This Week at the State Capitol: March 6-10

Published 12:53 pm Thursday, March 16, 2017

This Week at the State Capitol
March 6 – 10, 2017
FRANKFORT — As the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly headed into its final weeks, legislators moved closer to the possibility of resolving the state’s “REAL ID” issue, as well as allowing public charter schools to operate in the Commonwealth.
A REAL ID is an enhanced driver’s license that includes new security features mandated by the federal government as an anti-terrorism measure. If the state does not provide a solution that meets federal standards, Kentuckians will have to show a passport or other acceptable form of identification to board domestic flights and enter certain federal facilities, including military bases such as Fort Knox and Fort Campbell, beginning in 2018.
House Bill 410 would enable Kentucky residents to get a “voluntary travel card” that would meet the REAL ID requirements while also serving as a valid driver’s license. The card would cost $48, compared with $43 for a standard, non-compliant license, and would be valid for eight years. Immigrants who are not citizens or permanent residents would pay an additional $30.
The measure passed the House in a 77-19 vote and now moves to the Senate for its consideration.
Also heading to the Senate is House Bill 520, which would allow public charter schools to operate in Kentucky, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, as an alternative to traditional public or private schools. Only students living in Kentucky would be eligible to attend, and the schools would have no entrance requirements or tuition aside from the fees other public schools are allowed to charge.
Following a 56-39 vote, the measure was sent to the Senate.
Other legislation advancing this week included:
• Senate Bill 17, which would specify that students in Kentucky’s public schools, colleges and universities could express their religious and political opinions in their school work, artwork speeches and clothing, and be allowed to distribute political materials on school grounds and use school media to announce religious meetings. The bill now has passed both chambers and moved to the Governor for his signature.
• House Bill 14, which would make it a hate crime to attack a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical professional, adding them to the categories of individuals protected by law because of race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin. Having passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives, the bill now needs only Gov. Bevin’s signature before becoming law.
• House Bill 222, which would prohibit a judge from granting shock probation – early release from incarceration in favor of probation – to people convicted of second-degree manslaughter while driving drunk. The bill has been cleared by both chambers and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
• Senate Bill 50, which would give school districts more leeway in setting school calendars while maintaining the current requirement to provide at least 1,062 hours of instruction per year. The bill is designed to provide more flexibility for individual districts to operate on a “variable student instructional year,” choosing to provide the required number of hours without necessarily fitting them into the current mandate of 170 instructional days. The measure now awaits the Governor’s signature.
• House Bill 67, which provides protections against the release of autopsy photos and other images to news outlets, bloggers and anyone else who does not have an official need for access to them. The measure now has moved to the Governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.
• House Bill 305, which would improve treatment options and costs associated with involuntary treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. The bill, which passed the House 95-0 and now moves to the Senate, would allow a judge to order a person to undergo treatment for up to a year with the option of an additional year, and limit the costs that could be incurred by a family member or friend who asks the court to order involuntary treatment for a loved one, among other provisions.
The legislative session is winding down, but there is still plenty of time for Kentuckians to reach out to lawmakers and express their opinions on upcoming legislation.
The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov, provides information on each of the Commonwealth’s senators and representatives, including phone numbers, addressees, and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.
To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.  People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 1-800-896-0305.