January 25th- General Assembly Week in Review

January 25th- General Assembly Week in Review

FRANKFORT – With the General Assembly off on Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and on Friday because of the snow, last week was an especially short one for legislators.
A reduced schedule didn’t keep the House from moving several bills forward, however.
On Wednesday, for example, the chamber’s Judiciary Committee put its support behind House Bill 229, which would give the Attorney General’s office jurisdiction to pursue and prosecute human trafficking cases.
This legislation has the backing of Attorney General Andy Beshear, and the goal is to use that office’s statewide resources and expertise to help prosecutors stop a crime that studies show occurs more frequently than many might think, especially when large sporting events like the Kentucky Derby are held.
The General Assembly passed its first major human trafficking law in 2007, and followed it with another far-reaching measure in 2013 that cracked down on traffickers and provided additional help to victims.
Last month, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services reported that there have been nearly 200 incidents across the state since statistics were first compiled in 2013. Last year, nearly all involved sex trafficking.
According to testimony during the meeting, it’s estimated that only about 10 percent of child-trafficking cases reported to the state have led to criminal investigations. If this bill becomes law, the hope is that we can bring that number of prosecutions up significantly.
On Thursday, the House voted for legislation that should make it easier for uninsured or underinsured Kentuckians to qualify for a colon cancer screening program. Kentucky has had a lot of success in recent years in catching this disease early, when it is much easier to cure.
Under House Bill 115, the state would set up income-based fees that would make the program more widely available to those who qualify.
With House Bill 59, which the chamber also supported on Thursday, the state would update a 2013 law that established an anonymous address protection program for victims of domestic violence. Victims use this program to ensure their abusers cannot easily track them down through public records.
If this legislation passes the Senate, it would do such things as allow a lower standard of proof for victims who may not have a domestic violence order but can still prove eligibility in other ways.
On Tuesday last week, the chamber voted for House Bill 83, which would tweak current law to make it possible for university researchers to use smokeless tobacco in their studies. In short, the legislation would add snuff and snus to the legal definition of what is called “reference tobacco.”
If this bill passes, it will hopefully help the University of Kentucky’s Tobacco Research and Development Center’s application for federal funding to research four types of smokeless tobacco. A decision on that money, potentially as much as $7 million, is expected in the weeks ahead.
As the General Assembly enters the second fourth of this year’s legislative session, the pace is set to pick up considerably. On Tuesday this week, the House and Senate will receive Governor Bevin’s two-year budget proposal, which will dominate much of the time we have left.
On the positive side, budget numbers through the first half of the fiscal year showed the state outpacing previous revenue projections by a relatively large margin. The challenge will be finding ways to tackle some long-term problems, such as the liabilities within our public retirement systems, while doing all we can to increase such critical areas as classroom funding.
I will report more on that next week. For now, please don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts on any issue before the General Assembly. You can always write to me at Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
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.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer