As the Senate eagerly awaits a budget proposal from the House of Representatives, we have been busy passing bills both out of committee and out of the Senate to send to our House colleagues during the eighth week of the 2016 Kentucky General Assembly.
Senate Bill (SB) 43 was one of the most prominent bills to pass this week. SB 43 would create death benefits for Emergency Medical Service personnel killed in the line of duty. This bill was introduced in honor of John Mackey, a paramedic from Jessamine County who was killed in the line of duty last year. We were honored to have his wife, Janine Mackey, join us as we passed this bill through committee and off the Senate floor.
We passed a similar bill in SB 195, which would create death benefits for firefighters who died from cancer presumed to be caused from their duties. Kentuckians enjoy the heroism and service of fire and emergency responders every day. My family has been touched by their work as I’m sure yours has been, directly or indirectly. We owe those who serve our communities in such dangerous ways. Firefighters are significantly more likely to develop some forms of cancer. Many assume lung cancer is the primary kind, but cancer is actually more prone to appear in other organs. The plastics, chemicals, and soot, either from the fire and burning materials or the suits they wear, remains in their boots and their gear and is absorbed through the skin. Senators Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Albert Robinson (R-London) are responsible for bringing this to the Senate for a vote.
SB 14 is a bill that received a great deal of attention. Sponsored by Senator Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville), SB14 would prohibit the ancillary activities involved in dog fighting. Every state has outlawed fighting, but Kentucky did not have an express prohibition on training, breeding, or related activities for the purpose of dog fighting. As a result, Kentucky had become something of a safe harbor for dog-fighting enthusiasts. Importantly, the bill specifically protects the lawful uses of dogs in agriculture and hunting. Hopefully, the bill will see passage in the House and close the door on this behavior in the bluegrass. I extend a big thanks to the advocate community for working on this effort for the last several years, a testament to the power of the people in government.
In the coming weeks I want to highlight an issue that continues to be debated and discussed: felony expungement. There are valid arguments in favor of creating such a mechanism and in favor of not doing so. I and others are making an effort to chart a middle course, if we can find one.
In the meantime, other work continues. I have bills still to be filed related to the disproportionate minority contact in the juvenile justice system. We continue to monitor the implementation of 2014’s SB200 juvenile justice reform. I am excited to share that another state has taken the next step to improve its juvenile justice system using Kentucky and other states as models. The Kansas Senate passed SB367 by a 38-2 vote earlier this week, and the bill now heads to the Kansas House. Similar to Kentucky, Kansas found it was wasting precious resources, and even worse, having an adverse impact on the lives of children. I am grateful that Kentucky has helped lead the nation on a critical reform movement making a generational difference for the better in the lives of children in the Commonwealth and beyond.
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 Whitney.Westerfield@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Whitney Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) represents the 3rd District including Christian, Logan, and Todd counties. He is Chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Vice-Chair of the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee. Senator Westerfield serves on the Agriculture Committee, the Capital Planning Advisory Board, the Natural Resources and Energy Committee, the Tobacco Settlement Agreement Fund Oversight Committee, and the Transportation Committee.