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Budget still remains legislators’ biggest task

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By Rick Rand

As we near the end of February, the General Assembly has a predictably full agenda heading into what is always its busiest month of the year.

Enacting a budget to run state government remains our biggest task. The House’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee is right on schedule, however, with its seven budget review subcommittees close to finishing their modifications of Governor Beshear’s proposal. A vote by the full chamber will be by early March.

It is expected that little will change, because there appears to be strong support to follow the governor’s recommendations on such things as shifting more money toward education and giving our postsecondary schools and the state Transportation Cabinet the go-ahead to build a number of much-needed projects.

While we wait for that process to unfold, the House spent much of its time last week voting on other legislation designed to help others in a variety of ways, including a couple of potentially life-saving measures involving students.

The first of those is now poised to become law, after my colleagues and I accepted some minor Senate changes on Thursday. Under House Bill 98, diabetic students will soon be able to administer their own insulin or to receive it from properly trained school personnel.

This common-sense change updates a law that only allowed licensed health professionals to carry out this task. This has caused some parents to travel repeatedly to their child’s school when a nurse was not readily available.

The other legislation tied to education, House Bill 205, would call on our high schools to include basic CPR training as part of their health classes. Many already do this, but we want to make sure that all students have a better understanding of what should be done in the event of cardiac arrest.

It’s estimated that this strikes nearly 360,000 people a year nationwide outside of a hospital setting. Unfortunately, almost 90 percent do not survive, and a key reason is because they do not receive CPR or other medical care in time.

This legislation is part of an initiative sponsored by the American Heart Association, which says that if every state enacts this law, our country would add a million newly trained rescuers every few years.

In another health-related matter, Gov. Beshear and legislative leaders from the House and Senate held a joint press conference on Thursday to announce support for an adult-abuse registry, something that more than 20 other states already have.

This legislation has been through the House in the past, and a version cleared the Senate just hours after the press conference. Assuming a compromise between both chambers can be reached, the registry can be created quickly, since money has already been set aside in the budget adopted two years ago.

Once the law is passed, adult service providers will be able to check the background of current and prospective employees to see if their record includes a substantiated finding of abuse or neglect. This will help keep abusers from being able to harm someone else in their care.

Another priority of the House passed on Wednesday with significant bipartisan support. This proposal would make it possible for many convicted of a Class D felony to have their record expunged a period of time after they completed their sentence. Exceptions include felonies tied to abuse or neglect or if there have been other felonies in the applicant’s past. This bill also would ensure that expunged criminal records can be inspected when required by federal or state law or regulation.

This legislation is principally for those who have paid their debt to society, but are finding it difficult to get a job. It would build on current law that already allows violations and misdemeanors to be expunged from a person’s record.

In a related matter, the House that day also voted for House Bill 51, which would mostly target websites that use booking photographs for commercial purposes. These shady websites charge high fees to take the mug shots down, putting an unnecessary financial burden on those whose arrest may have happened years if not decades earlier. This legislation would not affect such reputable businesses as traditional media.

With a little more than four full weeks of work remaining, time is drawing short to let me know your views or concerns. I want to thank those who have already contacted me, and if you would like to join them, my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.

To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.