FRANKFORT, Ky. (3/2/13) – The following is your weekly update of Senate activity by State Senator Jerry Rhoads.
With more than two-thirds of the 2013 Regular Session behind us, lawmakers scrambled this week to move bills closer to the finish line before the Constitutionally imposed 30-working-day limit.
An important priority of the Senate, the Uniform Military and Overseas Voter Act, designated as Senate Bill 1, earned our unanimous approval this week. The bill would simplify the absentee voting process for Kentuckians serving overseas. It is imperative that the men and women sacrificing so much to protect our rights be given every opportunity to express their most precious civic right – the right to vote.
Even with the best efforts of county clerks and military election officials, completing an absentee ballot while deployed abroad is a long, laborious process. According to our Secretary of State, a sadly significant number of these ballots are lost, late or invalid for various reasons.
SB 1 would allow members of the armed forces, their spouses and others serving overseas to register to vote, and to request and receive an absentee ballot, electronically. This would dramatically modernize and streamline the process.
The bill would still require completed written ballots be returned via traditional postal mail or another delivery service. I supported this bill even though the option for electronic voting was removed before it got to the Senate floor. I hope when this bill goes to the House, that Chamber includes the provision to allow our military members overseas to return their ballots electronically. Twenty-four states already permit military and overseas voters to return ballots via e-mail or other electronic transmission system. I think Kentucky needs to be the 25th. This is the least that we can do for our men and women in uniform.
On Wednesday, the Senate approved Senate Bill 15, the Bryan Durman Act, named in honor of a Lexington police officer who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in April 2010. The measure would make those convicted of second-degree manslaughter for the death of on-duty law enforcement officers or firefighters ineligible for parole until 85 percent of their sentence is served. Currently such offenders would only be required to serve 20 percent of their sentence before seeking parole. The bill is simply a matter of justice and just recognition for those who sacrifice their own lives protecting ours.
The Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 7, which would affect the Legislators’ Retirement Plan. The measure would require State lawmakers’ pension benefit calculations be based only on salary earned through legislative service. Under current law, legislative pension benefits may also include salary earned in some subsequent government positions outside the legislature, creating the potential for individuals to inflate their legislative pensions.
The Senate approved a bill this week to help gun owners. Senate Bill 150 would remove the six month residency requirement currently in place for citizens applying for a concealed carry license. It also decreases the time the Kentucky State Police has to process the application from 90 days to 60 days. Gun rights are important to Kentuckians, and we want to ensure gun owners in Kentucky are able to fully express those important Second Amendment rights.
Last week I told you about a bill that would allow high school students to use money earned through the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) program for dual-credit college courses prior to graduation. This week we passed another measure to help students take full advantage of their KEES money. Senate Bill 64 would allow a special, more appropriate calculation of the total KEES award for students who complete their high school curriculum in three years. Our brightest, most motivated students should not be penalized, but rewarded, for excelling in school. That is what this bill does.
The recent shooting on the campus of Hazard Community Technical College made us acutely aware of the danger that can arise in a volatile custody exchange. Senate Bill 141 authorizes court orders to require exchanges take place in a safe child drop off location. That location is defined as any public building with limited access and with security measures such as metal detectors in place.
These, and many other bills approved by the Senate this week, now move to the House of Representatives for consideration.
As of Friday, only eight days remained in the legislative session. This is the time when the rubber really meets the road, and final details are worked out on some of the most important bills of the year. It is late in the session, but not too late for significant bills to pass, and never too late to have your voice heard on the issues important to you.
Senator Jerry Rhoads
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