Halfway point of the 2021 Session approaches
Representative Josh Branscum
We are almost halfway through the 2021 Legislative Session and though considered a short session, there is no shortage of legislative work left to accomplish. With the threat of an ice storm and more winter weather on the way, legislators spent the majority of last week filing legislation and meeting with committees to consider bills and resolutions. As I write this, over 500 bills have already been filed this year. There will be more by the time our filing deadline ends.
Our committee process is important to the work we do in Frankfort. I do not talk enough about how crucial committee meetings are. They are a chance to hear from real people and how proposed legislation might affect them. They let us discuss bills and iron out any details necessary before sending it to the House floor for its final passage. This week was no different and I am proud to serve on the following committees: Small Business and Information Technology Committee, Transportation Committee, and the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.
We passed several pieces of legislation last week as well and I want to highlight a few of those new bills.
HB 7, which I was proud to co-sponsor, creates an advisory council which will create a Recovery Ready Certification for Kentucky communities. The council will be tasked with coming up with standards for communities looking to help those recovering from substance abuse, as well as providing guidance to communities in developing a recovery ready ecosystem. By putting this council in place, state and local governments can work together to get the most out of every resource invested into recovery.
HB 188 passed the House and is a bill that I was proud to sponsor. HB 188 changes the name of the “Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Parkway” to the “Louie B. Nunn Cumberland Expressway”. While this appears to be a simple name change, it is actually much larger than that. This change is part of a broader effort to eventually upgrade the Cumberland Parkway to interstate standards. This change has the potential to have a direct economic impact on the citizens and industry that call the 83rd District home.
We passed a bill that would allow local law enforcement to communicate with the Department of Transportation to place missing persons information on highway information signs. Under current law, highway message boards are being used only in the case of an Amber Alert. HB 105 would allow local law enforcement to use any additional resources, including the Amber Alert system, law enforcement communication system, Integrated Public Alert, and Warning System in their search of a missing person. The measure would also require the agency searching for a missing person to contact appropriate agencies within four hours of receiving the report.
Legislation was passed this week that helps to ensure that Medicaid recipients have continued access to preventative cancer screenings. HB 108 codifies current Medicaid coverage to include preventive screenings, examinations and genetic testing for colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is a disease that often goes undetected because it has no symptoms, making it imperative for people to get tested regularly. It is important to keep coverage of approved screening tests so that people can proactively monitor their health.
I continue to be proud of the legislation we pass to make Kentucky one of the most veteran friendly states in the country. HB 109, known as the Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act, would allow custodial responsibility to be granted to the non-custodial parent during the deployment period. This bill ensures that deployed service members who have custody of children do not lose custody due to their deployment.
House Bill 273, otherwise known as the Bailey Holt-Preston Cope Privacy Act, would protect photographs and videos of a person’s death, killing, rape, or assault used in court proceedings from being available to the public after their use in court. Named in honor of two 15-year-old victims of the tragic shooting at Marshall County High School in 2018, HB 273 would protect the privacy of the family members and victims of both the Marshall County tragedy and other traumatic events. This bill is critical to protecting the innocent victims of crimes from being victimized further. It is disheartening that we need legislation like this, but clearly we do and I was proud to vote for this measure.
We have 16 legislative days left in this year’s session. And we are going to make each and every one of them count so that your voice is heard. Over the next few weeks I will continue to update you on our progress. In the meantime, I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, please visit the legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov or you can email me at Josh.Branscum@lrc.ky.gov.