Public Safety & Education Bills on the Move

From LRC Public Information Officer Mike Wynn:

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly hit a new rhythm last week as lawmakers welcomed military kids to the Capitol and passed more than 50 bills out of committee with a heavy emphasis on both education and public safety. 

The fast-paced week drew large crowds to the Capitol campus nearly every day, and when lawmakers gaveled out on Friday morning, more than a third of this year’s 30-day session was in the books.

Wednesday and Thursday marked some of the busiest days of the session so far.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee advanced House Bill 3, which aims to revamp the state’s troubled juvenile justice system. It would ensure that any juveniles charged with a violent offense receive an evaluation and detention hearing within 48 hours of being taken into custody.

The measure also seeks to reopen a detention center in Louisville, improve accountability among uncooperative parents, and open up records on children convicted of a violent felony for five years. HB 3 now heads to the full House.

The following day brought heated debate when a key education bill – Senate Bill 150 – returned to committee for changes before advancing off the Senate floor that afternoon.

Proponents say SB 150 would provide more parental engagement on school policies or curriculum related to sensitive topics like sexuality, pronouns and student health services. Critics, however, say it could harm student safety and mental health, particularly among transgender students.

The measure now moves to the House for consideration.

Education remained a major theme throughout the week as bills on scholarships, dual credit, staffing and the state education board all cleared important hurdles. Lawmakers also aimed their sights on hazing, sex offenders and hair discrimination over the four days of legislative work. 

Here’s a look at some of the issues getting attention:

Dual Credit: The House Education Committee advanced House Bill 18 on Tuesday. It would expand the dual credit options for Kentucky high schoolers by giving freshmen and sophomores the opportunity to take dual credit courses.

KEES for Workforce Training: House Bill 133 would allow students to use the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship to pay for approved workforce training programs in areas such as computer coding, pharmacy tech or commercial driver’s licensing. The bill also cleared the House Education Committee on Tuesday.

Firearms: House Bill 153would prohibit local governments and law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal firearm bans. The House Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee advanced the measure on Tuesday.

Relief Funds: On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committeepassed Senate Bill 99. Itseeks to enhance oversight of two Team Kentuckyemergency relief funds that the state executive branch established in the aftermath of recent floods and tornados.

Physician Wellness: Senate Bill 12 would allow physicians to participate in wellness and career fatigue programs without disclosing their participation to employers. Supporters say it will help physicians deal with job-related burnout without fear of retaliation. The Senate Committee on Health Services advanced the measure on Wednesday.

Hazing: Senate Bill 9, known as “Lofton’s Law,” cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It spells out criminal penalties for hazing, including first-degree hazing, which would be a Class D felony.

Sex Offenders: Senate Bill 80 also passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. It would prohibit those on the sex offender registry from loitering within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and public playgrounds or swimming pools.

The CROWN Act: Senate Bill 63 prevents discrimination on the basis of hairstyles and hair textures that are historically associated with race. It also cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

State Education Board: Senate Bill 107 would establish a new seven-member committee – appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate – to vet nominations to the state Board of Education. It would also require Senate confirmation for appointments to the position of state education commissioner. The Senate Education Committee advanced the measure on Thursday.

School Staffing: House Bill 32 would allow school districts to hire classified personnel, such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers, without a high school diploma or GED – if the school system provides those employees an opportunity obtain their GED at no cost. The bill cleared the House floor on Friday.

In addition to voting on bills, the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus launched its inaugural Black History Speaker Series this week with a guest speaker and musical performances in the rotunda.

Another event attracting visitors was Military Kids Day, an annual effort to give military children a sampling of the legislative process. Dozens of children and their family members attended the event on Thursday.

Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel back in on Tuesday for day 13 of the session, and the window to file new bills is closing. Many lawmakers will spend the next few days engaging with stakeholders and fine-tuning legislation before deadlines expire next week.

Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to follow a bill’s progression through the chambers.
Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.