House Bill 7, the first bill to pass both chambers and be signed into law by the Governor, authorizes six of the state’s eight public universities to bond $363 million for 11 projects, including much needed dorm renovations at Murray State University and an Honors College and International Center at Western Kentucky University, among other projects. The measure requires the bonds to be paid for by the universities and not with state tax dollars. This bill will help the universities with needed improvements and create over 5,000 construction jobs. As an added measure of protection for college students, the Senate inserted a stipulation that the universities could not raise tuition in order to repay the debt. Passage of this bill is a perfect example of bipartisan governing.
In addition to helping our public universities, the Senate also focused on providing assistance to our high-school students with its passage of Senate Bills 109, 97 and 95. Senate Bill 109 would permit high school juniors and seniors to use their Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarship (KEES) awards early to pay for dual credit courses. Senate Bill 97 is aimed at helping more students graduate from high school by giving local school districts the option to increase the dropout age from 16 to 18, provided they have the funds and approved alternative programs to meet the needs of these students. Lastly, Senate Bill 95 would extend the tuition waiver to foster and adopted children for those who choose to serve in the military after high school. Today’s high school students are competing on a global scale. These types of measures give Kentucky’s children a better chance for success.
Another bill designed to help our young adults is Senate Bill 72. This measure seeks to save Kentucky lives by mandating suicide prevention training for professional counselors, therapists, social workers and other mental health professionals. This much-needed training will assist mental health professionals in recognizing the early warning signs of suicide, a leading cause of death among young adults.
The Senate continues to be mindful of adding to the state’s debt. The passage of two pieces of legislation today, Senate Bill 39 and Senate Bill 40, would allow the legislature to weigh in on the implementation of key parts of the Affordable Care Act, particularly since the implementation of this federally mandated legislation stands to have a costly, statewide impact. Senate Bill 39 would provide that any expansion of Medicaid must be approved by the General Assembly. Likewise, Senate Bill 40 would require the General Assembly to approve the creation of any state-run health benefits exchange. These bills are designed to ensure the best and most cost-effective policies and programs are put in place and your dollars are used wisely.
Lastly, the Senate unanimously passed legislation that would strengthen and protect the Health Access Nurturing and Development Services (HANDS) program. The program is used in every Kentucky county with more than 11,000 families receiving help each year. This voluntary home visitation program, offered through local health departments, uses trained professionals who make home visits to help families learn the essentials of proper childcare, from pregnancy to age two. During this time, families receive information on caretaking, home safety, and child development. This program has impressive results, including a 32% reduction in premature births, fewer developmental delays, reduced costs to Medicaid, and a reduction in the cost of remediation for children not ready for kindergarten.
While no new bills will be filed in these final days of the session, there are many more bills still to be considered. Your input is invaluable, so please contact me if you have any comments or questions toll-free at 1-800-372-7181. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Stan Humphries (R-Cadiz) represents the 1st District including representing Calloway, Carlisle, Fulton, Graves, Hickman, Lyon and Trigg counties. He is the Chairman of the Capital Planning Advisory Board and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Education, as well as the Vice-Chair of both the Education Committee and the State and Local Government Committee. He is a member of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and the Agriculture Committee.