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With just over a third of the 2008 General Assembly behind us, we continue our work on the budget. The first full week of February we saw several key pieces of legislation deliberated in committees and on the House floor. Penalties for the falsification and misuse of military status would be established under House Bill 110. Approved by the House Committee on Seniors, Military Affairs and Public Protection, it will be known as “The Stolen Valor Act.” Individuals would be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they falsely apply for a special military license plate, claim that they are entitled to wear military awards and decorations, or make any substantial misrepresentation of military service. Perennial legislation was approved by the House Transportation Committee that would require young children to ride in booster seats. House Bill 55 would mandate that all children younger than eight years of age and who are between 40 and 57 inches tall to be secured in a booster seat while in a vehicle. Those found in violation would be charged a $50 fine. While the bill has passed the House the past two sessions, it has failed to clear the Senate, and opposition persists. Legislation aimed towards raising our Commonwealth’s low voter participation rate passed the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. House Bill 138 would allow any registered voter to cast their ballot at least 12 days before an election without offering an excuse as to why they cannot vote on Election Day. This amends the current law that requires voters to give a legitimate reason why they cannot vote on the scheduled day before they are issued an absentee ballot. One hot-button topic that created tension throughout the session last year was once again approved by the House Health and Welfare Committee. House Bill 396 would require all school-age children to be immunized against the human papillomavirus. Parents would be able to refuse the vaccine, but only if they sign a statement affirming that they understand the link between cervical cancer and HPV. There are still many questions about the vaccine and the potential side effects. While I applaud the research that has led to this breakthrough, I cannot support any form of mandate. I think it is important that we provide thorough information about the issue but the ultimate decision must rest with the parents and their healthcare providers. This week, the House approved House Bill 36. Passing 90-0, the state vital statistics registrar would be required to send an incomplete or unsatisfactory certificate of death to the appropriate funeral director, physician, dentist, chiropractor, or coroner responsible for the entry to complete or correct the certificate. Additionally, the state registrar would be obligated to notify the individual who submitted the certificate of death that it was returned to the appropriate individual for completion. Unsolicited credit card offers would be reduced by House Bill 27, which passed the House Friday. After receiving such an offer, the consumer could send written correspondence to the solicitor, asking to be removed from the mailing list. Another provision of the bill would prohibit the solicitor from selling or distributing a consumer’s personal information to other companies. The Kentucky Family Trust Fund Program would be created through House Bill 13. This legislation that was approved 91-0 would allow a board to establish and operate a trust fund program that would manage money for the benefit of individuals with special needs. The money directed to this fund would be used to help defray the cost of their health care needs. Additionally, individuals with a disability would be able to plan for possible medical needs in the future. Withdrawals from the account would be allowed and, upon the death of the individual whose name the trust is in, any remaining balance would be sent to the Trust Fund to assist others with disabilities. House Bill 307, approved 93-0, would create the Gatton Academy for Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University. Students who are selected for the Academy would be allowed to utilize their SEEK money, and it also allows the Academy to award diplomas to graduating students. An additional measure of consumer protection is provided through House Bill 348. Passing the House 93-0, this legislation would move our Commonwealth one step closer to providing complete protection in the insurance arena by protecting consumers when they are faced with the incident of an agent using life settlements as a way to sell life insurance policies. The relationship between two friends was the motivation for House Bill 234. Winning approval from the House 94-0, this legislation would create incentives for live organ donations. All expenses related to the donation would be reimbursed, 30-day special paid leave would be given to state workers who donate, and tax credits would be provided to companies for any lost income. Provisions of the act are known as “Beth’s Bill” as “Beth” was the name of both the friends who were the live organ donor and live organ recipient. With less than two months remaining in the 2008 Session, we still have many important issues to address, including the state budget. The budget review subcommittees are currently reviewing the budget, which provides funding for state services for the next two years. Once the subcommittees finish their work, the budget will then be sent to the full Appropriations and Revenue Committee before coming to the full House. In the meantime, I will continue to update you on the work of the 2008 General Assembly. As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Those with hearing impairments may leave messages for me by calling the TTY message line at 1-800-896-0305. If you have Internet access, you can e-mail me at email@example.com or keep track through the Kentucky legislature’s home page at www.lrc.ky.gov.
The views expressed in this column may not necessarily represent the views of The Oldham Era.