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At the start of each legislative session, it is impossible to know which proposals will clear the hurdles it takes for a bill to become law.
Some are never heard in committee; others may make it through the House or Senate but get lost in the shuffle on the other side. Some may falter because of cost or a lack of time or public support.
Some issues, meanwhile, just take a little longer to make the journey. That happened this year, when the General Assembly approved the creation of an adult-abuse registry, an idea that has been debated for several legislative sessions. Now, people placed on this registry will be barred from being hired to care for our most vulnerable citizens.
Although this year’s session will be remembered for some significant gains – putting much more money toward elementary and secondary education, for example – it can be instructive to take a look at those bills that did not make it to the governor’s desk. Many will almost certainly be filed again.
In the House, several of those would have affected the criminal justice system. That includes House Bill 64, which would have expanded the state’s expungement laws to include Class D felonies. Like the adult-abuse registry, this concept has often been debated, and it draws support in the House because thousands of citizens are having a difficult time getting jobs due to a crime for which they were punished years if not decades earlier. This legislation would have set reasonable limits before an expungement could occur of what is the lowest of the four felony levels.
In related legislation, House Bill 70 has also been through the House often. In this case, it would have given voters an opportunity in November to amend the constitution and restore voting rights to most felons after they completed all aspects of their punishment. Kentucky has some of the toughest requirements among the states; here, each person must petition the governor to restore voting rights.
Other legal proposals that made it through the House this session would have tightened use of electronic devices by drivers in a school or work zone; would have kept websites from posting old mug shots and charging fees to remove them; and would have barred employers from retaliating against employees who may have to take time off to attend court proceedings in which they are a victim.
In education, two of the bills the House approved would have updated some of the requirements for our schools. House Bill 77 sought to have high school students complete a financial literacy program, while House Bill 205 would have done the same for basic CPR training. According to the American Heart Association, our country could have a million newly trained rescuers every few years if all 50 states had this provision.
House Bill 261 would have given our public postsecondary schools more freedom to move ahead with construction projects without legislative approval if they had other funding; and House Joint Resolution 48 would have called for a comprehensive study of civic education and how to get more citizens involved in their government.
As I mentioned, it is likely that most if not all of these proposed bills will return in future legislative sessions. Many will undoubtedly be studied more in the months ahead when the House and Senate committees begin meeting again.
For now, I want to thank everyone who contacted me this year, and want you to know that it is never too late to let me know your thoughts or concerns. You can address correspondence to me at Room 329G, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Terry.Mills@lrc.ky.gov. To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.