Heated floor speeches, huge committee hearings and the observance of Presidents’ Day highlighted the seventh week of the 2016 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly. As we have passed the halfway point of this session, the countdown begins as we in the Senate anticipate the forthcoming 2016-2018 budget bill from the House of Representatives.
I would be remiss not to prioritize my no vote on Senate Bill (SB) 1 in this week’s correspondence. The much-deliberated SB1 aims to transform Kentucky’s education standards, reforming standards to align with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and would return their creation to Kentucky teachers, who know their students better than anyone else. Although the bill has been amended to reinstate testing for social studies in order to ensure our students receive the best possible level of civic education, the removal of creative arts studies and outcry against the bill from teachers at the local level guided my no vote on this bill as it was presented on the Senate floor. The bill did pass and will be received in the House where I hope the appropriate amendments are added.
Senate Bill 5 was introduced to protect county clerks who have inhibitions, based on their religious beliefs, regarding issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. SB 5 removes the county clerk’s name from the license and reinstates a form with a “bride” and “groom” designation. Couples could use this form or the “1st party/2nd party” form instituted by Gov. Beshear following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision. This piece of legislation was crafted closely with the statewide county clerk guidance, including fundamental input from Leslie County Clerk James Lewis.
We also passed SB 130, SB 136, and SB 137 out of the Senate. Senate Bill 130 concerns shielding child pornography from public view when prosecuting the pornographer. It would restrict who would have access to child pornography used as evidence during criminal trials while keeping the proceedings open to the public. SB 136 would enhance penalties for trafficking synthetic drugs in addition to prohibiting three drugs currently not addressed by law, a drug known as Kratom and the designer opioid drugs W-15 and W-18.
Senate Bill 137 is a proposed state constitutional amendment relating to legislative redistricting. It would remove the state constitutional requirement that counties not be split and replace it with a requirement that the General Assembly only divide the number of counties necessary to achieve substantial population equality. In addition, SB 137 would require the legislature to remain in session – without pay – if they fail to redistrict as required by law.
The last day to introduce new Senate bills is March 3. We hope to move all bills originating in the Senate over the next two weeks, and after that we will begin considering House bills.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at [email protected] You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin and Perry counties. He is the vice-chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee and the Transportation Committee; and a member of Appropriations and Revenue Committee. He is a member of the Federal Environmental Reg. Impact Assessment Task Force Special Committee.