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Frankfort update: Senate awaits budget

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March promises many things here in the Commonwealth. It looks like it will start with some winter weather before we get any relief, the college basketball season heats up, and we in the Senate tackle the most difficult part of the job, the biennial budget. As we still wait for the House to pass their version of the budget, legislation continues in our chamber.

As far as legislation, this week Senate Bill 7 was signed by Governor Beshear. The new law will allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medication without a physician as long as they meet the requirements. Ultimately this will provide more access to medical care, especially for citizens in rural areas.

Senate Bill 142, passed 35-2, would make some minor changes to last year’s pension reform measure, Senate Bill 2. Some of the pension spiking provisions of that legislation had some unintended consequences of capping overtime and secondary employment hours worked by police officers, fire fighters and other state employees. Under this measure, an employee’s annual salary increase above 10 percent will not be used to calculate pension benefits. Additional money contributed by the employee to the retirement system as a result of this increase will be refunded with interest. The additional employer’s contribution will be used to pay down the unfunded liability.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 116 (31-7) this week to address the issue of “patent trolls” or corporations created almost solely for the purpose of initiating patent infringement lawsuits. Many say this practice puts an undue financial burden on small businesses that have to focus attention on frivolous lawsuits brought forth by bogus patent-infringement claims. While federal patent law is in place, supporters of this measure say Kentucky could do more to protect local businesses and encourage job growth in the state.

Senate Bill 23 is another measure that has limited scope, but that will make a needed improvement in the moving industry. Senate Bill 23 will help small businesses compete. Currently, movers have to receive approval from their competitors before receiving a certificate to be able to operate. This bill changes the language so that companies seeking to operate as movers can go directly to the transportation cabinet for that certification. This allows more competition in the marketplace and helps keep prices competitive for consumers.

Senate Bill 84 also passed. It requires entities that buy cars for scrap to run the vehicle identification number and make sure no liens or delinquent taxes exist. If such exists, the business cannot accept the vehicle.

Senate Bill 118 passed and will benefit families and individuals with eye conditions. The legislation permits eye drops to be refilled more frequently and requires insurers to cover an additional bottle of prescription eye drops once every three months if needed for a child in day care or school. It is critical that children with glaucoma have access to these drops to maintain their sight and eye health.

Our committee meetings, and chamber proceedings, are open to the public, aired on KET and streamed live and archived online at www.ket.org. If you can’t drive up, then tune in.

If you have any issues or concerns, please call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or toll free at 1-800-372-7181. I appreciate your time and input.

 

Senator Ernie Harris (R-Crestwood) represents the 26th District which includes Oldham County as well as a portion of Jefferson County. The views in this column are those of the writer.