Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bill would ease farm implement transport; others move

Quarles applauds passage of HB 265
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles on Wednesday applauded the Kentucky House of Representatives for passing House Bill 265, which will help Kentucky farmers transport farm implements on Kentucky roadways.

“This bill is necessary to enable Kentucky farmers to move equipment as efficiently and as safely as possible,” Commissioner Quarles said. “I am grateful to the House for its swift action on this legislation, and I urge the Senate to follow suit.”

The bill adds a definition of a “nondivisible load” to state law, effectively allowing farm implements such as combines or large tractors being moved from the equipment dealer to the farm, or from field to field, to be transported without removing the dual wheels located on each side of the piece of equipment.

Commissioner Quarles said that, under current law, the wheels must be removed before transporting an implement on Kentucky roads, adding to the time and expense of transporting large farm machinery.

Commissioner Quarles said technicians have been injured removing the wheels, and House Bill 265 eliminates that safety hazard. He said being able to leave the wheels attached would make the implement more easily visible to other motorists than if the axle is left exposed when the wheels are removed.

House Bill 265 passed in the House by a 95-2 vote.

Senate panel approves measure to increase options for kids who need homes
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would allow children removed from their homes by the state to be placed with a close family friend.

House Bill 180 would allow people with emotionally significant relationships to children to be among those with whom a child could be placed in an emergency. Such people, considered “fictive kin” by the bill, includes those who have a close relationship with a child, but aren’t related by birth, adoption or marriage.

“Often, when a child has to be removed from a home, there is another alternative, perhaps that is someone who has meaningful relationship with that child but is not a member of their immediate family,” said Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, the sponsor of House Bill 180.

The legislation is a simple, but helpful, said Tim Feeley, deputy secretary of the Cabinet for Families and Children.

“It increases the universe of people who the cabinet can place a child with in an emergency situation,’ Feeley said. “Many times, in an emergency situation where children have to be removed because the parents have drug problems or domestic violence, there might be a babysitter, a church member, a family friend, who is known to the child, who the child is comfortable with.”

House Bill 180 “gives the cabinet the ability to do a quick background check on that individual and place the child with that individual. … This is better for the children in that they can stay in a home they are comfortable in or already know rather than going to strangers in what is already a traumatic situation,” Feeley said.

Kentucky First Lady Glenna Bevin appeared at today’s committee meeting in support of the bill. She was praised for her support of measures to help children by Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington.

“We appreciate you so much and for this being your platform and the thing you advocate for,” Kerr said. “You have turned your inspiration into perspiration very personally for a long, long time and we appreciate you taking this and inspiring us.”

House Bill 180 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate approves performance-based funding formula for universities
Postsecondary education funding would be guided by performance-based measures, such as the number of students receiving degrees, under legislation approved yesterday by the Kentucky Senate.

Supporters of the legislation say it will phase out a funding model that, instead of basing funding on educational success, bases it on how much a school received in a previous budget cycle.

The goal of Senate Bill 153 “is to change this funding model, to refocus us on that goal of degree attainment,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, who is a primary sponsor of the legislation, along with Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

The legislation is the result of a work group made up of the president of the Council on Postsecondary Education, university presidents, state budget officials and legislators. The group’s final report endorsed the Council on Postsecondary Education’s goal of raising the percentage of Kentuckians with postsecondary degrees or certificates from the current level of 45 percent to 58 percent by 2025.

Under Senate Bill 153, the postsecondary funding formula would appropriate 35 percent of funds based on student success tied to outcomes, 35 percent would be tied to total student credit hours, and 30 percent would be based on supporting “vital campus operations and student support,” Givens said.

Prior to voting in favor of the bill, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, described himself as “a tuition-paying parent” who’s grateful that the state supports its universities. But he said university funding has lacked accountability. “The universities are going to have to compete in order to get us up to the national standard in degree attainment and the thresholds included in this bill,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, said he supported the legislation and commended those who worked on it, but expressed some reservations.

“We can talk about performance-based funding and all the different goals that are set out in the bill … but the simple fact of the matter is that unless this General Assembly is willing to put more money into postsecondary education as we go forward, the cost of a college degree will only continue to increase for tens of thousands of Kentucky students who want to better their lives,” Jones said.

The funding model established by SB 153 would be phased in over several years.

”This four-year phase-in before we reach full implementation provides us a period of confidence that the model is working correctly and provides stability for these institutions as they move into what is a bold but very appropriate new funding model,” Givens said.

The bill also calls for a postsecondary work group to review the results of the new funding approach every three years to see if it is successful and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Senate approved the bill on a 36-1 vote. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

For audio clips on this and other topics from lawmakers as well as news photos from the current session, visit the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission online. Video clips from the current session, as well as archived videos, are available on the LRC's YouTube channel. To view or sign up for news releases from the current session, visit the LRC's news page.  A virtual tour of the Capitol is also available online.