Legislators passed several key bills
FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 25, 2015) — Gov. Steve Beshear declared this legislative session a success. Following are moves made during the session, which ended on Tuesday:
- In the final hours of the session, legislators passed Senate Bill 192, a multifaceted bill designed to attack heroin’s grip on the commonwealth.
Stabilizing the Road Fund
- In one of the session’s final votes, legislators approved resetting the floor for the gas tax, which will preserve about $126 million in the Road Fund over this biennium. By setting a new floor of 26 cents per gallon on the gas tax, House Bill 299 protects the stability and predictability of the fund going forward, preventing dramatic falls or increases. Nearly half of the gas tax is passed on to municipal governments and counties, so the floor will preserve funding for local communities for use in road and bridge maintenance.
- Kentucky law had required booster seats for children under 7 years old who are between 40 and 50 inches tall, but House Bill 315 increased that requirement to age 8 and 57 inches tall.
- Kentucky is one of the few states not to provide domestic violence protection to dating couples. The dating violence bill, House Bill 8, creates a unified, comprehensive system of emergency protections in Kentucky for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.
Early Childhood Rating System
- Lawmakers took up the governor’s request to add accountability and transparency to all of Kentucky’s early child care facilities by implementing the goals of the Accelerating Learning Statewide Through an Advanced Rating System, or All-STARS. House Bill 234 requires early child care and education programs to follow this state quality-based rating system. All-STARS addresses safety, continuing education for staff members, nutrition and age-appropriate curriculum.
- Beshear signed Senate Bill 168, which establishes a fund for the Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative to receive future appropriations should the General Assembly choose to invest further in eastern Kentucky. Beshear and Rep. Hal Rogers launched the SOAR initiative to address the challenges facing eastern Kentucky and its economy. The measure allows the money to be used to support job creation and retention, entrepreneurship, tourism, broadband deployment, workforce training, leadership development, health and wellness, infrastructure and economic diversity.
- House Bill 340 will make Kentucky more competitive in the film industry. The measure expands the state’s film tax credits in order to create more film production in the commonwealth.
Public Pension Oversight
- In 2013 Beshear signed historic, bipartisan pension legislation that included the creation of the Public Pension Oversight Board to monitor the Kentucky Retirement Systems. He signed House Bill 47 this session to expand the Board’s authority to review the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System. The measure strengthens and helps ensure the long-term reliability of the public employee pension systems by bringing them all under common review and transparency standards.
UK Research Facility
- Beshear signed House Bill 298, which authorizes construction of a research building at the University of Kentucky. The state-of-the-art facility will house world-class research across health disciplines, focusing on the many health challenges facing the commonwealth, particularly those which contribute to preventable diseases and deaths.
Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement Protection
- Beshear signed House Bill 512, which helps protect and preserve future Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) payments that support agricultural diversification programs and provide critical health care and early childhood development services. The legislation, effective July 1, 2015, follows the 2014 agreement between Kentucky and tobacco manufacturers negotiated by Attorney General Jack Conway which ended a long-running legal dispute and restoring certainty to Kentucky’s annual MSA payments from tobacco companies.
- Beshear signed House Bill 152, which eliminates requirements that telephone companies offer basic landline service in urban areas, allowing companies to use those funds instead to invest in Internet and mobile phone expansion. The bill strikes a balance between providing consumer protection and creating economic development opportunities that result from robust broadband accessibility in communities all across the commonwealth.
- Beshear signed related bills Senate Bill 61 and House Bill 69, which require health benefit plans to provide complete coverage for colorectal cancer screenings. This means coding colonoscopies as preventive care, instead of diagnostic care, so that patients are not charged for the procedure. Preventive care coverage is an incremental part to the Affordable Care Act, implemented by Beshear through the Kentucky Health Benefit Exchange.
Snow Calamity Days
- Kentucky experienced extreme, widespread winter weather this year that forced many school districts across the state to accumulate snow days. Beshear signed Senate Bill 119 to allow school districts to waive some of their mandatory 1,062 instructional hours, so students would not be in school past June 5 to make up missed days.