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The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2016 regular session ended on Friday, April 15, shortly before midnight, capping off a session in which lawmakers approved the state’s next two-year budget and numerous other measures that will impact people throughout the state.
Most new laws – those that come from legislation that don’t contain emergency clauses or different specified effective dates – will go into effect in mid-July.
A partial list of bills approved this year by the General Assembly include measures on the following topics:
Autism. Senate Bill 185 made permanent the Advisory Council on Autism Spectrum Disorders (established in 2013) and the state Office of Autism (created in 2014). The bodies will continue to ensure there aren’t gaps in providing services to individuals with an autism spectrum disorder.
Booking photos. Under House Bill 132, websites or publications that use jail booking photographs for profit could face stiff court-ordered damages. The new law makes it illegal to post booking photos to a website or include them in a publication, then require payment to remove them from public view. Damages start at $100 a day for each separate offense, along with attorney fees.
Budget. House Bill 303 will guide $21 billion worth of state spending over the next two fiscal years. The two-year state budget plan is aimed at creating savings in many areas and using more revenue to shore up public pension systems. The budget will pour $1.28 billion into the state pension systems and make no cuts to K-12 education while authorizing the governor’s plan to cut most state agency funding by nine percent over the biennium. State spending will decrease by 4.5 percent for most public colleges and universities.
Chemical munitions disposal. House Bill 106 addresses the acute and chronic health effects of exposure to compounds used in chemical munitions. It requires that after the compounds in the weapons are treated to Energy and Environment standards, the byproducts be reclassified to ensure proper management and disposal.
Children locked in cars. Senate Bill 16 protects prospective rescuers from being sued for any property damage caused in pursuit of saving the life of a child left in a locked vehicle.
Child safety. House Bill 148 allows child daycare centers to receive prescriptions for EpiPen injectors to treat life-threatening allergic reactions while also giving parents more time to legally surrender their newborn under the state's safe harbor laws. The bill amended Kentucky's Safe Infants Act by giving parents up to 30 days to surrender their child at a state-approved safe place, instead of the previous standard of three days.
CPR in schools. Senate Bill 33 requires high school students be taught cardiopulmonary resuscitation, taught by an emergency medical professional. The life-saving measure would is to be taught as part of the students’ physical education or health class, or as part of ROTC training.
Distilleries and craft brewers. Senate Bill 11 modernizes the state’s 1930s-era alcohol regulations to aid new interest in bourbon, craft beer and small-farm wine products. Among other provisions, SB 11 allows malt beverages to be sold at festivals and drinking on quadricycles (better known as “party bikes”), and permits bed and breakfasts to sell liquor by the drink. It also raises limits for on-site sales at distilleries from three liters to nine liters.
Drunken Driving. Senate Bill 56 will help increase felony convictions for DUI in Kentucky by allowing the courts to look at 10 years of prior convictions instead of five years. Kentucky law requires those convicted of a fourth offense DUI within five years to be charged with a felony. The clock for determining penalties for offenders is reset after five years under current law. Senate Bill 56 will extend that so-called “look-back” period to 10 years to allow more habitual offenders to face stiffer penalties like felony charges.
Election regulations. Senate Bill 169, which became law without the governor's signature, changed several election-centered statutes. Among them, it directed county clerks to redact voters' Social Security numbers before allowing the public to review voter rolls, and loosened restrictions on electioneering from 300 feet to 11 feet around polling sites. The law also expanded means of voter identification to include any county, state or federally issued ID.
Felony expungement. Under House Bill 40, Kentuckians convicted of low-level felonies can ask the court to permanently seal—or expunge—their records. The new law allows those convicted of Class D felonies, or those who were charged but not formally indicted, to seek expungement after they have completed their sentence or probation. Sex crimes and crimes against children would not be included in the law.
Harassing telecommunications. House Bill 162 includes electronic communication, if it’s done with intent to intimidate, harass, annoy or alarm another person, to current harassment statutes. Electronic harassment would be a Class B misdemeanor.
Helping the disabled. Designed to allow Kentuckians with disabilities to set up savings accounts for disability-related expenses, Senate Bill 179 allows them to save money in an ABLE account for those expenses without it being taxed, generally. It would also not count against Medicaid and other federal means-based benefits.
