FRANKFORT, KY (2/12/12) - Legislative redistricting took another dramatic turn this week as a court rejected the proposed House-Senate reapportionment, and once again extended the filing deadline for this year’s legislative races. The deadline was moved to 4 p.m. this Friday, Feb. 10, from an earlier deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 7 by a Franklin Circuit Court judge who declared the new districts created by HB 1 unconstitutional and blocked their implementation.
An appeal of the judge’s injunction is being made by the Legislative Research Commission--the General Assembly’s administrative body--to the Kentucky Supreme Court. But, for now, state lawmakers anticipate that we will run in our old districts (the ones we were elected to) unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise.
Problems and lawsuits involving private, for-profit colleges and universities have been reported in the news often in recent years, as have concerns with how the industry is regulated. To answer regulatory questions, the House this week passed HB 308 to create a new commission to regulate the industry in Kentucky.
The commission would be designed to improve oversight of for-profit schools while addressing some of the controversy that has surrounded the industry of late. HB 308, which cleared the House 91-5 on Tuesday, now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Lawmakers turned their attention to high school students when they approved a bill in committee on Tuesday that would allow, but not require, public schools to enroll teenage refugees and other legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens in high school, even if the student would be over age 21 upon graduation. (Current state law only allows for public education for Kentucky residents under age 21.)
HB 183 was filed after lawmakers learned about a growing need for high school diplomas by some refugees and other legal resident aliens. The bill, which would also adjust the state’s guaranteed base school funding (known as SEEK) to cover the instructional costs of providing a high school education to the students who earn their diploma, now goes to the full House for consideration.
Illegal immigration was the basis for a bill that cleared the House by a 93-4 vote on Wednesday.
HB 5 would require local government agencies and companies that contract with them to electronically verify employee eligibility to legally work in the U.S. Contractors, and subcontractors, would be banned from contracting with public agencies for certain periods for violating the provisions in the bill, while government workers found unauthorized to work in the U.S. would be subject to dismissal. HB 5 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
In other action, the House addressed unclaimed life insurance benefits—which reportedly total over $1 billion in reserves nationally—by approving a bill that would require life insurers to seek out beneficiaries to the policies they issue.
HB 135, which passed the House by a 96-0 vote, is based on national model legislation that requires insurers to compare Social Security death records against an insurer’s “in-force”, or paid and protected, policies on a regular basis to determine if benefits need to be paid. If so, insurers would take the necessary steps to find the designated beneficiary or beneficiaries to the policy and pay any benefits due. Benefits still left unclaimed would revert to the State Treasury as unclaimed property. HB 135 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Legislation that would streamline the campaign-finance report filing process for candidates for statewide office was also heard by lawmakers this week. The House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs on Tuesday passed HB 90, which would require all statewide candidates to file their finance reports electronically rather than having the choice to file on paper. Reports filed on paper must now be manually entered by the state Registry of Election Finance to be made available—and publicly transparent—online. HB 90 now goes to the full House for consideration.
Finally, lawmakers turned our attention to dental care for children early Thursday when legislation to improve Medicaid child dental care through improved case management cleared the House Health and Welfare Committee. HB 228 will work to boost child dental care through local health departments via a pilot project. That bill also now goes to the full House for a vote.
We have officially completed over one-third of the 2012 Regular Session, and only have 34 days remaining after this Friday to enact legislation before the session ends in mid-April. I expect work on the budget, specifically, as well as work on other top issues to heat up as the session reaches its midpoint in just a few legislative days.
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