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The 58 granite steps leading to the state Capitol’s front doors mark a place where Kentuckians arrive with hope.
This is where they come aspiring to make their voices heard and see their ideas for a better future become reality as statewide public policy.
These steps were a backdrop to a historic scene 50 years ago as 10,000 Kentuckians, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., completed a march through a late-winter chill up Frankfort’s Capitol Avenue. Newspaper reports of the day say marchers arrived at the Capitol steps united in purpose, with hopeful and soaring hearts, making a full-throated call for Kentucky’s governor and lawmakers to end discrimination in public accommodations.
“It was the greatest demonstration this Capitol has ever seen,” The Courier-Journal said on the next day’s front page.
Kentuckians inspired by Dr. King’s message converged on Frankfort again this week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Frankfort. On Wednesday morning, a crowd stretching several city blocks followed the path to the Capitol taken by King and the original marchers.
Once again, messages of hope were spread through freedom songs, chants, banners, speeches, smiles and laughter, and optimism that Kentucky is moving toward a brighter future.
Some marchers climbed the Capitol steps after the celebration to see their representative democracy at work. Many met with lawmakers, others attended legislative committee meetings, some stayed to witness Senate and House proceedings that afternoon.
Those who visited the Capitol that day – and every day the General Assembly was in session this past week – had much to see. With the 2014 session in its final half, the legislative process is picking up speed with each passing day.
Bills that took steps forward this week include the following:
• SB 109 would prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. E-cigs resemble traditional cigarettes and use vapors or aerosols to deliver nicotine to users without the usual cigarette smoke. SB 109 was approved by the Senate on a 36-2 vote and sent to the House for consideration.
• HB 145 would allow an end-of life order known as a “medical order for scope of treatment” to be used by Kentuckians. Such orders summarize patients’ preferences on life-sustaining measures and end-of-life medical care in the form of physicians’ orders. The bill passed the House 86-7 and awaits the Senate’s consideration.
• SB 100 would expedite the processing of applications for concealed deadly weapons licenses by creating an electronic application process. Electronic applications would be processed in two weeks or less. Currently, paper applications must be processed within 60 days. The Senate approved the bill 37-0 and sent it to the House for further action.
• HB 256 would create an adult abuse registry to help employers find out if applicants for adult-care jobs have been caught abusing, exploiting or neglecting adults. The legislation was approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee and sent to the House chamber.
• SB106 would allow domestic violence victims who have been granted emergency protective orders to receive provisional concealed deadly weapon permits in one business day. Petitioners would undergo the same application process as others but would have 45 days to complete the training required for a full concealed carry license. The bill passed the Senate 35-0 and awaits action in the House.
• HB 62 would prevent those convicted of first-degree rape from claiming parental rights to children born as a result of the assaults. The House passed the measure 92-0 and sent it to the Senate for consideration.
• HB 222 would prohibit gas chambers from being used to euthanize animals in Kentucky animal shelters. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against routine use of gas chambers in shelters unless they meet stringent standards and criteria that are considered difficult for many Kentucky shelters to meet. The bill passed the House 84-6 and awaits Senate consideration.
Last week also marked the arrival of the session’s deadlines for introducing new bills in the House and Senate. All told, more than 800 bills have been filed for consideration in this year’s 60-day session. With the passing of the deadline to add to that number, Capitol observers now have a clearer picture of the range of issues lawmakers will be considering in the days to come.
The granddaddy of this session’s issues is expected to take a significant step forward next week. The House budget committee is expected to take up the state budget and put its own stamp on the $20.3 billion, two-year spending plan proposed by the governor before sending it to the full House for consideration.
That makes this a crucial time for Kentuckians to stay in close touch with their lawmakers and offer feedback on the issues of the day.
Visit lrc.ky.gov for the latest on the status of bills, meeting schedules and other information to help you be a participating citizen of the Commonwealth. If you need help navigating that site, call LRC Public Information at 502-564-8100.
By going to LRC’s eNews page, eNews page, you can subscribe to frequent e-mail updates on what’s happening at the Capitol.
You may access meetings and chamber proceedings streaming live or archived online at KET.org.
You can also stay in touch with General Assembly action these ways:
· A taped message containing information on legislative committee meetings is updated daily at 800-633-9650.
· To check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835.
· To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free 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.
· You may write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Ky., 40601.