Healthcare, Education and Technology

Will we ever get a break from this winter weather? February opened with snow and ice across most of Kentucky. I hope you and yours are safe. As highway crews are out working all hours of the night, and utility workers are restoring power to the many areas that lost it, I am reminded of and appreciate the people that are out working in these tough and hazardous conditions to keep us safe and warm. I encourage you to remember them in your prayers.

During week five, I spoke on behalf of my Senate Bill 8 on the floor of the Senate. As a proponent for the sanctity of life, I presented the bill as I wrote about last week, requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion procedure. The bill passed 33-5, which was a great success. The legislation now goes to the House. This marks the 10th year the Kentucky Senate has moved pro-life legislation to the House. I encourage you to pray for the House leaders and the Chair of the committee that receives these bills to make the best decision for mothers and their unborn children across the state.

Thursday the Judiciary Committee, which I chair, heard disturbing testimony regarding adult abuse perpetrated by adult health care workers. Senate Bill 98 would require entities that provide personal care services to disabled and infirm adults to find out from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services if a prospective employee, contractor, or volunteer has been the subject of a validated, substantiated finding of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation. It also allows queries for current employees, contractors, and volunteers and finally allows an individual to query the cabinet to determine whether a validated substantiated finding of adult abuse, neglect, or exploitation has been entered against him or her. The goal is to decrease occurrences of abuse and neglect by those working directly with vulnerable adults.

This week I also testified in two other committee meetings on three different bills. Senate Bill 46 restricts where recipients of public assistance benefits can spend that money (no alcohol, tobacco, adult-oriented entertainment, etc.), prohibits transferring the benefit cards to others, and requires the use of a photo ID. We simply must sharpen our approach to taxpayer funded benefit abuse. Resources are scarce and we need to be certain those who are genuinely in need have the help they need. Senate Bill 47 requires the Department of Public Health to report statistical data on how many cases of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) we have in Kentucky. They currently collect that data but a law passed last year restricts them from reporting it; I wanted to change that. Both Senate Bill 46 and 47 are bills I filed on day one of the session. They both passed unanimously out of committee.

The third measure I testified on was Senate Bill 89. I appeared in the Senate Education committee meeting to encourage passage of the measure which protects student information from use by software vendors. For example, services like Facebook and Google, while free to consumers, generate their revenue by selling our user information to advertisers. Remember that when you post on Facebook, perform a Google search or use Google email (Gmail, which scans every word of every email you send or receive for data about you)! Our students, who do not get to decide which software is used in the classroom, should be protected. Their test results or practice assignments could let a software vendor know immediately what kind of curriculum product should be sold to the school or even target that child or their family at home online with ads sold to companies highly interested in that data. Policy rarely keeps pace with technology, but this is a space where we cannot afford to fall behind. Our students should be safe from this kind of data harvesting.

Please stay in touch as the session progresses. Between the budget, expanded gaming and tax reform, there are still lots of potential issues on the horizon. I welcome your interest and input. Please contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. In addition, you can see updates on legislative activity via Twitter at @KyWhitney or friend me on Facebook.  You may also call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or contact me by email at or by heading over to the Contact page.