Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

March 9, 2011

Landmark legislation revamps corrections

By Rep. Jill York
CNHI

March 9, 2011 —     With little time remaining in the 2011 Regular Session, legislators used their time to amend and act on legislation.

    All of this was done in the hope that each chamber will have an opportunity to consider and concur upon a great number of bills from the other chamber before we adjourn for the 10-day veto period.

     Committees met with renewed sense of urgency as there were numerous Senate bills slated for consideration. Here are a few highlights of the action that’s been underway in Frankfort this past week.

    In the House Transportation Committee, Senate Bill 79 was approved to clarify federal regulations regarding small farm trucks and trailers being used by farmers within Kentucky’s borders.  

    This legislation, which also requires a new registration tag for farm trucks weighing less than 26,000 pounds, would protect farmers with small trucks from incurring fuel tax fines when they travel to other states.

     Senate Bill 75 came to the House Banking and Insurance committee as legislation that would permit chiropractors to collect more from insurers for certain procedures. 

    Thanks to a committee amendment, Senate Bill 75 left that committee as a bill that would limit the number of co-payments insurance companies can charge for a chiropractic visit and passed with unanimous approval.

    Senate Bill 12 was received by the House Education Committee, amended, and then given passage.

    Under this measure, a school superintendent would serve as the chairman of the site-based council of the principal selection process and be given a vote in the hiring process. 

    The winning candidate would be selected by a majority vote of this council. The full House approved this measure on Thursday and the full Senate is expected to concur.

     Small businesses are the heart and soul of our communities here in the 96th District. In an effort to ease the hassles businesses face in communicating and reporting to government agencies, members of the House gave their 99-0 seal of approval to Senate Bill 8.

    This legislation would create a one-stop electronic portal to facilitate interaction among businesses and government agencies in Kentucky.

     One of the lone bills originating in the House and approved in our chamber this week was House Bill 333. Should this bill, which passed 92-6, become law, the sale of display fireworks, including Roman candles and bottle rockets, would be legal in Kentucky.

    The fee to sell novelty fireworks, such as sparklers, would be reduced from $50 to $25; there would be a fee for retailers to sell consumer fireworks seasonally or year-round.

    Winning passage on a 98-0 vote, Senate Bill 112 would save money for Kentuckians seeking physical therapy. The provisions contained in this bill would limit a health insurance company from charging a copayment for physical therapy no more than required for an office visit with a family practice doctor.

     The House also approved Senate Bill 151. As you will see in the vote tally below I, along with many other members of the House, have some concerns with this legislation. 

    The version approved by the House would commission a legislative task force to study alternative ways to select members of the Public Service Commission (PSC).

    My wariness comes from a growing sense that the majority parties in both the Senate and the House are in favor of an elected PSC. Those very folks are the ones who will select the members of the task force. I doubt the ability of any task force to truly reach a thoroughly researched and considered opinion in those circumstances.

     It’s a little like having your boss ask you if you think he’s gained weight. Should you deliver the answer you know he wants to hear … or the truth? And the truth -- the best answer -- that’s what we must have if we are to be vigilant in our protection of consumers in Kentucky.

    It was suggested in House floor debate that perhaps for the most credible study, the proposed task force should include non-partisan business leaders and community advocates.      This bill barely passed the House, but did squeeze through by a vote of 48-46.

     Late in the week, the Governor signed House Bill 463.  Noted as a sweeping reform of the state's justice code, this legislation is expected to save taxpayers $147 million over the next decade.

    The intent is to protect public safety by reducing the number of repeat offenders.  While severe punishments will remain intact for violent criminals and drug traffickers, the punishment for simple drug possession will be lessened in two ways.

    While remaining a Class D felony, possession of small amounts will result in up to three years in prison, down from the current maximum of five, and repeat offenses will remain Class D felonies rather than being Class C Felonies, punishable by up to ten years behind bars.

    Additionally, drug addicts would enter into treatment and community supervision rather than prison, reducing the number of inmates in our overly crowded prisons.

    This session’s most pressing issue, plugging our Medicaid shortfall, remains unresolved.

    House Bill 305, as originally approved, would plug the $166.5 million hole by moving money forward from Fiscal Year 2012 with that year’s budget being reduced through anticipated cost savings. 

    Late in the week, the Senate approved their version of House Bill 305, which would make broad-based cuts across state government for the rest of the biennium to make up the Medicaid shortfall. This revamped version is now headed back to the House and a conference committee will likely be appointed to hammer out a compromised, final version.

     We have but a few days remaining in this session. After that, the Governor Beshear will have 10 days to veto any measures and then the General Assembly is scheduled to reconvene. All will return to Frankfort for the purpose of either overriding or accepting the Governor's vetoes.

     While we continue to complete our work on pending legislation before this session is completed, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. 

    You may leave a message for me on the toll-free line by calling 1-800-372-7181 or contact me via e-mail at jill.york@lrc.ky.gov. You can follow all the bills and schedule information by visiting the LRC website at www.lrc.ky.gov.

    Rep. York represents Carter and Lewis counties.