From hemp to religious freedom, new laws take effect in Kentucky
Tuesday marks 90 days since the Kentucky General Assembly adjourned its regular session for this year. That means, under the state constitution, most laws will take effect.
Among the new laws: School districts can start deciding if they want to raise the compulsory attendance age; an administrative framework is being set up for growing hemp in Kentucky should that crop become legal; and drivers will be able to use electronic devices such as smart phones to provide proof of insurance.
Here's the list of new laws provided by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission:
- Child protection. House Bill 290 will establish by statute an independent review panel to investigate cases of child deaths and near-fatal injuries. The panel will be given access to complete records of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, as well as information from law enforcement and other agencies involved in the cases.
- Crime. Senate Bill 15, named the Bryan Durman Act in honor of a Lexington police officer who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2010, will ensure that a person convicted of criminal homicide in the killing of a police or firefighter on duty doesn’t become eligible for probation or parole until 85 percent of a sentence is served.
- DNA testing. HB 41 will allow some felony offenders in prison or under state supervision to request testing and analysis of their DNA as case evidence.
- Hemp. SB 50 creates an administrative framework for the growing of hemp in Kentucky if the crop is legalized by the federal government.
- Human trafficking. HB 3 will strengthen human trafficking laws while protecting victims from prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit. The legislation will offer assistance to agencies responsible for helping human trafficking victims by creating a “human trafficking victims fund” supported by service fees paid by convicted human traffickers, proceeds from seized and forfeited assets of traffickers, and any grants, contributions, or other funds that may become available.
- Proof of insurance. HB 164 will allow people to use electronic insurance cards on their smart phones or other electronic devices as proof of motor vehicle insurance. Drivers will still be required to keep paper insurance cards in their vehicles.
- Religious freedom. HB 279 specifies that government shall not burden a person's freedom of religion. The legislation states that an action motivated by a sincerely held religious belief can not be infringed upon without a compelling governmental interest. (HB 279 was vetoed by the governor; the veto was overridden by the House and Senate.)
- Scholarships. SB 64 will ensure that students earning Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships aren’t penalized in the amount of scholarship money they receive if they graduate from high school in three years rather than four.
- School dropouts. SB 97 will allow school districts to increase the compulsory attendance age to 18 beginning in the 2015-16 school year. Districts that do so must have programs and resources in place for students at-risk of not graduating. The increased compulsory attendance age will become mandatory statewide four years after 55 percent of Kentucky school districts adopt it.
- Student health. HB 172 will encourage schools to possess at least two epinephrine auto-injectors in case one is needed for a student having a life-threatening allergic or anaphylactic reaction.
- Suicide prevention. SB 72 will require attendance at suicide prevention training programs at least once every six years for social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, fee-based pastoral counselors, alcohol and drug counselors, psychologists, and occupational therapists.
- Teacher evaluations. HB 180 will require the Kentucky Board of Education to establish a statewide evaluation system for all certified personnel. The Department of Education, in consultation with teacher and principal steering committees, will develop the system prior to the 2014-2015 school year.
- Tuition waivers. SB 95 will extend the five-year tuition waiver eligibility period for adopted children who serve in the military.
- Victim protection. HB 222 will establish a crime victim protection program in the Secretary of State’s office to allow domestic violence victims to have personal information, such as addresses, redacted from public voter registration roles. The legislation will also allow victims in the program to vote by mail-in absentee ballot.