Informed consent law. The first bill delivered to the governor's desk was Senate Bill 4, which requires an in-person or real-time video conference between a woman seeking an abortion and a health care provider at least 24 hours before the procedure.
Juvenile court transparency. Senate Bill 40 permits some family court judges to hold public hearings. The new law allows a handful of courts to hold the open hearings as a pilot project. Judges could volunteer their courts for the program, and close proceedings as necessary.
Local government. House Bill 189 makes it easier for local entities – like cities, police and fire departments – to share services. HB 189 sets procedures for amending interlocal agreements without the lengthy process of having to seek approval from the state Attorney General or the Department for Local Government.
Medicaid appeals. Senate Bill 20 gives medical providers access to independent appeals of denied Medicaid claims. Under the new law, the decision of the third-party reviewer could then be appealed to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, where the decision of an administrative hearing tribunal would be the last step before judicial review.
Noah’s Law. Senate Bill 193, also known as “Noah’s Law” for a 9-year-old Pike County boy, extends health insurance coverage to include expensive amino acid-based elemental formula, needed by some children with gastric disorders and food allergies.
Off-duty conceal and carry. House Bill 314 allows current and retired peace officers to carry concealed firearms at any location where current, on-duty officers can carry guns.
Outdoor recreation. Zip lines and other outdoor recreation will be safer, as House Bill 38 became law. The new law directs the state to set standards for the use and operation of zip lines and canopy tours.
Pension oversight. House Bill 271 requires all state-administered retirement systems to report specific information on their members or members’ beneficiaries to the state Public Pension Oversight Board each fiscal year. The information is to be used by the board to plan for future expenses and recommend changes to keep the retirement systems solvent.
Permanent Fund. House Bill 238 creates the “permanent fund” for public pensions funded in the Executive Branch budget bill, or HB 303. It also sets out specific requirements for public pension system reporting, including the requirement that an actuarial audit be performed on the state-administered retirement systems once every five years.
Petroleum tanks. House Bill 187 extends the period of the Petroleum Storage Tank Environmental Assistance Fund to aid in the safe removal of old underground gas and oil tanks. The bill moved back the end date to participate in the program to 2021, from 2016, and the date to perform corrective actions from 2019 to 2024. It also extended a program for small operators by five years, to 2021.
Public private partnerships. House Bill 309, which allows government and private entities to enter into public-private partnerships – known as P3s – to fund Kentucky’s major infrastructure needs. The new law provides a framework for P3s as an alternative financing method for major public projects, including transportation projects.
Sexual assault investigations. Aimed at eliminating a backlog of sexual assault examination kits, Senate Bill 63 establishes new policies and procedures for handling evidence. SB 63 requires police to pick up sexual assault kits from hospitals within five days’ notice, submit evidence to the state crime lab within 30 days, prohibit the destruction of any kits and notify victims of the progress and results of the tests. The new law also requires the average completion date for kits tested not to exceed 90 days by July 2018 and 60 days by July 2020.
Stopping dog fights. House Bill 428 makes it a felony to possess, breed, sell or otherwise handle dogs for the purpose of dog fighting. The bill also defines dog fighting, and allows people who intentionally own, possess, breed, train, sell or transfer dogs for dog fighting to be charged with first-degree cruelty to animals, a Class D felony. In effect, it makes it easier to prosecute perpetrators.
Vulnerable victims. Senate Bill 60 creates a new section of KRS Chapter 501, defining an “offense against a vulnerable victim” and creating a mechanism for charging someone with the commission of an offense against a victim who is under the age of 14, has an intellectual disability, or is physically helpless or mentally incapacitated.
Water resource protection. House Bill 529 created the Kentucky Water Resources Board to research current water resources in the Commonwealth, identify new available resources and examine efficiencies, especially to support farming. The new 11-member board includes officials from state interior and agriculture departments along with six gubernatorial appointees.
Photo: Kentucky State Capitol (LRC Public Information Photo)
(Robert Weber, of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission contributed to this article)
Gideon John Tucker (February 10, 1826 – July 1899) was an American lawyer, newspaper editor and politician. In 1866, as Surrogate of New York, he wrote in a decision of a will case (Final Accounting in the Estate of A.B., 1 Tucker 248, N.Y. Surr. 1866): "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the Legislature is in session."