From charter schools to nuclear power plants, slew of new Kentucky laws in effect Thursday
United under Republican rule, the Kentucky General Assembly passed a slew of new laws this year, and most of them will finally go into effect Thursday.
Some of the most important and controversial bills the legislature passed, including anti-abortion laws and right-to-work legislation, went into effect immediately after Gov. Matt Bevin signed them in January because they included emergency clauses.
But there are still plenty of bills state legislators passed that didn’t get fast-tracked like that.
Here are some key measures that officially become law this week.
House Bill 520 allows publicly funded charter schools in Kentucky and establishes rules regarding how those schools can be set up.
Religious expression in schools:
Senate Bill 17 is designed to reinforce students’ constitutional right to express religious and political views in public schools. However, critics say certain provisions could give student clubs the ability to prevent LGBTQ students from joining their ranks. This law recently prompted California’s attorney general to restrict state-funded travel to Kentucky.
House Bill 14 makes it a hate crime to target police officers or other first responders. Critics say this legislation may dilute the intent of Kentucky’s hate-crime law and could be used to punish people who protest police brutality.
War on Louisville:
Senate Bill 222, unofficially dubbed the “war on Louisville” measure, makes some changes to the way the city’s local government functions. Among other things, it says a deputy mayor must be appointed and allows the Metro Council to create a government oversight committee that can compel testimony and issue subpoenas.
House Bill 333 prohibits medical professionals from giving patients with acute pain a prescription that lasts longer than three days at a time for a Schedule II drug like OxyContin. It includes several exceptions, including one for pain stemming from a major surgery, and also increases penalties for trafficking in heroin and fentanyl.
School calendar changes:
Senate Bill 50 encourages public school districts to delay the first day of school at least until the Monday closest to Aug. 26. Beginning with the 2018-19 school year, districts that opt for a later start date can be more flexible in designing their annual schedule.
House Bill 128 establishes regulations for public high schools that are interested in offering elective classes on the Bible and Hebrew scriptures.
Medical malpractice cases:
Senate Bill 4 permits “medical review panels,” which include healthcare providers, to review malpractice claims and offer an opinion on them before patients take their cases to court.
Expunging juvenile records:
Senate Bill 195 establishes a process for expunging felonies from someone’s juvenile court record. Sex crimes and certain violent offenses can’t be erased, though.
Senate Bill 120, which is part of an ongoing, bipartisan push for criminal justice reform, gives people with felony convictions a chance to obtain professional licenses for jobs like nursing and allows inmates to earn wages and gain work experience while they’re incarcerated. It also includes other reforms, such as provisions that help prevent people from being jailed if they can’t afford to pay certain court costs.
House Bill 38 prohibits registered sex offenders from going to a public playground unless they get written permission from an appropriate government entity in advance.
Senate Bill 117 lets veterans with a bachelor’s degree in any field of study get a provisional teaching certificate as long as they meet some other criteria. Those veterans could get a professional teaching certificate after completing an internship.
Senate Bill 75 raises the amount someone can donate to a local or state candidate’s campaign from $1,000 to $2,000 per election, among other tweaks to Kentucky’s contribution limits.
Senate Bill 11 essentially lifts Kentucky’s moratorium on constructing nuclear power plants.
House Bill 74 prohibits most non-emergency motor vehicles from using blue lights. There are some exceptions, such as for factory-installed, nonhalogen headlamps that have a slight blue tint.
House Bill 156 establishes the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Authority, which is expected to use a portion of the commonwealth’s coal severance money to support economic development, public health and infrastructure projects.
Food immunity bill:
House Bill 237 is expected to spark an increase in donations to food banks by providing legal protections for supermarkets and farmers, some of whom fear being sued if someone gets sick after eating food they donated.
By Morgan Watkins