Kentucky Lawmakers To Consider Flurry Of Bills In Final Days Of Session

Mar 14, 2017

Credit J. Tyler Franklin

State lawmakers are expected to consider a flurry of legislation over the next days as time runs out on this year’s General Assembly.

Bills dealing with charter schools, reducing criminal recidivism and new driver’s license security requirements are among the weightiest pieces of legislation scheduled to be taken up.

Legislators will also consider a measure that would base funding for state universities and technical colleges on areas such as graduation rates and numbers of degrees or credit hours earned.

Lawmakers will meet Tuesday and Wednesday before a designated 10-day break for the governor to veto legislation. Then on March 29 and 30, the legislature will have the opportunity to override vetoes or try and pass more bills.

Charter Schools

A new compromise on a charter schools bill, House Bill 520, is expected to be presented in the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday evening Wednesday.

House Speaker Jeff Hoover said last week that he had set a deadline of March 15 for the charter schools bill to pass the legislature — giving the General Assembly an opportunity to override a veto.

Neighborhood Schools

House Bill 151 would require local districts to give school assignment priority to students living closest to schools. Critics of the legislation say it would upend Louisville’s longstanding school busing program, a desegregation effort.

The legislation has passed the House but still awaits a committee hearing in the state Senate. Sen. Dan Seum has proposed a substitute for the bill that would limit the policy to elementary schools in Louisville.

REAL ID

House Bill 410 would centralize Kentucky’s driver’s licensing program and bring the state into compliance with stricter federal ID card rules mandated by Congress more than a decade ago.

In response to privacy concerns, the bill would allow Kentuckians to either get the REAL ID or a conventional driver’s license. Conventional license holders would soon have to have additional forms of ID to board commercial air flights and enter military bases.

If lawmakers don’t pass the legislation, starting June 6, Kentuckians will have to bring additional identification — like a passport — in order to access military bases.

Reducing Criminal Recidivism

Senate Bill 120 is intended to keep those charged with crimes from reoffending and give them work experience. It would allow private companies to employ prisoners while they’re still behind bars and allow those with felony records to seek professional licenses where they used to be automatically banned.

Gang Recruiting

House Bill 315 would expand the definition of gangs under Kentucky’s criminal code and toughen penalties for adults who recruit children to join gangs.

Crimes committed by those determined to be gang members would also have stiffer punishments and those convicted would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentences. The Legislative Research Commission estimates the policy would cost the state an additional $38 million in additional prosecution and incarceration costs.

Performance-Based Funding

Under Senate Bill 153, state universities and technical schools would compete for state funding based on metrics like graduation rates, degree hours and operational needs like maintenance. The bill has passed the Senate and awaits a hearing in the full House.

Public Education Reform

Senate Bill 1 would overhaul the state’s education system and gradually remove Common Core standards from Kentucky classrooms.

The bill would change the way students are tested, use teachers to create new education standards and replace school self-evaluations called program reviews.

The measure has passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the full House.

Bible Classes In Public Schools

House Bill 128 would direct the state Department of Education to develop coursework for a Bible literacy course that would count towards an elective for public school students.

Bill sponsor Rep. DJ Johnson says the class would teach “cultural aspects and the historical aspects” of Christianity.

The bill passed out of the House earlier thuan month and awaits a hearing in the full Senate. Attempts to amend the measure to include other religious texts have been unsuccessful.

Attorney General Powers

Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers proposed a substitute to House Bill 281 last week that would strip the attorney general’s common law powers.

With some exceptions, the attorney general would no longer be able to file lawsuits or appeals on behalf of Kentuckians — instead, the governor would be in charge.

Stivers says his legislation clarifies who represents the state’s interests. The substitute bill has not yet passed out of committee and would have to be considered by both the House and Senate.