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Senator C. B. Embry Jr. Legislative Update

The Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort this week for the second portion of the 2021 Regular Session. Legislative business at the Capitol has resumed full speed ahead, as both the House and Senate spent the week meeting in committees, voting bills out of the chamber, and overriding vetoes recently cast by the governor.

During the recess period, the governor vetoed six priority bills. They included Senate Bills (SB) 1 and 2, and House Bills (HB) 1, 2, 3, and 5. The policy measures disapproved by the governor consist of language to implement a 30-day expiration of executive orders concerning restrictions placed on schools, businesses, and nonprofits - unless extended by the approval of the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious, and social gatherings or impose mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements.

All of the gubernatorial vetoes listed above have been overridden by the legislative majority and have effectively become law. As elected officials representing Kentuckians throughout the Commonwealth, we are eager to be involved in these consequential decisions moving forward.

I am grateful to say that a pro-life bill I co-sponsored, Senate Bill 9, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, became enacted law without the governor's signature. You can find more details on each of these bills in my previous legislative updates or online at www.legislature.ky.gov.

While we were in recess, budget conference committees, including members from both the House and Senate, began meeting to deliberate an agreed-upon budget bill. Luckily, the state’s Consensus Forecasting Group predicted in December that Kentucky would see a small increase in revenue at roughly $53 million in the next year, with economists expecting the state's budget will not be as hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic as initially thought. These discussions will remain a vital part of the session as these conference committees hammer out details of the state's annual budget plan.

The Senate has recently passed several bills to the House, including:

SB 8—Senate priority legislation that provides exemptions to mandatory immunization requirements during an epidemic based on religious grounds or conscientiously held beliefs. If enacted into law, it would require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop and make available on its website a standardized form relating to exemptions from immunization requirements.

SB 11—provides recourse for property owners to pursue legal action for intentional damages done to rental property. The bill would classify the deliberate or wanton destruction, defacement, and damage to residential rental property as criminal mischief. It also strives to provide landlords with notifications on background checks if a prospective applicant has previously been charged with causing substantial and intentional damage to rental property.

SB 21—allows originating hospitals to voluntarily transport mental health patients to a different hospital or facility upon staff authorization and a patient's signed written agreement. It would prevent an adult or child patient who has voluntarily been transported from being released during the transport to a receiving facility. The bill would also establish that a qualified mutual health professional may provide outpatient counseling to any child who is age 16 or older.

SB 38—requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement regulations requiring health facilities to use a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to produce surgical smoke. It defines "surgical smoke" to mean the by-product resulting from tissue contact by an energy generating device. The bill's primary intent is to protect operating room nurses and other personnel, along with patients, from the hazards of surgical smoke.

SB 61—establishes training standards for the staff of personal services agencies and home health agencies that serve patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. If enacted into law, the bill would improve the care provided to these patients. The hope is that it would also address retention of direct-care staff by better preparing them for job duties—resulting in less stress and dissatisfaction.

Last week, I introduced Senate Bill 118, a measure I am sponsoring that would limit the exemption for solid waste facilities that receive their own solid wastes to only those whose property is located in the same county where the waste is generated. I also chaired the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protections Committee meeting on last Thursday, where we heard testimony on Senate Bill 80, a police accountability measure I am sponsoring that would strengthen the police decertification process in Kentucky.

There is still much work to be done. I will continue to keep you updated and informed in the weeks ahead. Thank you for staying engaged in this year's legislative session. It is a great honor to serve you in Frankfort.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at CB.Embry@LRC.ky.gov or visit www.Legislature.ky.gov.

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Note: Senator C.B. Embry, JR (R-Morgantown) represents the 6th District including Butler, Hopkins, Muhlenberg, and Ohio Counties. He is Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee and Co-Chairman of the Tobacco Settlement Statutory Committee. Senator Embry is also a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Transportation; and Natural Resources, and Energy.

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