KENTUCKY (3/2/14) – If you watch the news fairly regularly, you know about the harassment scandal that has hit the Kentucky General Assembly’s administrative arm, the Legislative Research Commission, resulting in the resignation of one lawmaker and some ongoing legal battles.
I vowed to address the issues that led to the scandal in my role as Chairman of the House State Government Committee, and I did that last week when my committee approved two bills—one requiring in-person workplace harassment training of state lawmakers and staff, and the other beefing up the personnel policies of the LRC.
The personnel policy bill, House Bill 88, is my bill to require that the LRC work with the state Personnel Cabinet to create a system by this August that spells out how non-partisan LRC staff are to be classified and compensated based on their work. Employment, promotion, discipline, and dismissal of non-partisan LRC staff would be based on that system. The harassment legislation is found in the other bill, HB 378 sponsored by Rep. Jeffery Donohue of Fairdale. It would require the LRC to review its workplace harassment policies regularly, and would put into law that all state lawmakers and LRC employees must attend “in-person” sexual harassment training each year.
These bills should quickly work their way to a House floor vote, and I’ll keep you posted on their progress.
It was a solemn time in the Kentucky House of Representatives last Tuesday as lawmakers held a special ceremony to honor Kentuckians who lost their lives in service to our country over the past year.
The families and loved ones of USAF Staff Sgt. Daniel N. Fannin of Morehead and US Army Sgt. Michael C. Cable of Philpot stood at the front of the House chamber as resolutions were read honoring the lives and sacrifice of both men: Sgt. Cable, 26, who was killed on active duty in Afghanistan in March of 2013 when he was stabbed by an Afghani as the soldier played with local children, and Staff Sgt. Fannin, 30, killed in April 2013 in the crash of an MC-12 aircraft near Afghanistan’s Kandahar Airfield.
Also remembered that day was US Army Pfc. Joshua A. Gray, 21, of Van Lear, who died on Feb. 10, at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan in a non-combat incident. Pfc. Gray’s funeral was held last weekend in Johnson County.
Not a sound was uttered on the floor of the House or in the gallery upstairs as lawmakers from the heroes’ home counties presented their families and loved ones with commemorative pins and white roses.
The event ended with a solo performance of “Amazing Grace,” and heartfelt thanks from lawmakers in remembrance of the fallen.
The House then moved last Tuesday to take up committee legislation, voting in favor of House Bill 277—a bill that would require those applying for work in most long-term care facilities (hospitals with long-term care beds would be exempt) to be fingerprinted as part of a national and state background check program.
The proposed change to state law is designed to crack down on abuse in long-term care facilities or those working with long-term care providers, including state workers who inspect long-term care facilities. Long-term care job applicants who appear on a registry, whose professional license is not in good standing, or who are otherwise disqualified based on the state’s determination, would be prohibited from working in long-term care facilities or with long-term care providers, or from performing state inspections of such workplaces, under HB 277.
After amending the bill to exempt hospitals that provide long-term care and requiring that any fees for background checks not exceed the state’s actual and direct costs, HB 277 was approved 87-11 and sent to the Senate for consideration.
The use of eminent domain came to the forefront last week in the House Judiciary Committee as the panel passed a bill that would prohibit the taking of land by eminent domain for transport of natural gas liquids.
HB 31, as amended, would be tied to the well-publicized proposed Bluegrass Pipeline project—which proposes construction of a pipeline carrying the liquids through several Central Kentucky counties— by effectively prohibiting the taking of private land by eminent domain when building pipelines like the Bluegrass Pipeline. HB 31 now goes to the full House for further action.
Now to another issue: proposed constitutional amendments filed this session.
There are a few before the Kentucky General Assembly this session, including proposed amendments to allow casino gaming at specific locations in the Commonwealth, abolish the state Treasurer’s office, restore voting rights to most Kentucky felons, create an independent panel to set the salaries of state officials (including but not limited to state lawmakers, judges, and the Governor), and allow counties to abolish the office of constable while allowing city governing officials to prohibit constables from exercising any authority within that city’s limits if a county allows constables. The constable bill, HB 158, was approved last week by the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee and now goes to the full House for further action.
Please continue to stay in tune with 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.
To comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181.
Information provided by Rep. Brent Yonts
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