Thursday, the 45th day of the 60 day legislative session, the House passed its budget bill. This leaves us in the Senate 13 days to work on the budget, present it in a committee, and vote on a Senate version. Thirteen days, less than two weeks, and if we take 13, our check-and-balance authority to override a potential veto is lost. A multibillion-dollar budget that funds education, healthcare services, infrastructure, public safety and so many other critical public services deserves more scrutiny than thirteen days. The Senate will deliver an amended budget that I expect will reduce our reliance on debt and drawdown the amount of spending proposed by the House.
Meanwhile, other legislation continues to move through and between chambers. Notably, Senate Bill 200, the juvenile code reform bill, passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which I chair, on an 8-1 vote. The bill has been posted to the regular orders which puts it on deck for a potential floor vote next week.
This week the Senate passed Senate Bill 159, which would allow nonprofit mobile dental clinics to provide care in schools for uninsured and underinsured children, as well as those covered by Medicaid. Statistics show that 42 percent of children in Kentucky under the age of five show signs of advanced tooth decay. Expanding access to dental care fulfills a fundamental need and positively affects the general health, school attendance, self respect and future success of our children. The bill passed unanimously and a similar outcome is hoped for in the House.
Rep. John Tilley and I worked together with our Judiciary staff, and professionals with the State Police and the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, on a bill aimed at helping those who suffer from various disorders. More specifically, children with neurological disorders in some cases have hundreds of seizures per day. Cannabidiol produces no psychoactive or intoxicating effects. This in no way paves the way to legal use of marijuana, or any of its recreational components. This simply provides relief to children and families of conditions that can make life extremely difficult.
This measure, Senate Bill 124, allows Kentucky’s public, medical research schools (UK and UofL) or the FDA to permit patients access to cannabidiol through clinical trials. While the bill will help all who suffer, John and I had a special little girl in mind, named Clara. SB124, which I co-sponsored, passed the Senate unanimously this week and now heads to the House. John and I have agreed the bill should become known as Clara’s Law, a change he will make when the bill comes to his committee next week.
Senate Bill 108 also passed the Senate this week. The Act would provide that a person convicted of a felony offense of rape in which a child was born as a result of the offense shall lose parental rights with respect to that child; provide for an exception at the request of the mother; and provide that a court shall impose an obligation of child support against the offender unless waived by the mother.
This week, committee meetings were lively as hot button issues regarding waiver of missed school days, the issue of common core standards, labor issues, and medicinal cannabidiol oil were heard. Citizens attended in large numbers to the point that additional rooms were set up to accommodate the numbers. What a great sign of engagement in our democratic process!
As much progress as we made this week in Frankfort I feel compelled to share my great disappointment with the failure of my Senate Bill 8, the ultrasound bill. Upon passage in the Senate 33-5, it was delivered to the House and referred to the Health and Welfare committee in early February where it's been sitting ever since. This week Rep. Joe Fischer filed what's known as a discharge petition in the House to remove the bill from the committee and bring it to the floor for a full up-or-down vote. As a procedural vote, the petition needed only 51 votes to succeed. But on Friday some 49 members of the House, 46 of which were democrats, declined to vote on the discharge petition at all. As a result, SB8 remains in the committee despite a similar House bill with the same language (HB575) having 60 House co-sponsors. I am deeply saddened to see legislation intended to save unborn children, who can't speak for themselves, die for lack of a willingness to cast a vote.
As always, I thank you for your interest and input. Please feel free to contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181, at the office at 1-502-564-8100, or by email. Also, I encourage you to follow the work of the General Assembly at www.lrc.ky.gov or here on my site. In addition, you can see updates on legislative activity via Twitter at @KyWhitney or weekly video updates here on the site. Finally, you can like my Senate Facebook page and visit for regular updates.