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.
Even though they managed to pass pension and tax reforms in this year's regular legislative session, Kentucky lawmakers haven't necessarily dodged a special session.
A few big issues remain for lawmakers, mainly the redrawing of legislative districts and further tax reform.
Governor Steve Beshear has continued to discuss the need for more tax reform, largely to pay for education. And he says he's not ruling out calling a special session sometime this year.
"I'm going to have continuing conversations through the summer with House and Senate leadership on that too. We're just taking it one step at a time and see where we go,” the Governor said.
Beshear is also considering whether redistricting should be tackled in a special session. Legally, lawmakers have until next year, but Beshear says he wants candidates to know their districts well before campaigning begins.
Governor Steve Beshear has signed bills allowing alcohol sales on election day, reforming the state's pension system and finding revenue to pay for the reforms
The governor signed the bills Thursday, two days before his deadline to do so.
The pension bills would raise almost $100 million in revenue to pay for the underfunded pension systems. The reforms also put new hires into a 401k-style pension plan.
Opponents of the pension bills say they will hurt state workers by giving them weaker retirement plans and they question whether the bills raise enough money to fund the systems.
Beshear has still not acted on a bill that prepares Kentucky to grow industrial hemp, if it's legalized on the federal level. If he doesn't sign or veto it by Saturday, it will become law automatically.
Many of the bills Kentucky lawmakers passed in the final hours of this year's legislative session are still awaiting action by Governor Steve Beshear.
Beshear has not yet signed or vetoed high-profile bills that would prepare Kentucky to grow industrial hemp, allow alcohol sales on election day and simplify voting for military service members stationed overseas.
Supporters of industrial hemp have questioned whether Beshear intends to sign the hemp bill. If he vetoes it, he won't be at any risk of having his veto overridden, since the legislature has adjourned for the year.
Beshear has until Saturday to either sign the bills or veto them outright. However, state law says that if Beshear doesn't act, the bills become law anyway.
The key issue for a new Louisville-based political action committee is candidates' use of reproductive rights as a campaign issue.
Reproductive Rights for Kentucky PAC was born from the recent controversy when University of Louisville Hospital attempted to merge with Denver-based Catholic Health Initiatives. Critics of the merger raised concerns about CHI's adherence to Catholic religious directives—that certain reproductive health practices, such as tubal litigations, wouldn't be permitted at University Hospital.
The new PAC is chaired by Honi Goldman, a Louisville media relations executive and a critic of the CHI-University Hospital merger. (CHI and University entered into a partnership last year.)
Goldman said the group will support candidates who realized there are bigger issues to deal with than reproductive ones.
Kentucky legislative leaders say they're proud of the 2013, with legislators having accomplished pension reforms, cleaned up other bills and passed others dealing with hemp, special taxing district and military voting.
Many of the legislature's top priorities were passed in the 30-day session, although most of them were hatched as last minutes deals in the waning days of the session.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said the 2013 session may have been his proudest in more than a decade.
"I think that history will not have seen the chaotic events of the last day but it should record that this was a very successful session," he said.
Senate President Robert Stivers says the success of the session doesn't rest on any one person's shoulders, but collectively on the legislature.
Kentucky's legislative leaders have passed two bills to shore up the state's underfunded pension systems, effectively staving off a special session on the issue.
The new plan would reduce a personal tax credit of $20 to $10, generating roughly 33 million in revenue that would go to General Fund, but lawmakers would use for pensions. It would also use revenue from technical changes in the state's tax code, as well as money from federal tax changes.
Overall, the plan would generate $96 million in the 2015 fiscal year and $100 million in 2016 fiscal year.
In a news conference with legislative leaders after the bill passed, Governor Steve Beshear said the process will work as a template for other states.
"This is a good solution to a thorny problem. A solution that other states around the country will be looking at as they look at options to solve their own crises," Beshear said.
The Kentucky House will vote Tuesday whether to override Governor Steve Beshear's veto of the so-called religious freedom bill.
The measure allows Kentuckians to ignore laws that put an undue burden on their religious beliefs. Critics of the bill say it undermines fairness laws in a handful of cities and would legalize discrimination. But supporters of the bill say it only strengthens previous laws that protect religious rights.
Many House Democrats supported the bill when it first came up for a vote, though the decision to consider the veto was more contentious when taken up in a Democratic caucus meeting Monday. Speaker Greg Stumbo expects the override to go through, but he's not sure how strong the support will be.
"But it will be called for a vote, I don't know, I quit counting this morning," Stumbo said Monday.
Senate leaders say they will also vote to override the veto.