As the Senate eagerly awaits a budget proposal from the House of Representatives, we remain busy in Frankfort passing bills both out of committee and out of the Senate to send to our colleagues in the lower chamber during a rainy sixth week of the 2020 Regular Session.
The House Judiciary committee passed House Bill (HB) 136 this week, bipartisan legislation that would add Kentucky to the list of at least 33 other states with a government-regulated medicinal marijuana program. This bill sets out policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution, and use of medicinal marijuana, should HB 136 become law, and its primary purpose is to help the sick.
I do support this issue and other legislative efforts like HB 136 to legalize medical marijuana in a responsible and regulatory way, which is why I have filed a similar bill in the Senate, SB 107. Recent polling has proven that Kentuckians are in favor of medicinal marijuana as a safer alternative to addictive pain medications, given the devastating effects of opioids. I will be sure to keep you updated on the status of both HB 136 and SB 107 in the coming weeks.
The Governor has already signed a couple of House Bills into law. HB 236 incorporates federal United States Department of Agriculture guidelines related to hemp into the Kentucky statute. It establishes hemp testing procedures for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and opens up private market testing to help address a backlog of hemp products. This bill benefits our agriculture industry and Kentucky hemp farmers. HB 186 eliminates potentially costly requirements for the more than 171,000 Kentuckians who operate direct sale or multi-level marketing businesses.
Main topics of discussion this week included measures relating to students, health care, and the overall well-being of Kentuckians.
School safety legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 8, is heading to the Governor’s desk following its passage in the House late last week. If signed into law, SB 8 would require trained and certified school resource officers to be armed on public school campuses. It would also allow a school superintendent to appoint someone other than a district level school administrator to serve as the district’s school safety coordinator. This multifaceted measure also specifies the goal of having at least one school counselor or school-based mental health services provider for every 250 students. This bill is a continuation of the General Assembly’s efforts to increase safety within our school walls, and I hope to see it signed into law very soon.
SB 101 ensures dual credit hours earned in high school would be transferable to Kentucky’s colleges and universities. In dual credit, a student is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously. Several years ago, the General Assembly passed similar legislation dealing with two-year colleges and four-year universities. That legislation aligned courses with the colleges so the credits earned for those course hours could be transferred to universities. I was proud to support this SB 101 this session as it provides students an affordable and efficient avenue to obtain higher education.
Nearly 900,000 Kentuckians, including almost 30,000 children, have been diagnosed with an eating disorder, an illness that is often overlooked. SB 82 targets access to care for eating disorders by establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention, and research programs. The council would also be responsible for making recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes to improve access to care for those diagnosed with an eating disorder.
SB 122 would make a change to Tim’s Law of 2017, a much-heralded law that has rarely been used by the courts. The law allows judges to order assisted outpatient treatment for people who have been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 12 months. SB 122 would extend the period to 24 months so more Kentuckians with serious mental illnesses could receive help the law is designed to provide.
The goal of SB 122 is to stop the proverbial revolving door of mentally ill patients at state psychiatric hospitals and county jails. The law is named for Tim Morton, a Lexington man who was hospitalized for psychiatric treatment dozens of times over 36 years, often involuntarily and in police handcuffs, because he did not recognize that he had schizophrenia. A bipartisan measure, SB 122 passed by a 33-1 vote.
SB 30 would limit Kentucky to three managed care organizations, known as MCOs in healthcare parlance, to operate the commonwealth’s massive Medicaid program. The goal with this legislation would be to reduce costs for medical providers, particularly rural hospitals.
As we approach the holiday weekend and the halfway mark of the 60-day legislative session, I would like to say thank you to those of you who have offered comments, questions, and concerns. Your input is greatly appreciated.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Steve.West@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.