General Assembly’s 2012 session leaves loose ends

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The Kentucky General Assembly’s 2012 session came to a close last week, marking the end of a session in which lawmakers approved the state’s next two-year budget and boosted efforts to stop the spread of methamphetamine labs.
This was the 60th working day of the session and the final one allowed by the state constitution. The session started on January 3.
Approved bills will go into effect in mid-July, except those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that allows them to take effect immediately upon being signed by the governor.
Legislation approved during the 2012 session includes measures on the following topics:
Blue Alert. SB 32 will establish a statewide emergency alert system to catch those suspected of injuring a police officer. The “Blue Alert” system, which is modeled after the Amber Alert system, will use law enforcement communication systems, electronic highway signs and media to spread information to catch perpetrators after an officer has been reported wounded or missing.
Budget. HB 265 will guide more than $19 billion in state spending for the next two fiscal years and, in recognition of lean times, will impose 8.4 percent spending cuts on many state agencies and reduce state support for universities by 6.4 percent. Key areas such as Medicaid, Corrections, and base school funding are protected from the cuts. The budget includes $21 million to hire additional social workers, $4 million to enhance the state prescription monitoring KASPER system, and $1 million for a colon cancer screening program.
Coal mine safety. HB 385 will enforce new rules for miners who fail drug or alcohol tests. Offenders will be ineligible to hold mining licenses or certificates for three years. Penalties are more severe for repeat offenders. The legislation also outlines an appeals process for suspended miners.
Coal truck drivers. HB 411 will designate the Monday of the fourth week in August as Coal Truck Driver Appreciation Day.
Concealed deadly weapons. HB 484 will allow Kentuckians to carry concealed weapons on their property or place of business, if they are the sole proprietors, without a license.
Copper theft. HB 390 will help curb theft of copper and other valuable metals by ensuring thieves don’t get immediate cash for the stolen goods at recycling centers. Instead, after showing proof of ownership, a check will be mailed to those selling certain metals to recycling centers. The legislation will also ensure that recycling centers receive reports on recently stolen metal items in the area so they can be on the lookout. The bill does not affect individuals recycling aluminum cans.
Confederate pensions. HB 85 will remove from the law books outdated language regarding pensions for Confederate soldiers.
Consumer protection. HB 421 will protect homeowners from being defrauded by providing a five-day grace period to cancel a signed roofing contract if the homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover the repair work.
Diplomas. SB 43 will provide diplomas to students with disabilities who finish modified high school curriculums. The diploma will replace the certificate of completion the students currently receive.
Election costs. HB 293 will save money on election costs if only one candidate is running in a special election. The legislation is named the “Dewayne Bunch Act” in honor of a former state legislator who was seriously injured last year while breaking up a fight among students at the school where he taught.
Emergency room safety. SB 58 will allow officers to make arrests for misdemeanor assault with probable cause if the crime occurs in a hospital emergency room.  Under current law, emergency rooms aren’t exempt from the requirement that an officer must witness a misdemeanor assault in order to make an arrest.
Ethics. HB 402 will allow the Executive Branch Ethics Commission to share evidence with the state Personnel Board or the Auditor of Public Accounts if the information is needed for the agencies’ investigations.
For-profit postsecondary schools. HB 308 will establish a new panel to regulate private for-profit colleges and universities in Kentucky. The legislation will replace the Kentucky Board for Proprietary Education with the Kentucky Commission on Proprietary Education and will limit the schools’ membership to four seats. The legislation also calls for the creation of a compensation fund (paid for by the industry) for grievances of eligible Kentucky students and a revised student complaint review process.
Horse-drawn buggies. SB 75 will allow drivers of horse-drawn buggies and other motorless vehicles to substitute reflective tape for the traditional orange safety emblem typically affixed to the back of those vehicles. The bill was filed in response to legal action taken against a group of Amish men in far west Kentucky who were arrested for refusing to use the orange emblem, citing religious concerns with the emblem’s shape and bright color.
Judicial budget. HB 269 will guide judicial branch spending for the next two fiscal years. Like much of the executive branch budget, it will impose 8.4 percent spending cuts.
Juvenile offenders. House Concurrent Resolution 129 will establish a task force to study the state’s juvenile code. The task force will look at issues relating to status offenders - those who commit acts that don’t rise to the level of crime such as skipping school - and the feasibility of establishing an age of criminal responsibility, as well as other issues. The task force will submit a report on its work to lawmakers by Jan. 7, 2013.
Legislative budget. HB 268 will guide legislative branch spending for the next two fiscal years. Like much of the executive branch budget, it will impose 8.4 percent spending cuts.
Meth labs. SB 3 will boost efforts to stop production of methamphetamines by tightening rules on the purchase of certain cold and allergy medicines that contain an ingredient needed to make meth. The legislation will decrease the current monthly over-the-counter purchase limit of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine in pill or tablet forms from 9 grams to 7.2 grams and impose a 24 gram yearly limit. The measure will also replace the paper-tracking system currently in place for the purchase of medicines containing ephedrine and pseudoephedrine with a mandatory electronic system that will allow more real-time tracking.
National Guard Assistance Program. HB 224 will make Kentucky National Guard members eligible for financial assistance to help pay child adoption costs.
Personal-care homes. SB 115 will require a medical examination that includes a medical history, physical examination and diagnosis prior to admission to a personal-care home.
POW/MIA flags. HB 121 will require Prisoner of War and Missing in Action flags purchased or displayed by public institutions to be made in the United States.
School athletics. HB 281 will require interscholastic coaches to complete training on recognizing and treating head injuries, including concussions. The bill also outlines actions required before an athlete with a head injury may return to play.
School facilities. SB 110 will make it easier for school districts to allow community access to school facilities for recreational use during non-school hours by protecting the schools from liability in cases where an injury occurs.
Seat belts. SB 89 will expand Kentucky’s seat belt law to include 15-person passenger vans. The bill was filed in response to a 2010 crash on I-65 near Munfordville that killed 11 people, most of whom weren’t wearing seat belts. Current state law only requires seat belt use in vehicles designed to carry ten or fewer passengers.
Speed limits. HB 439 will allow the Transportation Cabinet to increase the speed limit on I-69 in Western Kentucky to 70 miles per hour.
Students. SB 24 requires children to be five years old by August 1 rather than October 1 to enter public school kindergarten classes and six years old by the same date to start first grade. The new requirements take effect in the 2017-2018 school year.
Synthetic drugs. HB 481 will widen the current state ban on synthetic drugs, including those sold as bath salts by some convenience stores. The legislation expands the state’s ban by including whole classes of the drugs rather than specific ingredients so that manufacturers can’t get around the ban by changing a single ingredient.
Tax amnesty. HB 499 will establish a tax amnesty program to be held during the 2012-2013 fiscal year to help collect unpaid taxes.
Unemployment insurance. HB 495 will give the state a financing mechanism to generate funds needed for interest payments on the state’s federal unemployment insurance loan, thereby protecting a $600 million tax credit for businesses.
Veterans’ licenses. HB 221 will allow veterans to have their service designated on driver’s licenses and state identification cards. The designations will make it easier for veterans to show proof of service needed for various discounts and special services available to them.
War memorial. HB 256 will establish a committee responsible for oversight of construction and upkeep of an Iraq/Afghanistan War Memorial.
Wild hogs. HB 344 will impose stiffer penalties on those who release feral hogs into the wild. The state’s growing feral pig population is a threat to farmland, natural habitats and human health, experts say.
--Legislative Research Commission