We are entering the home stretch of the 2012 General Assembly with the attendant rush of bills as legislators feel the urgency of the dwindling days. The Senate had a very full week with legislation and committee meetings, and we received the budget proposal from the House as well as the state’s road plan. Visits from groups ranging from the AARP to 4-H also came to the Capitol to see their legislators and press for their causes.
Let’s look at the legislation. Senate Bill 158, the Religious Freedom Act, is a constitutional amendment that would protect religious freedom from an overbearing government. If approved by the House of Representatives and not vetoed by the governor, Kentuckians would have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the government has the right to infringe on religious beliefs except in a case of a compelling government interest and only then, using the least burdensome means. Courts would have more ammunition in favor of religion in the cases of, for example, the jailing of Amish who refused to highlight their buggies and people in Bell County who wanted to pray before football games. SB 158 takes us back to a traditional, more reasonable, standard.
When the governor issues administrative regulations to implement laws, the regulations are reviewed by the Senate through the Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee. The House has a similar committee. However, the problem with the current system is that even if the committee does not approve the regulation, the governor and his agencies can still implement it. SB 10 would make sure that your duly-elected representatives or senators who know you and are parts of your communities have a say on what can be very burdensome rules.
As administrative regulations can outlive their usefulness, so also can boards and commissions. Boards and commissions are smaller government entities that the governor appoints. Many are obviously important such as the public service commission that regulates utility rates or the parole board. There are others, however, that may be holding on — and costing tax dollars — often because they have such a low profile. A comprehensive look is needed to evaluate what Kentucky can afford to have and what we can afford to do without. SB 8 would sunset all boards and commissions 180 days after the end of a governor’s term. This offers a brand new opportunity every four years to review the value of each board and commission.
Diabetes is one of the leading chronic diseases in Kentucky. While there are many dedicated medical professionals who can assist those with diabetes to manage the disease, there also happen to be those who want to take advantage of the situation. SB 198 would establish minimal quality standards by directing that diabetes educators be certified. Families confronting the disease have enough to worry about. They should have the peace of mind to know they are receiving correct information from a knowledgeable source.
SB 110 would invite the community to use our local schools for non-school activities such as book clubs or intramural sports during non-school hours while protecting school-district employees from unreasonable lawsuits. It is unfortunate in our sometimes lawsuit-happy society that many school districts are nervous about opening their facilities to neighborhood groups. SB 110 would help relieve some of that an anxiety while at the same time encouraging community unity and healthy families through artistic, civic, literary and other activities in addition to the recreational and sports usage.
Finally, I am pleased to report that the House passed SB 124, which I sponsored. This bill provides for drivers’ training back in schools at no additional cost to the school. The program includes driving simulators and real vehicles in a self-contained parking lot. Research has shown that teenagers are 400 percent more likely to die in road accidents. Fayette County attorney Larry Roberts initiated the program, and it is in place in several schools there. The program will be coming to East Jessamine High School by the end of the month. I thank Toyota on Nicholasville for donating several vehicles to the program.
Please call me with any thoughts or questions you have about the above or other legislation. You can call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also find information on meetings or specific bills online at www.lrc.ky.gov. I will continue updating you as we wrap up the session.