Governor Steve Beshear signed the first bill of the 2013 session which will give six Kentucky universities authorization to bond more than $360 million in construction projects. House Bill 7 would also create 5,000 construction jobs and almost $400 million in economic development.
The coyote problem that persists in eastern Kentucky, causing tremendous harm to animals and property, has spread to all 120 counties across the commonwealth. We’ve certainly experienced our share of coyote-related problems in the past which is why I sponsored House Bill 60.
House Bill 60 would allow the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to permit hunting coyotes at night and allow hunters to use spotlights or night-vision equipment to make the animals easier to spot. This activity will thin the ever-growing herd of coyotes and make a much safer environment for our farms, families, animals and children. House Bill 60 passed the House by a vote of 99-1 and now heads to the Senate where I hope it will receive the prompt attention it deserves.
Several bills that protect victims of domestic violence and sex crimes were approved by the House.
House Bill 9 would strengthen and improve the Commonwealth’s response to crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. It would broaden the law to extend domestic violence order protections to people in dating relationships. The bill greatly improves upon the current law which limits protective orders to people who live or have lived together. The bill will extend protections particularly for the group most vulnerable to dating violence, girls aged 16 to 24. House Bill 9 passed with a vote of 92-5.
House Bill 123, which passed the House unanimously, also protects victims of domestic violence from their violent partner through a confidential address protection program. The bill affords victims of domestic violence the protection of keeping their new address confidential after moving away from potential violent partners.
The House also unanimously passed House Bill 107 to expand the availability of HIV testing to help protect the health of victims of sex crimes. And a measure that would allow police to collect DNA swabs from people arrested for felony crimes without getting a court’s permission also cleared the House. If House Bill 89 becomes law, Kentucky would become the 26th state to allow the automatic collection of DNA evidence before someone has been convicted of a crime.
These four protective bills now head to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation which would provide transparency and oversight of Kentucky’s child protection system cleared the House and is now on its way to the Senate. House Bill 290 opens the path to more effective justice in the fight to end child abuse. The bill allows a qualified, independent panel of police officers, doctors, social workers and prosecutors to review the worst child abuse cases in the commonwealth and joins efforts to develop an enforcement and protection strategy that will save the lives of Kentucky children.
A measure that would give scholarships to students to attend universities within those coal-producing counties passed the House this week with a vote of 96-2. House Bill 199 is the same legislation the House passed last session but never gained passage in the Senate. Governor Beshear created, by executive order, a nine-county scholarship program last year and House Bill 210 makes that program permanent. It also extends it to a total of 34 counties and will use coal severance dollars to provide scholarships to juniors and seniors.
The House has a long tradition of ensuring that its incoming freshmen members pass a bill in their first session. Three of our members accomplished that feat over the last 10 days. House Bill 186 would allow campus police officers to be eligible for death benefits if killed in the line of duty. House Bill 162 improves elevator inspections. House Bill 232 streamlines the debt collection measures for local governments and provides added resources to collect revenues. Each bill received a unanimous vote and this “rite of passage” for new legislators is always a highlight of the session.
Kentucky First lady Jane Beshear visited the House of Representatives to help remind Kentucky taxpayers about an opportunity to support breast cancer research through our tax return forms. In 2005 House Bill 7 established the Breast Cancer Research and Education Trust Fund to support and advance breast cancer research, education, treatment, screening and awareness efforts in the state. House Bill 7 also earmarked proceeds from a state income tax check-off to help finance the work of the trust fund.
Since 2006, more than 32,000 tax-payers have participated in the program, contributing nearly $366,000 to the fund. Just look for line 36 on your state tax return form and check any contribution you’d like to give. It’s an easy way to fund research and save lives affected by breast cancer.
With just a few more days to go in the 2013 session, time becomes crucial to members working their bills, chairmen prioritizing their agendas and interest groups anxious to be heard.