Ihave heard many say that this is the busiest start to any 30-day legislative session in memory, and it has been busy at the state capitol, no doubt. But we have a lot to do and only three weeks to complete our work. Pension reform, legalizing industrial hemp, and redistricting are expected to be taken up in a House committee this week and on the House floor soon so we can begin ironing out any differences with the Senate on these important bills.
The Kentucky House of Representatives has a long standing record of protecting, educating and promoting our children through legislative action. Forty-four percent of our general fund budget is spent on K-12 education — the largest spending item in the budget.
The cost of children’s health care to the state’s $5.6 billion-per-year Medicaid program is second only to spending for our disabled citizens.
And approximately 7 percent of the General Fund budget annually goes toward human services, including child protection.
House Bill 224 would raise the high school dropout age gradually by increasing the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 17 on July 1, 2017 and from age 17 to 18 on July 1, 2018.
Having that high school diploma is more important than ever as jobs are highly competitive, a highly trained workforce is in demand and the military and other employers require a diploma. House Bill 224 passed the House by a vote of 87-10 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
A measure (House Bill 3) to strengthen Kentucky’s human trafficking laws to better enforce the rising incidence of crimes against children passed the House this week with a vote of 95-0.
The bill will provide a “safe harbor” from prosecution for child victims of human trafficking; primarily target individuals who exploit children by increasing penalties and prison sentences; and provide better training for victims, advocates and law enforcement to recognize signs of human and child trafficking so action can be taken more quickly and appropriately.
Crime investigation has changed quite a bit in the past 20-30 years as science continues to uncover new types of evidence used to prove a person’s guilt or determine their innocence.
The use of human DNA—the unique’ biological fingerprint’ that each of us possesses — is a clear example of this, and there are those who feel the use of DNA by law enforcement and the courts should be expanded. Two bills approved by the House Judiciary Committee this week would do just that.
HB 89, if passed into law, would require the collection of DNA via mouth swab from those arrested for a felony crime, pre-conviction, to help facilitate the capture of suspects in future crimes, while HB 41 would expand the availability of post-conviction DNA testing and analysis to those convicted of capital offenses or other specific violent offenses, at the person’s request, to help them prove their innocence.
Current Kentucky law only allows post-conviction DNA testing for persons on the state’s Death Row.
Both bills have been returned to the full House for our consideration this week.
I expect our pace to increase in order to comply with the “short” session calendar and there are long days ahead as we still must grapple with many issues before the March 11 deadline.
You can stay informed of legislative action on any bill of interest by using the legislature’s web site at www.lrc.ky.gov . You may also leave a message for any legislator at 1-800-372-7181 or reach me at my Frankfort office (502) 564-8100 and through my web site www.bobdamron.com.