FRANKFORT – The approval of new laws may be a wintertime activity, but in most cases, this legislation doesn’t actually take effect until the heat of summer.
Unless a law has an emergency clause or a specific enactment date, it becomes official 90 days after the General Assembly completes its work. This year, that falls on June 24th.
Since odd-year sessions are half as long as those in even-numbered years and usually don’t “open” up the two-year budget, it may be tempting to think that this time is not as consequential. As this year proved, though, that’s not a fair assumption.
Even with time set aside for organizational matters and several days missed because of record snow and cold, the General Assembly was able to approve a wide array of laws that will have a positive impact on the state.
Two of the most prominent are good examples of why specific enactment dates are needed. One tackling the state’s heroin epidemic had an emergency clause, so that the provisions responding to the drug’s increased use could begin immediately. Next week, in fact, marks the first meeting of the oversight committee the General Assembly authorized to make sure the law is being carried out as planned.
The other far-reaching law, meanwhile, will expand civil protective orders to victims of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. To give the courts time to make the necessary administrative changes, this law will become effective next January.
There are exceptions to budgetary matters being approved in odd-numbered years. This year, for example, we gave the University of Kentucky the go-ahead – and agreed to split half of the $265 million cost – to build a major research facility that will greatly expand the school’s work studying such deadly diseases as cancer and stroke.
Some of this year’s new laws extend tax incentives in an effort to boost economic activity. One will help the Breeders Cup, which is being held this fall at Keeneland and is often called the richest two days in sports. Having Triple Crown winner American Pharoah take part, as seems likely, will certainly boost this event even more.
The other incentive package will make Kentucky more attractive to the film and television industry. Our previous incentives trailed what’s offered in many states, so this change – which had First Lady Jane Beshear as its chief advocate – should bring in considerably more productions. This will help us better compete with states like Georgia and Louisiana, which are seeing economic benefits reaching into the billions of dollars.
Two new laws are designed to reduce traffic injuries and fatalities, with the first calling on families with young children to use booster seats a little longer. This change extends the upper age limit from six and younger to seven and younger and increases the upper height requirement from 50 to 57 inches. These changes will make sure seatbelts designed for adults better fit those children not quite ready to use seatbelts unassisted.
The other highway-safety measure calls for greater use of ignition-interlock devices, which make sure that convicted drunk drivers given a hardship license do not drive drunk again. States that have expanded the use of these devices have seen a significant decrease in alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
Two other new laws will have an effect on specific industries. The first loosens state regulations on telecommunications companies’ landline requirements as more and more people migrate to cell phones and internet-based calling. It’s important to note that there are built-in protections for landline users in rural areas.
The other law restores strict separation between those who brew, distribute and sell beer. This will make sure that the country’s growing craft beer industry has a level playing field when it comes to getting its products in restaurants and stores.
Some of the other, lesser-known laws will do such things as make it easier for charitable organizations to raise money; establish a rating system for early childhood care and education programs; and add Special Olympics, pediatric cancer research and rape crisis centers to the list of organizations eligible to receive direct donations from state income tax refunds.
Earlier this month, the General Assembly began what it calls the interim, the period between late spring and the holidays when the House and Senate committees meet together to review issues affecting the state. This gives us the time we need to be better prepared when the legislative session begins in January.
No matter the time of year, I encourage you to let me know any thoughts or concerns you may have about state government. You can always write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.