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The week may have been cut short by a day because of another round of winter weather, but the Kentucky House of Representatives didn’t let that stand in the way of approving a broad collection of bills.
Those ranged from the relatively simple – helping sheriff’s departments fill vacancies – to the morally complex, which in this case would build on the current directives people have regarding what life-saving measures, if any, they want taken.
That legislation drew strong support in the House on Thursday after several of my colleagues highlighted the difficult medical decisions they had faced in their families.
Under House Bill 145, both physicians and patients (or their loved ones, if necessary) would truly be on the same page in the patient’s final days. More specifically, this would call on the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to develop a standardized order form that would help determine the scope of treatment in providing comfort and care.
The other legislation to clear the House last week was less emotional.
The bill to help sheriffs, for example, would make it easier for them to hire retired police officers. This cost-saving move would help these departments add to their force without many of the expenses tied to training or retirement.
Another law enforcement-related bill, House Bill 90, would make sure that most drivers under 18 attend court with a parent or guardian if the teen received a traffic ticket.
House Bill 242, meanwhile, would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who are crime victims and have to take leave to attend court proceedings tied to the crime.
Other legislation the House sent to the Senate includes House Bill 418, which would make it possible for siblings to petition a court for visitation rights; House Bill 121, which would help make sure parents are better informed if an incident involving a knife or firearm happens on school grounds; and House Bill 337, which would make it easier for former service men and women to use qualified military training in meeting the requirements to work in the heating and air industry.
Although it is just starting out, a bill filed late last week would move forward one of the General Assembly’s main goals this year: improving Kentucky’s juvenile-justice system.
It is an issue that has been studied closely for nearly two years by a task force that brought together officials from all three branches of state government and other stakeholders.
The cost of juvenile justice is considerable. It takes about $100,000 to house a juvenile for a year, which is nearly five times the rate for an adult inmate. More than half of the $102 million annual budget for the Department of Juvenile Justice, in fact, goes for housing costs alone.
Our goal with juvenile justice is to mirror what the General Assembly did in 2011 in the wake of sky-rocketing prison costs. As we have seen since then, smart-on-crime, data-driven measures prove we can increase public safety while saving tax dollars.
While we wait for that legislation to move forward, the House is set to vote on its proposed two-year budget this week. Our plan is expected to differ little from what Governor Beshear presented in January, meaning the House is on track to significantly shift more money toward elementary and secondary education and approve a large number of construction projects at our public postsecondary schools.
With only two more full weeks left in this legislative session, plus a few more days in April, the House and Senate are now within sight of the end, meaning the hours spent working will get longer as the number of remaining days gets shorter.
I want to thank those who have contacted me, and encourage you to join them if you have any thoughts or concerns involving the issues now before us. There is still time.
For those who would like to write, my address is Room 329G, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Terry.Mills@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 1-800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.