A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Tina Bojanowski
FRANKFORT – To re-purpose a popular phrase, there are many bills considered each legislative session that may not mean much to the world, but they may mean the world for those who benefit. The Kentucky House of Representatives put its unanimous support this past week behind several that hopefully will be enacted.
House Bill 127, for example, builds on what is known as “Tim’s Law,” which the General Assembly voted for in 2017. The goal is to provide needed help for those with mental illness who, without court-ordered treatment, are cycling repeatedly through the criminal justice system, homelessness, and hospitalization. Under this year’s legislation, mental health professionals would be called upon to perform more comprehensive evaluations, and the bill better defines who is eligible. About 40 states have shown the benefit of this approach, as has Kentucky in a more limited way. The hope is that, with these changes, “Tim’s Law” can get more people the mental health services they require and the stable life they deserve.
Another bill the House voted on last week also has ties to mental health. In this case, Senate Bill 100 would extend current law allowing residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to have at least one designated person who can visit while pandemic-related rules are in place. The legislation strives to find the right balance between a resident’s psychological and caregiving needs and the flexibility facilities must have to limit COVID infections. I believe our approach so far has worked well and am glad that this bill is now on the governor’s desk, the last step before becoming law.
In another measure driven by COVID, the House also voted unanimously for a small but important tweak to Kentucky’s still-evolving telehealth law, which has played a pivotal role in keeping many of us in contact with medical providers through our computers and smart phones. The main focus of House Bill 188 is to make it possible for providers and patients alike to take part in telehealth services if either one happens to be out of state temporarily. This bill would sensibly end the requirement that both be physically within the commonwealth during a telehealth visit.
In one of the House’s committees, another bill that received strong backing would help those drivers who may have a communication disorder. House Bill 279 would make it possible for vehicle owners to include that medical information when they’re obtaining or renewing their registration with the county clerk, starting in 2024. By having it in the system that law enforcement can access, officers will know immediately if a driver they have stopped may not be able to communicate effectively in these often stressful situations. Several states have already taken similar steps, and it should prove to be beneficial here for those drivers and law enforcement alike.
Another bill clearing the House this past week would give a financial break to many whose spouses are on active duty in the military. Under House Bill 91, they would not be charged to receive or renew an occupational license, as long as they otherwise meet all other professional requirements. With Kentucky having a larger military presence than many states, this change would be another way to help those families are already making considerable sacrifices on our country’s behalf.
Not all of the legislature’s focus last week was inside the House and Senate chambers. On Thursday, many legislators joined with Governor Beshear and other state officials to promote the purchase of 200 brand new travel trailers that will help many families displaced by December’s deadly tornadoes. These trailers were bought here in the commonwealth and were funded by a portion of the $200 million relief package the General Assembly authorized in the legislative session’s first days. The trailers will be provided first to families who are not eligible for FEMA direct housing, who have been staying at a Kentucky state park, and who have school-aged children.
In other good news, Governor Beshear announced Friday that, just in the last full week of January, companies announced nearly $300 million in investments and the creation of 1,200 jobs. This continues the record-setting pace we saw in 2021, meaning 2022 is already shaping up to be another great year economically.
On a personal note, I worked from home this week as several of my family members tested positive for Covid. Gratefully, their illness did not become severe, but for the week I was “Dr. Mom.” We are able to participate in committee meetings from home, but cannot vote in committee or on bills on the House floor unless we are on Capitol property.
For the legislature, the time to adopt new laws is about a third over, but there is still plenty of time to let me know your views or concerns about bills we’re considering.
All legislators now have an option to post a survey on the Kentucky General Assembly website. This week I am seeking feedback on SB1, an act regarding school site-based decision making councils (SBDMs). To complete the survey, click on the following link: SB1 Survey for Tina Bojanowski.
You can keep up with such things as bills and votes by visiting the General Assembly’s website (legislature.ky.gov). To leave a message for me or any other legislator (or all of us), you can call 1-800-372-7181. This service is available during normal business hours throughout the year, but is open longer during legislative sessions.
If you would like to watch legislative proceedings, KET has an app for that, and you can also search for “LRC livestreaming” which will take you to the website where you can access meetings as they happen. All are also archived.
In addition to leaving me a phone message, you also the have the option to email me at Tina.Bojanowski@lrc.ky.gov.
Take care and stay healthy,