First responders, child abuse measures head Legislature’s week

Even with a snow day, many bills continued to move through the chambers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – — Despite losing a day to ice and snow, the Kentucky General Assembly continued to plow through bills this week, including three measures focused on first responders and several others related to education, criminal justice and parental rights.

Under threat of winter weather, lawmakers closed out the fifth week of the 2022 legislative session on Thursday afternoon as road conditions began to decline across the Commonwealth.

But just as first responders are working in concert this weekend to battle the icy conditions, legislators were largely united this week in efforts to “protect those who protect us.”

Before gaveling out on Thursday, the House unanimously approved House Bill 56, a measure that would provide death benefits when a first responder dies in the line of duty from COVID-19. In such cases, families of first responders would receive a one-time, lump-sum payment of $80,000.

HB 56 is retroactive, meaning any first responders who have died due to COVID-19 complications since March 6, 2020, would qualify.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers have advanced a separate bill to boost mental health for public safety employees.

Senate Bill 64 would protect the confidentiality of first responders who participate in peer support counseling programs. Supporters say the bill would benefit thousands of public safety workers who frequently experience trauma on the job but could face repercussions from frank discussions in counseling.

The bill received unanimous approval Tuesday on the Senate floor and now heads to the House.

A third measure related to first responders cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee this week; however, it focuses on curtailing misconduct.

Senate Bill 101 would prohibit first responders from taking photos of people who have died at scene of an accident or crime––unless the photos are for official purposes. Any unauthorized photos could result in a class A misdemeanor charge, with fines ranging between $500 to $2,500. The measure will now go to the full Senate.

Even with the short week, dozens of other bills continued to move forward in the legislature, including measures related to:

The Read to Succeed Act – The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved House Bill 226, or the Read to Succeed Act, on Tuesday. The legislation is a companion piece to a bill in the Senate and would allocate millions toward training teachers in early literacy instruction.

Porch pirates  Senate Bill 23 seeks to crack down on people who steal packages delivered through commercial carriers like Amazon or FedEx. The bill would make it a class D felony to steal or destroy such packages, mirroring the penalties for stealing U.S. mail. The measure cleared the Senate on Wednesday.

School board meetings – Under House Bill 121, public school boards would have to allow for at least 15 minutes of public comment at meetings, unless no one has signed up to speak. The bill advanced off the House floor on Wednesday.

False police reports – House Bill 48 would make falsely reporting an incident to police that results in an emergency response a class D felony. The bill was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Child abuse – Senate Bill 97 would help strengthen investigations of suspicious child deaths and serious injuries. The legislation would require police to request a blood, breath or urine test from the child’s custodian if that person is suspected of being under the influence at the time of the child’s death. It would also mandate that coroners immediately notify law enforcement officials and social services following the death of a child. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee approved the measure Wednesday.

Parental rights – Senate Bill 40 states that legal custodians of a minor child have a “fundamental right to make decisions concerning their care, custody and control.” It would also require government agencies to meet a strict scrutiny standard before interfering with the rights of a parent or legal custodian. The bill moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene Monday for the 23rd day of the 60-day session, and Kentuckians have many ways to keep in touch with the legislative process. That includes the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to review and track a bill’s progression through the chambers.

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