SENATOR ALBERT ROBINSON’S LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
The past week of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly was dominated by a topic on the minds of people worldwide. That is of course, the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Our sincerest prayers go out to all who are affected by this virus, both directly and indirectly. Our prayers will remain with everyone in the days ahead as we develop a greater understanding of what the World Health Organization has now declared a pandemic. In light of the recent developments, the Kentucky General Assembly has chosen to postpone legislative business of the House and Senate Chambers for Friday, March 13th, and Monday, March 16th, out of an abundance of caution and to provide an opportunity to discuss a more long-term plan. Critical efforts on significant issues like legislation, the budget, and the road plan will move forward as anticipated.
As news of the virus spread, so has fear and anxiety. As the spring allergy season nears, these fears will only intensify. I want to reassure you that Kentucky health officials and state leaders are continuing to work with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal authorities, and other health agencies to ensure collaborative and proactive measures are implemented throughout the Commonwealth. The state implemented a new hotline this week to assist Kentuckians who have questions or need help related to COVID-19. The number is 1-800-722-5725. I also encourage you to visit the CDC’s website for more information at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/
It appears that older adults and people who have chronic diseases are more susceptible to the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Every person, especially those at higher risk, should take precautionary measures to protect themselves. This virus is spread by person-to-person interaction when people are too close to one another, less than six feet apart and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. You can reduce your chances of becoming sick by thoroughly washing your hands often, avoiding touching your face, and using hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Keep in mind that soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizer. If you can avoid large crowds or being too close to other people, you should do so. If you are sick and can stay at home, you should. Make sure to cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands after doing so. It is also important to disinfect the hard services of your home, such as doorknobs, light switches, phones, appliance handles, etc.
While the virus has caused global interruption, we must remain proportional in our reaction and mindful of the health and well-being of all Kentuckians. One thing is certain, panic will not benefit anyone, preparedness will. We will get through this. I trust America and Kentucky will utilize the many blessings we are afforded to help minimize the impact of the virus by preventing the spread and providing quality care for anyone affected. Yes, life may look a little different for all of us in the weeks ahead. As President Trump stated during his address to the nation, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity. Our future remains brighter than anyone could imagine. Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.
COVID-19 will continue to dominate the headlines for some time. Nevertheless, life must go on, and the Kentucky General Assembly is still in the midst of a highly relevant budget session. The decisions we will be making regarding the two-year state budget and six-year road plan will touch the lives of all Kentuckians for years to come. We must get it right.
After two months of anticipation and debate, the Senate finally received the state biennial budget bill from the House. The Senate Appropriations & Revenue Committee, along with budget staff, have been working long days to carefully review the proposal and discuss any possible changes to be made to the House’s proposal. Crafting the budget is no easy task, but I feel confident in the Senate's ability to negotiate a responsible budget bill that you can be proud of, and one that benefits the people of the 21st Senate District. I am continuing to advocate for the key projects and services that are so important to the counties I serve.
As the budget process continues, so did the work of the Senate. A number of bills were passed in the chamber this week. I want to highlight a few of them:
Senate Bill (SB) 174 is a bill that will benefit our teachers by providing them with an additional way of acquiring Rank II. This bill would allow teachers’ national board certification to qualify them as Rank II. Currently, the only way is for teachers to obtain a master's degree or the equivalent through continuing education. This bill provides for teachers a more economical pathway to achieve Rank II.
House Bill (HB) 266 is yet another pro-military service member bill that makes Kentucky all the more appealing as a state for our brave servicemen and servicewomen to choose to call home. This bill will provide our military personnel with flexibility when they are relocating by allowing them to pre-enroll their children into a school district before establishing a residence. Moving for military families is hard as it is. This bill eases the challenges of moving by enabling military children to get settled into their schools and making their move more seamless.
HB 256 closes a loophole in the law and adds protections to victims of sexual abuse. If passed into law, the bill would clarify that offenders who fathered a child through rape have no custody or visitation rights to that child. The bill extends this to cases occurring outside Kentucky. There have been instances in which offenders argued that cases which occurred outside the state are not subject to Kentucky statutes. This makes language clear and provides essential protection to victims and innocent children. Finally, the bill offers victims the ability to waive an offender's obligation to pay child support so that the mother and child will not have to ever interact with the offender.
I was pleased to see that SB 9, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, was successfully passed out of the House Judiciary Committee this week. SB 9 had previously passed out of my committee and then through the Senate where I was happy to not only vote yes but stand and speak in support as a co-sponsor. I am hoping to see it pass out of the House soon, and move on to the governor's desk for his consideration. I pray he will sign the bill into law so that additional protections can be provided to the most innocent in our state.
You can find information on these bills and others by visitinghttps://legislature.ky.gov.
With the end of the 2020 Regular Session in sight, and the biennial budget taking shape, the Kentucky General Assembly is working in overdrive on behalf of the citizens of Kentucky. Thank you for your questions and input throughout these final legislative days.
I was grateful for a visit this past week from my friend, Pastor Dwaine Meadows, as he opened the Senate in prayer. It was also a pleasure to be joined by Ms. Ava Hale and Madeline Lewis from London as they visited and served as my Senate Pages. In my past legislative updates, I have encouraged visitors such as Pastor Meadows, Ms. Hale, and Ms. Lewis, to join me in Frankfort. However, given the developments on COVID-19, and tighter restrictions being placed on the flow of traffic on the Capitol campus, this week and in the weeks ahead, I would instead ask that you call and leave me a message at 1-800-372-7181 or send me an email email@example.com. I still want and need to hear from you during this important legislative session. I promise you that our shared values and best interest remain at the forefront of my mind. Your health and safety is my top priority.
I am honored to be your voice in Frankfort. God bless you and be safe and healthy.