Thursday, the 45th day of the legislative session, the House finally passed its budget bill. This leaves us in the Senate only 13 days to work on the budget, present it in a committee and vote on a Senate version.
A multibillion-dollar budget that funds education, health care services, infrastructure, public safety and so many other critical public services deserves more scrutiny than thirteen days. Although it is unfair to leave our chamber with such unequal time to review the House budget, it is the hand we were dealt, so we are obligated to make this work.
As we study the House’s proposal, more information will come out regarding our response, priorities and review.
The Senate passed Senate Bill 159 this week, which would allow nonprofit mobile dental clinics to provide care in schools for uninsured and underinsured children, as well as those covered by Medicaid. Statistics show that 42 percent of children in Kentucky under the age of five show signs of advanced tooth decay. Expanding access to dental care fulfills a fundamental need and positively affects the general health, school attendance, self-respect and future success of our children. The bill passed unanimously and I hope for a similar outcome in the House.
Senate Bill 124 would provide legal access to cannabidiol oil, oil derived from the hemp plant and used to treat people with epilepsy and seizure disorders. When researching this legislation, we learned that some children with this illness have hundreds of seizures per day- an unimaginable reality for some families. Studies have shown that the oil successfully aids children suffering from seizure disorders when administered orally. Cannabidiol oil contains an extremely low level of THC, too low to produce any psychoactive or intoxicating effects. It is critical that every available medication be legally attainable for the families dealing with this debilitating condition. The bill passed the Senate Thursday with no opposition.
Senate Bill 108 also passed the Senate this week. This legislation states that a person convicted of a felony rape in which a child was born as a result of the offense shall lose parental rights with respect to that child while maintaining obligation of child support against the offender. These scenarios seem unimaginable, but cases like this unfortunately exist. Most of you recall the headlines regarding Ariel Castro who held three women and his child hostage for years in Ohio.
My legislation, Senate Bill 232, reported favorably out of veterans, military affairs and public protection committee this week. This bill would require Chief Law Enforcement officers to sign transfers of firearms, which is currently not required and personal bias can impede the process.
As these important issues continue to be acted on, we wait for the hardest work before us, the biennial budget.
As legislation continues, I appreciate your comments and input. Please contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also, you can follow the work of the General Assembly at www.lrc.ky.gov. In addition, you can see activity of our caucus via twitter at @kysenategop.
Note: Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry Counties. He is the Majority Whip; the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee; and a member of the Banking and Insurance Committee, the Committee on Committees, the Legislative Research Commission, the Rules Committee, and the Transportation Committee.