FRANKFORT — The Fourth of July – our country’s celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 – is the perfect summer holiday.
Due to COVID-19 the conventional Fourth of July activities, such as parades, picnics, cookouts, concerts, and other festivities will be a bit different than previous years. At home, or at a public celebration, Independence Day can be fun packed with some great memories that culminate with fireworks lighting up the skies. However, this year, we should remember to maintain proper social distancing, and practice firework safety.
As of July 15, 2020, nearly all laws that passed the Kentucky General Assembly during the 2020 legislative session are in effect. A focal point of legislation that was enacted with emergency clauses dealt with the potential economic consequences of the unforeseen COVID-19 public health crisis. These bills were effective immediately upon their passage. Ultimately, legislators implemented a one-year budget and gaveled in for only 53 days—adjourning seven days short of what is permitted by the Constitution of Kentucky. However, there was also legislation passed covering a wide array of policy—some on bipartisan terms, and others that drew quite a bit of criticism.
Bills that are now law include legislation on the following topics:
Addiction treatment: Senate Bill 191 addresses certification and educational requirements for alcohol and drug counselors. The bill also directs Kentucky to establish guidelines employers can use to develop programs to help more individuals struggling with substance use disorders while maintaining employment.
Alcohol: House Bill 415 allows distillers, wineries, and breweries to be licensed to ship directly to consumers—in and out of Kentucky. The bill imposes shipping limits of ten liters of distilled spirits, ten cases of wine, and ten cases of malt beverages per month. Packages of alcohol will have to be clearly labeled and be signed for by someone 21 or older. HB 415 will also prohibit shipping to dry territories, communities where alcohol sales are prohibited by local laws.
Eating disorders: Senate Bill 82 establishes the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group will oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention, and research programs.
Elections: Senate Bill 2, known as the “voter photo ID bill,” requires voters to present photographic identification at the polls, beginning with the general election in November. If a voter does not have a photo ID, he or she can show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are he or she is qualified to vote. The bill also allows poll workers to vouch for a voter they know, even if that person has no valid ID. Another provision of SB 2 provides a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license. It currently costs $30 for that ID.
Hemp: House Bill 236 updates Kentucky’s hemp laws to reflect federal guidelines that changed after the passage of the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. It also expands the number of labs authorized to test hemp for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Human rights: House Bill 2 requires a national anti-human trafficking hotline number to be advertised in airports, truck stops, train stations, and bus stations. Posters with the hotline number are currently required in rest areas. The bill also closes a loophole in the state sex offender registry by adding specific human trafficking offenses to the definition of a sex crime.
Infrastructure protection: House Bill 44 strengthens security for critical infrastructure across Kentucky by specifying that above-ground natural gas and petroleum pipelines in addition to certain cable television facilities aren’t suitable areas for drone flights. The legislation also defines tampering with the assets as felony criminal mischief.
Jurors: Senate Bill 132 adds people with state-issued personal identification cards to the pool of potential jurors in the county where they live. Previously, the pool drew from driver’s license lists, tax rolls, and voter registration lists.
Lieutenant Governor: House Bill 336 lets gubernatorial candidates select their running mate for lieutenant governor before the second Tuesday in August instead of during the spring primary campaign.
Mental health: House Bill 153 establishes the Kentucky Mental Health First Aid Training Program. The plan would be aimed at training and educating professionals and members of the public to identify and assist people with mental health or substance abuse problems. The program would also promote access to trainers certified in mental health first aid training.
Mobile phones: House Bill 208 requires that wireless providers of Lifeline federal-assistance telephone service make monthly 911 service fee payments to the state. It will restore more than $1 million a year in funding to 911 service centers.
Pensions: House Bill 484 separates the administration of the County Employees Retirement System (CERS) transferred from the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) board of trustees to the County Employees Retirement System board of trustees.
Public health: House Bill 129, dubbed the public health transformation bill, modernizes public health policy and funding in Kentucky by streamlining local health departments, enabling them to refocus on their statutory duties. Those are population health, enforcement of regulations, emergency preparedness, and communicable disease control.
REAL ID: House Bill 453 allows the transportation cabinet to establish regional offices for issuing driver’s licenses and personal identification cards.
School safety: Senate Bill 8 requires school resource officers (SROs) to be armed with a gun. The measure clarifies various other provisions of the School Safety and Resiliency Act concerning SROs and mental health professionals in schools.
Sex offenders: House Bill 204 prohibits sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a publicly leased playground. Sex offenders must already follow these standards for publicly owned parks.
Student IDs: Senate Bill 42 requires student IDs for middle school, high school, and college to list contacts for national crisis hotlines specializing in suicide prevention, sexual assault, and domestic violence.
Taxes: Senate Bill 5 requires library boards and other so-called special-purpose governmental entities to get approval from a county fiscal court or city council before increasing taxes.
Tobacco: Senate Bill 56 raises the age to purchase tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, to 21 from 18. The move will bring Kentucky’s statute in line with a new federal law that raised the age to 21. The bill will remove status offenses for youth who purchase, use, or possess tobacco, often called PUP laws, and will shift penalties to retailers who fail to follow the increased age restriction.
Veterans: House Bill 24 supports plans to build a veterans nursing home in Bowling Green. The legislation appropriates $2.5 million needed to complete design and pre-construction costs for the 90-bed facility.
For a comprehensive list of all laws now in effect in Kentucky: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/law.html
The proposed constitutional amendments passed during the 2020 Regular Session will be put on the ballot for voters to decide on Election Day this November. Unless a special session is called by Governor Andy Beshear, the legislature will not convene again until January 2021. During these trying times, remain vigilant and stay engaged. For any comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to contact me at