A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Legislative briefs: Higher ed performance funding, toxicology screenings, quit smoking, playgrounds

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State funding for Kentucky public colleges and universities would be allocated based on the schools’ performance under a bill now on its way to becoming law.

Funding would be based on student success, course completion, and school operational needs under the comprehensive funding model created by Senate Bill 153, sponsored by President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, with initial distributions drawn from $42.9 million appropriated by the state in 2017-2018 to the “postsecondary education performance fund” created by the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly.

Rep. David Hale, R-Wellington, (left) discusses an amendment with Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, in the Senate. (LRC Public Information Photo)

Funding in subsequent years would allow 100 percent of state funding allocated for state universities and the state’s community college and technical system (KCTCS) — with exceptions for mandated programs — to be allocated under the bill.

Although SB 153 would take effect immediately, it would prevent reductions in funding to public colleges and universities based on the formula for fiscal year 2019, and limit reductions for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Lakeside Park, said the bill is the result of work completed by the state Postsecondary Education Working Group in 2016.

“The purpose of this bill was to look at the funding disparity that exists between some of the universities in the Commonwealth and to level that playing field based upon a fair method,” she said. “We have a task force where we’ve gathered together experts in the field of higher education and…they have all—each of the experts—signed on to this.”

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, emphasized in his comments that Kentucky’s public college and university presidents reached a “consensus agreement” to move forward with the provisions in the bill. He said state lawmakers can always come back in a later session and “tweak” the legislation if necessary.

“The bottom line is this is not a perfect piece of legislation, but it is a starting point,” he said.

Voting against the bill was Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, who said “massive” layoffs at a factory in his district will increase local community college enrollment. Once those displaced workers graduate and eventually find work, Sinnette said he thinks community college enrollment—along with the number of degrees and certificates earned at those colleges—will decrease, along with state funding for those colleges under SB 153.

“I think that we have moved too fast on this piece of legislation when we look at the layoffs that have happened in my region. And I’m scared of that; I’m scared ACTC (Ashland Community and Technical College) will lose funding premised upon the fact that their enrollment will be up and then go down. ” said Sinnette.

SB 153 received final passage by a vote of 65-29. It had passed the Senate by a vote of 36-1 last month.

Senate approves bill to tighten reporting of toxicology screenings

A bill to tighten the reporting of toxicology screenings by Kentucky hospitals passed the state Senate, clearing its way to become law pending the signature of Gov. Matt Bevin.

House Bill 314, which was approved by the House of Representatives late last month, requires certain hospitals to report positive drug screenings to the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, including results from newborn babies who might have been exposed to controlled substances by their mothers prior to birth. The measure is part of an ongoing effort to fight prescription drug abuse in Kentucky.

The bill also permits federal prosecutors and medical professionals, including pharmacists, to use the state’s KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) database containing reports of misuse of controlled substances.

“For the KASPER system to be effective, we need to stay on top of it,” said Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah. “We need every tool available to us.”

The bill passed the Senate 33-3 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.

Quit-smoking bill receives final passage

Drugs and services that help Kentuckians quit smoking or stop using other tobacco products would be more easily accessed under health insurance plans or Medicaid under a bill now on its way to becoming law.

Senate Bill 89 “will improve the health of Kentuckians and save taxpayer dollars by helping smokers quit smoking when they are ready to quit,” said Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill, who presented the bill on the House floor for a vote. The bill is sponsored by Senate Health and Welfare Chair Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville.

Moser said federal law already requires that private insurers and Medicaid cover tobacco cessation drugs and services but that prior authorization, step therapy – which requires patients to try one therapy before they try others—and other requirements are barriers to treatment.

Under SB 89, prior authorization for tobacco cessation treatment would only be allowed in limited cases. Most other barriers, like copays for treatment and required counseling, would be prohibited.

Kentucky has one of the highest smoking rates in the nation and leads the nation in cancer deaths, Moser said. Nearly 9,000 Kentuckians die annually from smoking-related illnesses, she added.

“So for these reasons, SB 89 is important so that Kentuckians are provided barrier-free access to proven smoking cessation treatments,” she said.

SB 89 received final passage in the House on a 90-1 vote. It passed the Senate 35-2 on Feb. 22.

Playground protection bill receives final passage

A bill that would ban registered sex offenders from public playgrounds unless they have written permission to be on site is on its way to the governor.

House Bill 38, sponsored by Rep. Kim King, R-Harrodsburg, passed overwhelmingly on a final House vote of 91-0. The bill was amended before passage to require that advanced written permission for a sex offender to enter a public playground come from the local governing body (city council, etc.) that oversees the playground.

House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, said the bill as passed will offer “additional protection” to children on public playgrounds.

Current state law bans Kentucky registered sex offenders—and those living outside the state who would be required to register as sex offenders if living in Kentucky—from being on the grounds of a school, preschool or licensed day care facility without advanced written permission. It does not, however, specifically ban them from public playgrounds.

Registered sex offenders are prohibited under current Kentucky law from living within 1,000 feet of a public playground, as well as within 1,000 feet of a school, preschool or licensed day care facility.

HB 38 was passed by a vote of 37-0 in the Senate on March 8.

From LRC Public Information

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