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This Week at the State Capitol
Bills on school boards, 'porch pirates' advance in the General Assembly
By Mike Wynn, LRC
Frankfort, KY - The 2022 legislative session is nearly a third of the way over, and dozens of bills are moving through the House and Senate, including some this week related to package theft, mental health and school board meetings.
The Kentucky General Assembly hit day 18 of the 60-day session on Friday, and along with a roster of important bills, the fourth week of the session also brought some memorable moments on the chamber floors.
Legislators took time to recognize trade partnerships with Taiwan, honor the late Rep. John "Bam" Carney, and commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Janitorial workers were praised for their contributions, and school officials from Western Kentucky received a standing ovation for their quick and selfless efforts to help local communities following the recent tornados there.
Schools and education were a big theme throughout the week as lawmakers advanced at least three bills related to scholarships out of committee. But the education bill grabbing the most headlines was House Bill 121, related to school board meetings.
The legislation would require local school boards to provide at least 15 minutes of public comment at each meeting--unless no one has signed up to speak.
Supporters of the bill say that, while most school boards already allot time for public comment, some do not, and parents have requested the change. Critics, meanwhile, say the measure is unnecessary and intrudes on local control.
HB 121 moved out of the House Education Committee on Tuesday and now heads to the floor.
Another bill drawing attention this week was Senate Bill 23, which would expand the protections for U.S. mail to include packages delivered by commercial carriers, such as FedEx or Amazon.
Under the changes, anyone caught stealing or destroying a package from a common carrier or delivery service could be charged with a class D felony, even if the value of the package is relatively low.
Supporters say the bill is needed to crack down on thieves known as "porch pirates," who have grown more prevalent and more organized in recent years.
The legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the Senate State and Local Government Committee advanced a measure--Senate Bill 64 --which would protect the confidentiality of peer support counseling programs for first responders. Supporters say the protections are necessary to ensure that first responders can participate openly and honestly in counseling.
Lastly, lawmakers closed out the week by sending a bill related to COVID-19 visitor restrictions to the governor's desk.
That legislation - Senate Bill 100 - would ensure that patients in long-term care, assisted living and mental health facilities can receive visits from essential caregivers. Visitors could include family members, friends or volunteers, among others.
Advocates for the bill say that caregiver visits are essential to the overall wellbeing of the patients.
Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel back into session on Monday for week five, and Kentuckians have many ways to keep in touch with the legislative process. That includes the Legislative Record webpage, which allows uses to review and track a bill's progression through the chambers.
Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly's toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.
This story was posted on 2022-01-29 08:12:23
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