Before I wade into the weekly update waters, I wanted to bring your attention to something I am trying. The Legislature has a website that shows the progress of all legislation, and KET’s website has archived footage and live feeds of committees and from the floor of both chambers. However, as the session rolls on and the volume of bills increases, I wanted to make following your Senator’s votes as easy as possible. With that in mind, I have a running post of my voting record available here that has a brief summary of each bill we have voted on in the Senate, in the order it was voted, whether it passed, the vote tally and how I voted, with links to the official bills and voting record. This week was a buzz of activity as many school groups, local officials and musicians visited the capital and watched hearings and activity on the Senate Floor. I still am awestruck by the work I have the opportunity to do, and the historic building where we serve. I always enjoy having the chance to welcome guests from home to see the work of the people's branch of government. I encourage you to make a trip if only to take a tour of the Capitol to learn of its storied history. If you can make it during session I would love to introduce you from the Senate floor, and I know my colleagues in the House would want to do the same.
As for legislation, the first bill to pass this week was Senate Bill 78. The intention of this legislation is to keep liability from automatically being attributed to landlords whose tenants own a dog that bites and injures someone on the property. Currently, a property owner can be held liable for a dog bite that takes place on their rented property even though the dog does not belong to them. This bill addresses the logical conclusion of the personal responsibility of the dog owner, and prevents unfair liability from being assumed by the small business person renting residential properties.
I sponsored Senate Bill 47, which unanimously passed the Senate this week, which requires the Kentucky Department of Public Health to report instances of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, the diagnosis for babies born dependent to drugs due to their mother’s use of drugs during pregnancy. The legislation requires the Department to publish on at least an annual basis anonymized, statistical data on the number of NAS cases. There were 67 Kentucky cases in 2001, ballooning to 730 in 2011, but a prior law prevents the Department from releasing data on how many we currently have. I sought to change that.
Another of mine, Senate Bill 85, also passed unanimously on Wednesday. This would clarify that a mental health provider’s duty to report a patient’s threat of violence or harm only applies to patients in an outpatient setting. This measure is small course correction in public policy to ensure the health and safety of all Kentuckians, while still respecting the patient-provider relationship.
House Bill 98 represents a bipartisan effort to solve an issue of safely treating diabetic students in schools, helping thousands of our students and citizens. It passed the Senate Thursday.
House Bill 98 would permit students to inject themselves with their needed insulin while in school, and requires schools to have at least one trained staff member to administer medication for diabetes after they successfully complete the American Diabetes Association training program. This not only gives faster access to the medicine the students need, it can help parents, who currently have to leave their work to administer the drug, ease of mind if they wish to have the school assist.
Senate Bill 61 also passed which designates pastoral counselors who hold advanced degrees and training in behavioral and mental health, as “licensed clinical” pastoral counselors rather than “certified fee-based” pastoral counselors. This change will make services eligible for private insurance billing and assist our state in complying with recent state and federal policies requiring Medicaid and insurance policies on the health care exchange to provide substance abuse and behavioral health services.
Rounding out the week was Senate Bill 89, which I have made mention of before. In the world of Google and Facebook, the practice of data mining is a daily occurrence. For adults who get to choose which laptop to buy, and which software or service to use, the data we share is, at least usually, done only with our consent. Our demographic profile, our likes and dislikes, our favorite foods, colors and tv shows are a treasure trove for online advertisers. The more information we share, the better those advertisers can target us as potential customers. Students, on the other hand, do not have a say in which computer or which service they use while at school. As a result, their privacy should be protected from data mining practices of firms like Google, which has openly admitted to doing this in schools already. The bill would require school districts to inform parents of the types of student information given to third-party web-based service providers, which I believe is the least we can do.
Another provision of SB 89 would allow local school districts to adopt academic standards that exceed standards approved by the state Board of Education. This would give local school boards the freedom to choose more rigorous academic standards and push their students to excel beyond standards established by the state.
As the session rolls on the volume of bills will increase. Your input is invaluable! Stay informed about Thank you for your interest and input. Please contact me through the Legislative Research Commission’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. Also, I encourage you to follow the work of the General Assembly at www.lrc.ky.gov. In addition, you can see updates on legislative activity via Twitter or Facebook. You may also call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.