It was a brief week in Frankfort, shortened by the celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Jan. 18 and the cancellation of Friday’s session due to an impending winter storm for the entire Commonwealth. We pushed the pace, though, in the time we were in town as we began to hear more bills in committee and brought a handful of measures to a full vote on the House floor.
We heard details this week details of legislation that would grant Kentucky’s Attorney General jurisdiction over the state’s human trafficking cases in an effort to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of those seeking to profit from the forced labor or sexual exploitation of others.
Sponsored by state Rep. Sannie Overly of Paris, House Bill 229 builds upon legislation passed in 2013 that stiffened penalties for human traffickers. Currently, Commonwealth Attorneys or county attorneys are responsible for prosecuting human trafficking cases, but a new division within Attorney General Andy Beshear’s office would provide much-needed resources to fill a large gap in the number of cases that are actually investigated and prosecuted. Human trafficking reports in Kentucky have risen dramatically, with 51 victims reported in 2013 and 125 victims identified in 2015. House Bill 229 was approved by the House Judiciary Committee and now goes to the full House for our consideration.
House Bill 59, sponsored by state Rep. Tom Burch of Louisville, fine-tunes statutory language and expands the state address protection program that provides survivors of domestic violence, sexual offenses or stalking/harassment with a means to prevent abusers and potential abusers
from locating them through public records. The legislation passed 94-0 on the House floor on Friday.
In House Committee, we heard legislation that would give Louisville police officers more flexibility to work longer shifts with more time off in between in an effort to cut costs and reduce fatigue in the field. House Bill 149, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Donohue of Louisville, will now move to the full House for action.
The full House also gave approval to two measures I mentioned in this column last week. House Bill 115, a bill that would expand eligibility to certain uninsured Kentuckians under the state’s Colon Cancer Screening Program, received a 93-1 vote; and House Bill 83, approved by a 94-0 vote would allow snuff and other smokeless tobacco products to be considered for educational research along with cigarettes.
On Jan. 26, I’ll join fellow lawmakers for a joint session of the House and Senate as Gov. Matt Bevin presents his budget plan during a live televised address on KET, starting 7 p.m., ET/6 p.m. CT and available for viewing online at KET.org/live. After that, we’ll get a better idea of where our state is headed financially as House budget committees begin to craft a $20 million state budget for the next two fiscal years.
Until then, please contact me with your questions, concerns and ideas by email at [email protected], by calling the Legislative Message Line toll-free at 800-372-7181, or by contacting me at home at 606-248-8828. I am proud to represent the Harlan and Bell counties in the 87th House District in Frankfort and am thankful for the trust you have placed in me.