New laws passed by this year’s Kentucky General Assembly go into effect next week. Legislation concerning child safety protection, DNA testing, and school dropouts are among the measures that go into effect Tuesday, June 25.
One of the new laws allows Kentucky school districts to raise their dropout age to 18 beginning in the 2015-16 school year. If, after four years, 55 percent of districts adopt the new rules, the new dropout age will go into effect for all districts.
Another new law will allow some felony offenders in prison or under state supervision to request testing and analysis of their DNA as case evidence.
A measure intended to strengthen child protection will also become law. The bill creates an independent review panel to investigate case of child deaths and near-fatal injuries in the commonwealth. That panel will also be given access to complete records of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, as well as information from law enforcement and other agencies.
A bill strengthening Kentucky’s human trafficking laws is also designed to protect victims from prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit. The legislation passed during this year’s General Assembly will offer help to agencies responsible for helping human trafficking victims by creating a victim’s fund supported by penalties paid by those convicted of human trafficking.
Another law going into effect next Tuesday will require the Kentucky Board of Education to create a statewide evaluation system for all certified personnel.
Kentucky lawmakers will go into special session later this year to craft new maps of political districts based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Legislative leaders want a tentative agreement in place before returning to Frankfort, but one of the hang-ups is whether to include federal prisoners being held in the commonwealth.
Kentucky law says a prison cell is not a residence, and the inmate population can, but doesn't have to be taken into account when drawing political maps. State lawmakers counted federal prisoners when they approved a new Congressional map last year. That map was upheld by a judge while the legislative and judicial maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will use this year's special session to redraw legislative and judicial maps. Legislative leaders agree on the need for consistency, and contend they can't use one set of data for one map and different data for another. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the congressional map amended and argues it would have a minimal impact on districts.
"There's only about 8,500 federal prisoners and the average congressional district is 770,000," explains Stumbo.
Senate President Robert Stivers argues consulting again with each congressman would prolong a costly special session.
"So now we get into a situation where we're engaging the federal delegation in a special session issue," remarks Stivers.
A Kentucky judge is weighing whether a same-sex couple qualifies for the privilege of not testifying against a spouse in a slaying case in Louisville.
The question arose in the case of Bobbie Joe Clary. Clary is charged in the Oct. 29, 2011, murder and robbery of 64-year-old George Murphy, accused of fatally wounding Murphy with a blunt object in his Portland home.
Clary is claiming self-defense, saying that Murphy was raping her and she fought back by hitting him in the head with a hammer.
The Courier-Journal reports Clary and partner Geneva Case were legally married in Vermont in 2004. Kentucky doesn't recognize same-sex marriages.