Senate has much to do in its last 20 working days

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By Jimmy Higdon

The Senate continued work this week, and recognized an historic event. On Wednesday, many lawmakers joined thousands of Kentuckians gathered along Capitol Avenue to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Frankfort. It was a cold and blustery March 5 when Dr. King led 10,000 others in a march up to the front door of our Capitol in support of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
Regarding the work on the floor, one piece of legislation that passed the Senate this week, and generated a lot of discussion, was Senate Bill 81. The bill would define terms regarding employment, specifically “contractor”, “person”, “prime contractor” and “subcontractor.” Under the bill, any person determined to be independent contractor is not eligible for employee benefits or wages. It would also allow for an appeal process to circuit court in the county where the person resides or where the person has his principal office.
To ensure the information is clear and people understand the changes, Senate Bill 81 would require the Labor Cabinet develop a corresponding training program to educate public and workers on classification criteria used by Labor Cabinet as well as a workplace poster. The measure also sets penalties for violation of misclassification. The House will now consider the bill.
We also took action on youth access to e-cigarettes. Senate Bill 109 would prohibit the sale of “electronic cigarettes” to minors. E-cigarettes are sometimes marketed as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes because they are smokeless. But they still emit a vaporized form of nicotine to users that is reportedly addictive and unsafe for youth.
A measure that would help the real estate industry, Senate Bill 36, reduces the time period for the right of redemption of real property from one year to six months. After researching the issue, no cases of redemption after six months could be found. This legislation helps purchasers rehabilitate and sell these properties rather than leaving them empty and vulnerable to crime, vandalism and other misuse that not only hurts the value of the property, but those in its vicinity. SB 36 passed the Senate Wednesday.
Three bills regarding the “conceal and carry a deadly weapon” (CCDW) license process also received passage this week. Senate Bill 100 speeds up CCDW licensing by a simple measure; allowing electronic applications for licenses and renewals. This will take advantage of modern technology and make the licensing process more efficient. The convenience of the electronic application will cost the applicant 10 more dollars, but if the applicant does not want to pay that, the paper application is available at the current cost.
To address personal protection of those under threat of violence, Senate Bill 106 would permit a person protected by an EPO or DVO to be issued a temporary CCDW for the period of the protective order. A background check by the State Police will have to be conducted, and the recipient will have to receive training within 45 days in order for the provisional to convert to a full CCDW license.
In an effort to make the CCDW application process more straightforward for veterans, Senate Bill 125 would further clarify the allowance for honorably-discharged service members to forgo the training requirement for a CCDW license. The measure would allow them to sign an affidavit confirming completion of military handgun training. These men and women have served and defended our state and nation and have proven they can be trusted to safely and responsibly handle weapons outside the military.
These bills now go to the House of Representatives for further action.
Another important milestone was reached this week as we completed two thirds of the session: The deadline for new bills. With 800 bills introduced this year, we’ll have plenty to consider in our final 20 working days. And while no new bills will be introduced, there is still plenty of time for you to exercise your rights and get involved with any of the bills already in the process.
I invite you to visit Frankfort and observe the work in the session. Also, citizens are always welcome in our committee meetings. You can also view live-streaming and archived coverage of legislative proceedings at www.ket.org. My website, www.jimmyhigdon.com hosts updated information. Also, you can call me at 1-800-381-7181 and at my home 270-692-6945. I appreciate any input and welcome your questions and comments. Our caucus also has a twitter feed, @kysenategop.