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Legislative Briefs: University projects bill clears committee; anti-bullying measure approved

State colleges and universities could move forward with their building projects even if those projects aren’t included in a state budget bill under legislation that has passed a House committee.

House Bill 265 would allow capital projects funded with a combination of restricted funds, agency funds, federal funds and private funds to be exempt from the state budget process as long as the projects are authorized by the college or university’s governing board and the Council on Postsecondary Education and presented to a state legislative oversight committee.

All costs would be the responsibility of the institution, according to the bill, with no fiscal impact on the state.

Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, makes a floor speech in the Kentucky House of Representatives (LRC Public Information Photo)

Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, makes a floor speech in the Kentucky House of Representatives (LRC Public Information Photo)

HB 265 was approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and sent to the House floor for approval.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, said HB 265 would help postsecondary institutions weather budget cuts proposed by the governor.

“With the Governor’s proposal on higher education, (postsecondary institutions) are going to take a 9 percent cut but their population is still growing,” said Clark. “We need to give them the opportunity, if they have restricted funds or agency funds, and they can pay 100 percent for their project, that they can fund it.”

Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, said the bill is “really taking all the accountability away from the state.”

Anti-bullying bill advances

A bill intended to add a clear definition to state law books of what constitutes bullying was approved by the House Education Committee.

House Bill 316, sponsored by Rep. Rita Smart, D- Richmond, would define bullying as “any unwanted verbal, physical, or social behavior among school-aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance and is repeated or has the potential to be repeated” if it occurs at school, on school busses, at school-sponsored events, or disrupts the educational process in some other way.

Clearly defining bullying in the law books will help protect students, said 13-year-old Morgan Guess, who founded the Guess Anti-Bullying Foundation in her hometown of Paducah.

“I can understand this definition and I feel protected by it,” Guess said. “We should have one definition that every school uses and every student and parent can understand.”

HB 316 now goes to the full House for consideration.

House approves proposed workforce development study

Legislation to track the progress of workforce development in Kentucky was passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives.

House Concurrent Resolution 97, sponsored by Rep. Larry Clark, D-Louisville, and Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, would direct the Legislative Research Commission to establish a Kentucky Workforce Development Task Force to study workforce issues and submit a final report by Dec. 2016 that includes proposed changes and recommended legislation for workforce development.

Last year, over $1 billion in state and federal funds were provided to train, educate and support Kentucky’s workforce, according to the resolution. Those responsible for workforce development, however, are distributed throughout different state and local agencies, which makes it a challenge to develop a comprehensive plan on what could be improved statewide.

HCR 97 passed the House by a vote of 95-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Concurrent resolutions, if passed, go to the Governor for his signature but are used only to express opinion or convey messages. They do not become law.

Bicycle-safety bill pedals through Senate

The state Senate passed a bill clarifying how motorists interact with bicyclists by a 33-4 vote.

Key provisions in the legislation, known as Senate Bill 80, would require bicycles to keep to the right and would require motorists to stay at least three feet away from bicycles when passing.

“Bicycles are a growing mode of transportation both in urban areas and rural areas,” said Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, who introduced the bill, “but we have had a few tragedies of late when it comes to cyclists and sharing the road.”

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, referenced a well-known lawyer who died after being involved in a wreck on his bicycle last year in Fayette County as influencing his decision to sign on as a sponsor of SB 80.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, also supported SB 80. She noted that bicycles can sell for as much as cars and that bicyclists also pay taxes for services that help support the roads.

“In Lexington, Ky., where I reside and in many cities and rural areas people ride bicycles to be healthy,” Kerr said. “Many people also ride their bikes to the grocery, to the stores, to their job.”

Owens files bill to increase homestead exemption for disabled vets

Rep. Darryl Owens, (D-Louisville), has filed legislation that would increase the homestead exemption for some disabled veteran homeowners from the current $36,900 limitation up to the veteran’s full property tax liability.

House Bill 372 would exempt a totally disabled veteran whose disability is service-connected from property taxes on the entire assessed value of his or her permanent residence.

The legislation would require an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution to be ratified by the voters in the next general election.

“I believe the men and women who have given their all for our country, and are now 100% disabled because of their heroic military service, deserve this exemption,” said Owens.

Stumbo, Jones file bill to extend health insurance for rare condition

Hoping to help a young Pike County boy with a rare medical condition, Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo and state Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II have filed identical bills that would extend health insurance coverage to include the treatment he and others with similar illnesses need.

The legislation would benefit Noah Greenhill, the nine-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis and whose plight was featured on EKB-TV. The condition attacks his esophagus, making it extremely difficult for him to eat any food beyond nine items doctors have found he can tolerate.

As a result, he has to administer an amino acid-based formula into a feeding tube four times a day, at a daily rate of more than $40. His insurance does not cover that cost.

The legislation – House Bill 353 and Senate Bill 146 – would change that by including this formula among the therapeutic food that health plans are already required to cover by law for other metabolic and genetic conditions.

“After I heard about Noah, and learned about Senator Jones’ bill, I pledged to join with him and move that cause forward in the House,” Stumbo said. “This is a sensible clarification that needs to occur. I’m confident we can do this and have Noah’s Law on the books by the end of the legislative session in April.”

The House and Senate legislation is based on Illinois’ model law. According to Noah’s family, 17 other states mandate this type of coverage.

From LRC Public Information

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