A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

General Assembly comes to close, passing over 200 bills including, school safety, no tobacco in schools

The General Assembly’s 2019 session came to a close Thursday evening, capping off a session in which lawmakers approved a school safety measure considered a signature issue of the session.
When the final gavel fell on this year’s 30-day session, the school safety measure had already been effective law for a couple of weeks. Because the measure contained an emergency clause, it took effect as soon as Gov. Matt Bevin signed it on March 11.
That means Kentucky’s school safety efforts are now slated to improve on a number of fronts. Senate Bill 1, known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, calls for establishing a state school safety marshal, conducting risk assessments, boosting safety and prevention training, requiring superintendents to appoint a school safety coordinator, promoting the assignment of a school resource officer to each school, increasing awareness of suicide prevention efforts, encouraging collaboration with law enforcement, and, as funds become available, hiring more counselors in school districts.
Senate Bill 1 is the product of a specially-formed committee that traveled the state last year to discuss school safety and collect feedback. Legislative leaders have said that funding provisions of the bill will be a priority when lawmakers put together the state’s next two-year budget next year.

While many of the session’s major issues were resolved earlier this year, some significant matters were taken up in the session’s final hours. Providing pension relief to universities and quasi-governmental agencies was an issue that received final approval on the last night of the session.
House Bill 358 is designed to give regional state universities, community colleges and “quasi-governmental” agencies like health departments and mental health boards a chance to leave the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS) by paying their unfunded liability to the system in a lump sum or installments. Postsecondary institutions and quasi-agencies that decide to stay in KERS will have to pay the full retirement contribution rate to the system starting in July 2020.
Another bill that received final approval in the session’s final hours takes aim at tobacco use in schools. House Bill 11 seeks to ban the use of tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping devices on public school campuses, in school vehicles and at school activities beginning with the 2020-21 school year. School districts would have up to three years to take steps to opt out of the ban if they choose.
Also, shortly before the session adjourned, lawmakers gave final approval to legislation meant to ensure that pregnant workers are provided reasonable accommodations and safe working environments. Senate Bill 18 states that “reasonable accommodations” may include more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, appropriate seating, and private space for expressing breast milk. The provisions of the bill are meant to apply to employers that have 15 or more workers.
In all, more than 200 bills were approved by the General Assembly during this year’s session.

Other notable bills passed this year include measures to reduce the number of abortions in Kentucky, allow Kentuckians who are at least 21 years old to carry concealed weapons without a license, and establish a “foster child bill of rights” that grants 16 rights for children in out-of-home placement in Kentucky, including rights to “adequate food, clothing and shelter.”
The 2019 session also produced legislation that will increase the number of Kentuckians eligible to have low-level felonies expunged from their criminal records. Senate Bill 57 expands discretionary expungement to all Class D felonies with some exceptions for crimes such as stealing in office, abusing children and sex abuse. It includes a five-year waiting period to apply for expungement, a $250 application fee and provisions for prosecutors to object and judges to reject the applications.
Kentuckians are encouraged to offer feedback to lawmakers on the issues that lawmakers’ dealt with the 2019 legislative session as well as other issues confronting the state. Citizens can share their thoughts by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

Kentucky Legislative Research Commission

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