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Senator Stephen Meredith’s legislative update – Feb. 8, 2022

In Opinion by OC Monitor Staff

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Ohio County Monitor.

Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield)

Note: Due to the recent redistricting by the Kentucky State Legislature, Ohio County is no longer part of the 6th Senate District. Ohio County is now part of the 5th Senate District.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — On the 5th week of the 2022 General Assembly, we hit the ground running with a schedule packed with committee hearings and floor activity. The Senate Majority is excited to move forward with its legislative priorities and pass legislation that benefits the commonwealth’s rural communities and promote our cherished values

Unfortunately with inclement weather moving across the commonwealth on Thursday and Friday, we were forced to cut the week short for the safety of our fellow members and staff. I hope that you and your loved ones were not adversely impacted by this storm and remained safe and warm.

The Senate has officially begun the thorough process of reviewing the Governor’s and State House of Representatives’ budget proposals. I will keep you apprised in the weeks ahead on significant budget developments from the Senate. Please know that we are thoroughly going through both documents to develop one that is fiscally responsible and takes care of the residents across the commonwealth.

Some of the other notable legislative matters that passed in the Senate last week include:

Senate Bill 8 is one of the most consequential bills passed during the 2022 Regular Session. It was initially filed during Child Advocacy Week, was discussed in committee, and then made its way to the Senate floor this past week.

Unfortunately, Kentucky has led the nation three years in a row in rates of child abuse and neglect, and passage of SB 8 in the Senate comes after the Kentucky Center for Investigative Journalism shone light on the backlog of cases regarding suspicious child deaths.

This bill expands the opportunity for family preservation services in order to keep children safe and families united and provide additional resources and support for Kentucky’s child advocacy centers. It expands the scope and membership of the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board to include all forms of child abuse and neglect. One of the most important facets of the bill is that it specifically distinguishes the difference between poverty and neglect. Lastly, it updates the Foster Youth Bill of Rights by enabling those aging out of foster care to maintain access to resources while transitioning into adult life.

SB 23 updates Kentucky’s mail theft statute, which currently only covers mail packages delivered by the United States Postal Service. If enacted, the bill will put packages delivered by common carriers such as UPS and FedEx under that same legal umbrella, making ‘porch pirates’ susceptible to greater criminal charges. SB 23 was Senator Yates’s first sponsored bill to successfully pass, and as a show of bipartisan camaraderie, both Republicans and Democrats alike subjected his bill to a “hazing” ritual, in which the entire chamber voted “no” on the bill and then switched their votes to “yea.”

SB 64 allows public safety agencies to establish a peer support counseling program. This enables those within the same field to use personal experiences to help colleagues deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. The bill will include emergency dispatchers, often the first line of communication for individuals in crisis, distress or trauma, as well as other first responders.

SB 64 was filed following heart-wrenching testimony heard in the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services last summer. Emergency dispatchers spoke of the mental anguish they suffer from supporting others during times of high stress and trauma and detailed the lack of mental health support for those in their profession.

SB 66, also known as ‘Nathan’s Law,’ takes the necessary step to give greater consideration to the grieving process of families by implementing requirements on how the news of a loved one’s death must be delivered. It requires coroners and deputy coroners, within three years of assuming office, to complete a minimum four-hour course that includes instruction of the grieving process and best practices for providing death notice to a spouse or next of kin. The bill also stipulates that news of the death must be delivered verbally and respectfully and requires a follow-up with the family member within 48 hours. Additionally, the bill would require emergency responders to be on standby.

SB 33 continues Kentucky’s efforts to address workforce needs by allowing people convicted of misdemeanors and have paid their debt to society, to re-enter the job market. The primary focus of the bill is to clarify when a misdemeanor offense may qualify for expungement. Existing law does not allow for expungement of a crime that qualifies for additional penalties on an indefinite basis. Currently, a person convicted of a misdemeanor, violation, or a series of convictions arising from a single incident, can petition the court for expungement of their record. I believe in second chances, and I do not think that mistakes made in years past should define us as an individual. The safety of the commonwealth’s residents are always one of my top priorities, and this bill will not allow for sex crimes, child-related offenses and violent crimes to qualify for expungement.

Most would agree that people who have made a mistake should be entitled to a second chance after paying their debt to society, and as a Christian, I believe in redemption. I do not believe that a single careless mistake made in a moment of weakness should define who that individual is. This bill helps provide people with dignity and allows them to achieve their potential as contributing members of our community.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at [email protected]. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.

Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) represents the 5th Senate District, which includes Breckinridge, Butler, Grayson, Ohio and Meade counties. He serves as chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources and vice-chair of the Senate Standing Committees on Health and Welfare and Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection. Sen. Meredith also serves as co-chair of the Government Contract Review Committee and Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee. Finally, he is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Appropriations and Revenue.