FRANKFORT — Numerous bills passed by the General Assembly this year will be taking effect Tuesday.
Under the Kentucky Constitution, new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature unless they have a special effective date, are general appropriations measures, or include an emergency clause that makes them effective immediately upon becoming law. Final adjournment of the 2021 Regular Session occurred on March 30, making June 29 the effective date for most bills. They include:
• Adoption. House Bill 210 will ensure that employers offer parents adopting a child under the age of 10 the same amount of time off as birth parents. While existing state law mandates six weeks of parental leave, any business that offers more time off as well as those who offer paid parental leave, must do the same for adoptive parents. This does not include foster parents who adopt their foster child.
• Asthma. Senate Bill 127 encourages schools to keep bronchodilator rescue inhalers in at least two locations and will require schools with inhalers to have policies regarding their use.
• Child and new mother fatalities. HB 212 will require data in an annual state report on fatalities among children and new mothers to include information on demographics, race, income and geography associated with the fatalities.
• Child pornography. HB254 will raise the penalty for possession or viewing of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony, punishable by 5-10 years in prison. It will also raise the penalty for the distribution of matter portraying a sexual performance of a minor under the age of 12 years to a Class C felony for the first offense and a Class B felony, 10-20 years in prison, for each subsequent offense.
• Child support. HB 402 will revise child support laws to increase the amount considered flagrant nonsupport from $1,000 to $2,500. The original bill raised the amount to $5,000 but was changed during the legislative process. Flagrant nonsupport carries a 1-5 year prison sentence.
• Education. HB 563 gives families more options on where to send kids to school and assistance with the cost of educational expenses. It allows the use of education opportunity accounts, a type of scholarship, for students to attend out-of-district public schools or obtain educational materials and supplies. For students in some of the state’s largest counties, the scholarship funds could be used for private school tuition. Individuals or businesses who donate to organizations that issue education opportunity accounts will be eligible for a tax credit. The legislation will also require a board of education to adopt a nonresident pupil policy by July 1, 2022, to govern terms under which the district allows enrollment of nonresident pupils and includes them in calculating the district’s state funding.
• Elections. HB 574 will make permanent some of the election procedures implemented last year to accommodate voting during the pandemic. It will offer Kentuckians three days, including a Saturday, leading up to an election day for early, in-person voting. County clerks can continue to offer ballot drop boxes for those who do not wish to send their ballots back by mail. It also requires counties to offer voting centers where any registered voter in the county could vote.
• Inmate care. SB 84 will ban jails, penitentiaries, local and state correctional facilities, residential centers and reentry centers from placing inmates who are pregnant or within the immediate postpartum period in restrictive housing, administrative segregation, or solitary confinement. It grants an inmate who gives birth 72 hours with a newborn before returning to the correctional facility and will offer six weeks of postpartum care. It also says that incarcerated pregnant women have access to social workers and any community-based programs to facilitate the placement and possible reunification of their child.
• Late fees. HB 272 will allow water districts to impose a 10% late fee and cut off service for nonpayment of bills. Customers who receive financial assistance for their bills are exempt.
• Livestock. HB 229 will make someone guilty of criminal mischief for intentionally or wantonly causing damage to livestock.
• Living organ donors. HB 75 will prohibit certain insurance coverage determinations based upon the status of an individual as a living organ donor. It will also encourage the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop educational materials relating to living organ donation.
• Medicaid. SB 55 will prohibit copays for Medicaid beneficiaries.
• Newborn safety. HB 155 allows the use of a “newborn safety device” when a newborn is being anonymously surrendered by a parent at a participating staffed police station, fire station, or hospital. A parent surrendering an infant can do so using a receptacle that triggers an alarm once a newborn is placed inside so medical care providers can immediately respond and provide care to the child.
• Police standards. SB 80 deals with the police decertification process, expanding the number of acts considered professional wrongdoing. Such acts include unjustified use of excessive or deadly force and engaging in a sexual relationship with a victim. The bill also will require an officer to intervene when another officer is engaging in the use of unlawful and unjustified excessive or deadly force. It sets up a system for an officer’s automatic decertification under certain circumstances and will prevent an officer from avoiding decertification by resigning before an internal investigation is complete.
• Public records. HB 312 limits the ability of people who do not live, work or conduct business in Kentucky to obtain records through open records laws, with the exception of out-of-state journalists. It allows open records requests to be made via email and calls for a standardized form to be developed for open records request but does not require its use. It allows the legislative branch to make final decisions that can’t be appealed regarding decisions on open records requests it receives, and gives government agencies up to five days to respond to open records requests. The current limit is three days, but was increased to ten days during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• Sexual abuse. SB 52 will amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers could be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody or under arrest.
• Theft. HB 126 increases the threshold of felony theft from $500 to $1,000, and allows law enforcement to charge members of organized shoplifting rings with a felony if a member steals a total of $1,000 worth of merchandise over 90 days.
• U.S. Senators. SB 228 will change the way vacancies are filled for a U.S. senator from Kentucky. It will require the governor to select a replacement from a list of three nominees selected by the same political party of the departing senator.