Sunday, February 14, 2016

Last Week at the State Capitol

Early childhood education and literacy programs in Kentucky got a celebrity boost this past week in the General Assembly.

Jennifer Garner, the actress best known for her role on the television show “Alias,” and Mark K. Shriver, a scion of the Kennedy family, testified to House and Senate committees in support of Save the Children programs.

The nonprofit works with 31 sites in eight Kentucky counties in mostly rural areas, administering early education programs to more than 11,000 children.

The celebrities’ visit was timed to help save state funding for the programs as lawmakers struggle to hammer out another budget under tighter than usual restraints.

Said Garner, who serves as an official ambassador for the nonprofit: “I’m here because I believe so much in Save the Children’s early childhood programs, and I hope you will continue to support them. Certainly, what you are doing here in Kentucky, you are doing right.”

In addition to the brush with celebrity, lawmakers continued moving bills on a variety of topics through the legislative process this week, including:

University projects exemption
House Bill 265 would allow state colleges and universities to move forward with capital building projects even if the projects aren’t included in the state budget. The bill passed out of committee Tuesday and now heads to the House floor for consideration. Under provisions of the bill, projects funded by restricted, agency, federal or private money would be exempt from the state budget process as long as they were approved by the college or university’s governing board and the Council on Postsecondary Education. Costs would be the responsibility of the institution, according to the bill, with no fiscal impact on the state.

Educational standards
A Senate panel this week approved one of the top priorities of its chamber’s leadership: Senate Bill 1, a measure that would change the way that state academic standards are reviewed and the way schools and students are assessed. The measure would also make changes in the way the state intervenes with underperforming schools. The bill was approved by the Senate Education Committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Loosened campaign donor limits
On Monday, the House passed a bill that would raise political contribution limits in Kentucky. House Bill 147 passed by a 71-22 vote and heads to the Senate for consideration. The bill would double the limit on individual campaign contributions from $1,000 to $2,000 beginning in July. It would also raise limits on individual donations to political parties and their affiliate groups (from $2,500 to $5,000) and donations from permanent, executive and caucus campaign committees (from $10,000 to $20,000).

The current limits have been in place since 1998.

The bill would also allow corporate contributions to political party building funds and allow married couples to write one check for a contribution up to the individual limits of each spouse.

New bicycle safety regulations
On Tuesday, the Senate passed Senate Bill 80, which seeks to make the roads safer for bicyclists. The bill passed, 33-4, and heads to the House for consideration. Provisions in SB 80 call for cyclists to keep to the right side of the road, while motorists would be required to keep at least three feet away from bikes when passing them.

Cracking down on “revenge porn”
House Bill 110, which would make it a crime to share sexually-explicit photographs or videos of a person that were never intended to be made public, passed House on Friday. The bill, now on its way to the Senate, would also make it a misdemeanor to share such materials if the subject is identifiable, and the material is shared both maliciously and without the victim’s consent. HB110 would make the dissemination of such material, if done with malice or for monetary profit or other gain, a felony.

The General Assembly welcomes citizen feedback on issues under consideration. To share it, call the Assembly’s toll-free message line at (800) 372-7181.