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Successful session is complete

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By Jimmy Higdon

Sine die came on April 15 at midnight. In case you don't know what “sine die” means (I did not until I ran for the House of Rep) it is Latin for “the end.” This 60-day session was a very busy one with more than 800 pieces of legislation filed, and just over 100 passed into law. The most important bills of this session were the budget bills.
The legislative measures of most interest for our district were the eminent domain bills that would prohibit private companies from using eminent domain. I was very disappointed that I was unable to pass Senate Bill 14 or House Bill 31 through the Kentucky State Senate. Congratulations to Rep. David Floyd for his Statesmanship in getting HB 31 passed in the House of Representatives.
Even though we did not succeed in passing the eminent domain legislation, I was overjoyed with the court’s ruling that Kentucky Law does not already grant the use of eminent domain to the Bluegrass Pipeline. I was thrilled with the court’s ruling because I knew firsthand the intent of the 2006 legislation that dealt with the Kelo case ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court. I voted yes to the changes we made in 2006 that made sure the use of eminent domain is for public use only.
Some have asked why the Kentucky Senate would not act on my legislation to prohibit private companies using eminent domain. The Senate has a long-standing policy of not legislating issues that are currently in litigation in the courts. There are several examples this year of such issues. First of all, the smoking ban was in litigation and we did not hear the bill that proposed the statewide smoking ban. Also, a lawsuit regarding libraries being taxed was filed in Northern Kentucky, and therefore we did not act on a bill filed regarding the subject. Last year, there was a lot of news coverage regarding liquor sales in grocery stores. Many wanted legislation on that as well, but again, it was in the courts at the time. On that issue, a court finding earlier this year proved the Senate policy to be correct. No legislation was needed.
Our successes this session include passing a fiscally responsible budget with less debt ratio and structural imbalance than those proposed by the House of Representatives and the governor. Additionally, we passed important health-related measures that will have positive effects on the well-being and medical needs of our citizens.
We banned e-cigarettes for our minors, made legal the cannabidiol oil that can provide relief to those with major seizure disorders, created an adult abuse registry for the safety of our adults in assisted living, we made medication more accessible by relaxing red tape for Physician Assistants and our Nurse Practitioners and making eye drops that treat glaucoma more available for children in child care and school. We also passed a bill to broaden access to dental care for children who otherwise can’t afford it. The compassion for Kentuckians and the access to needed services was obvious throughout the session and we rose to the occasion on these matters.
Education was a winner this session as well, as funding for our public schools was increased and educator salaries were increased. We also expanded preschool, increased per-pupil funding for elementary and secondary schools and authorized capital construction projects on many college campuses across the state.
Several bills were approved to protect vulnerable and victimized citizens and expanding medical training for doctors regarding pediatric abusive head trauma (HB 157). Under SB 184 passed this session, victims of human trafficking will be allowed to have non-violent offenses resulting from trafficking cleared from their record. With the passage of HB 128 anyone granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order can apply for and receive a provisional concealed carry weapons permit in one business day after undergoing a background check.
Many measures gaining full approval by the legislature were aimed at updating laws to reflect the digital age. Businesses in Kentucky will be required to notify customers if a security breach may have compromised their personal or financial information under the provisions of HB 232. Another measure, HB 5, will update electronic safeguards and protocol for government agencies. We also expanded the state’s electronic arrest warrant program to include search warrants in SB 45.
We sought to provide an economic and employment boost to the state through a bourbon barrel tax credit, angel investor tax credit and “new markets” tax credit included in HB 445. With the passage of HB 396, we also expanded eligibility for the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act benefits to include appliance manufacturers.
With the session complete, we’ll head back home now to meet with constituents, keep an eye on the progress of these new laws and study issues through the interim.
As always, you can call me anytime at my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100. To review the work of the 2014 Regular Session, you may visit the legislature’s website at www.lrc.ky.gov. Archived meetings and proceedings, as well as interim coverage, can be viewed at www.ket.org.