student Maggie Cox with Sen. Steve Meredith, courtesy of Facebook)
By Sen. Steve Meredith