KENTUCKY (2/9/14) – I want to again thank everyone for coming together in support of the Watson family.
Donations to the family’s relief fund from state legislators and their staff now total well over $2,000, I am told.
These monies will go a very long way toward helping pay medical and other expenses as Mr. Watson and his daughter continue to heal, physically and psychologically, from this tragedy.
As for legislative action, several of my bills have been working their way through the House this past week, and one bill was passed and sent on to the Senate.
House Bill 138, should it become law, would require the state to offer its workers a health flexible spending account (in addition to any fully insured health benefit plans or self-insured plans) as of Jan. 2015. It cleared the House on consent by a 99-0 vote and should have no problem clearing the Senate, too.
The Kentucky House stood together last week to honor one of its own who guided Kentucky’s response to HIV and AIDS education, testing, and patient rights from the late 1980s to the present day.
The occasion was marked by House Resolution 98 which details how the honoree—the late Kentucky House Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources Chair and longtime state lawmaker Rep. Paul Mason of Letcher County—worked tirelessly to educate Kentuckians about HIV and AIDS, effectively improving the way HIV and AIDS patients are treated in both medical settings and in everyday life.
Mason had a personal connection to the AIDS issue: his daughter, AIDS crusader and patient Belinda Mason, contracted HIV after receiving a blood transfusion in 1987. She would eventually die from the disease in 1991 but, as the resolution states, “…her legacy and her father’s as fearless advocates transformed the way the disease is perceived, understood, and treated in the Commonwealth and in the country.”
Those of us in the House who served with Paul Mason and benefited from his and Belinda Mason’s advocacy as workers in the health care field will never forget his dedication, and his powerful voice for those who are sick or poor. He was certainly one of “the good ones,” as they say.
On the floor of the House, several bills made it through floor votes and on to the Senate last week, including HB 1 which proposes a gradual increase in the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by mid-2016.
That bill cleared the chamber on a 54-44 vote and now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
A related measure, HB 191, which would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, from the current rate of $2.13 an hour to $3 an hour (then incrementally each year until it reaches 70 percent of the wage addressed in HB 1) passed by a vote of 57-40.
Among other House bills headed to the Senate last week were:
- HB 189, which cleared the House 99-0, and would clarify that the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs has administrative power over the state’s veterans’ program trust fund and the authority to regulate the fund.
- HB 157, which would require completion of a state Board of Medical Licensure-approved continuing medical education course on recognition and prevention of pediatric abusive head trauma for licensed pediatricians, radiologists and other physicians working with children, as well as future licensees. The requirement would call for a one-time course of at least an hour. Current practitioners would have to complete the course prior to the end of calendar year 2017, while future licensees would have to complete the course within five years of licensure. It also cleared on a vote of 99-0.
- HB 228, which passed the House on a 94-5 vote, would require Kentucky’s governor to try to achieve gender equity when making appointments to state boards and commissions from submitted lists.
In the area of health care, the House Health and Welfare Committee passed “statewide smoking ban” legislation on to the full House last week that would, if passed into law as written, ban smoking in enclosed public places and enclosed workplaces across Kentucky.
HB 173 would require “no smoking” signs to be displayed at public places and workplaces throughout the state (with the exception of private residential workplaces, i.e. home offices not used for child care or adult day care, and some laboratory and research facilities) and prohibit smoking within 15 feet of entries and exits—along with any operable windows and air vents—of such places.
Any person who violates the “no smoking” rule in HB 173 could be cited and face a fine; proceeds from fines would go to the law enforcement, health department, or other agency that issued the citation.
On the education front: the House Education Committee passed a bill that its supporters say could potentially help as many as 800 to 1,000 students from the state’s coal regions who have already earned some college credit to complete four-year degrees at home by expanding and making permanent the “Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship Program” implemented by the Executive Branch in 2012.
Should it become law, the legislation—House Bill 2—as now written would offer scholarships funded with coal severance tax dollars and other sources. State General Fund dollars would be not used, according to the bill. HB 2 would also create “student services grants” of no more than $150,000 per institution, per year, for Kentucky’s community and technical colleges in the coal regions. More action on the bill is expected in the House in coming days.
Continue to “stay tuned” to all legislative action of interest to you throughout the 2014 Regular Session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at (866) 840-2835. x 9650.To comment on a bill, remember to call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181.
Information provided by Rep. Brent Yonts
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