Numerous bills slated to become state law this month

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By Jimmy Higdon

When the 2009 General Assembly adjourned on March 26, my colleagues and I were greeted with the public sentiment that too many issues were left unresolved. While I acknowledge that some key pieces of legislation did not receive much deserved attention, more than 100 bills were approved by both chambers in the 29-day session that will make great strides in many areas, including improving education, increasing public protection and enhancing military benefits.

Aside from bills that specify a different effective date or contain an emergency clause, legislation approved this year will become effective as state law on June 25, the required 90 days after a legislative session adjourns as stipulated by the Kentucky Constitution. 

  Low-speed electric vehicles

House Bill 21 legalizes the use of low-speed electric vehicles on roadways with a posted speed limit of 35 miles per hour or less.

  Revised driving provisions

House Bill 39 modifies the graduated driver's license program. It exempts military enlistees from the provision to attend driver's training class.  Additionally, the waiting period for 18-year-olds is removed. 

  Excused school absences

House Bill 124 allots children up to 10 days of excused school absences to visit their parents or legal guardians whom are members of the United States Armed Forces and on approved leave. Students will be required to make up school assignments and homework.

  Animal safety

House Bill 301 prohibits the removal of an animal identification tag or tracking device without permission from the owner. Those found in violation will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.

  Internet protection

House Bill 315 bans registered sex offenders from using social-networking websites, such as MySpace and Facebook, which are frequented by minors.  Additionally, the offenders will be required to update their e-mail addresses and online identifiers with the state registry of sex offenders when they update their home address.

  School athletics safety

House Bill 383 requires high school athletic coaches to receive training in both CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators (AED), which can resuscitate an individual in cardiac distress. AEDs will also be required on site of any athletic practice, activity or sporting event.

  Military pay

House Bill 541 enables Kentucky National Guard members who were injured while serving during the 2009 ice storm to receive complete military pay during their rehabilitation period.

  Employee background checks

Senate Bill 22 stipulates that home health and personal service agencies must perform criminal background checks on their employees. Anyone convicted of abuse, drug-related crimes or sexual offenses will be prohibited from retaining employment with the agency.

  Crop transportation

Senate Bill 47 permits farm trucks a 10 percent gross weight tolerance when transporting agricultural products.

  Veterinary patient records

Senate Bill 151 protects the privacy of veterinary patient records, similar to HIPPA laws that mandate doctor-patient confidentiality. Information protected through this legislation includes address, home phone number and place of employment.

This is just a sampling of legislation that will soon become state law. As I previously mentioned, some bills approved by the General Assembly contain an emergency clause, which simply enables the provisions of the bill to take effect upon the signature of the Governor. Legislation from that 2009 regular session already enacted as state law includes an overhaul of the nearly 20-year-old CATS testing system, the creation of a pretrial drug treatment program for felony drug offenders, the assurance that Best in Class loans for teachers will be forgiven and allowing school districts affected by recent weather disasters to waive 10 make-up school days.

While it remains to be seen if my fellow lawmakers and I will be returning to Frankfort for an extraordinary legislative session, please know that my work as your state representative has not been on hold. Interim committee meetings are currently underway in which we are tackling the difficult issues affecting our state, including the widening budget shortfall.

In these unsure times, I want you to know that I am open to hearing your concerns, questions and comments. Please do not hesitate to contact me at home at 692-6945, through the toll-free message line at 1 (800) 372-7181 or at jimmy.higdon@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like to attend an interim committee meeting, you may call the Meeting Information Line at 1 (800) 633-9650.