(Photo courtesy of Insider Louisville)

Dozens of notable laws passed during the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this year that carry with them many controversial changes.  The group of new laws have the potential to make a significant impact on the lives of Kentuckians from all demographics.  A few of the bills introduced had emergency clauses, including right-to-work and anti-abortion legislation, and these went into effect immediately after being signed by Gov. Matt Bevin in January.  The rest were signed in March and went into effect yesterday, June 29th.

Here’s a rundown of the laws which become official this week:

House Bill 74 – No more blue headlights

This bill outlaws most non-emergency vehicles from having blue lights, positing that they could cause confusion for other drivers or make it difficult to see. Some factory installed lights that have a slightly blue tint are excluded.

Senate Bill 17 – Right to express religious or political views in schools

This law was made to support the constitutional rights of students who want to freely express their religious or political opinions in public schools. One of the most controversial issues critics have with this bill is the fear that these provisions could cause unfair discrimination of LGBTQ students or minority students who practice an alternative religion.  Student clubs or groups might be given a pass for excluding students with conflicting views to their own.  California’s attorney state general has consequentially limited state-funded travel to Kentucky in opposition to law, and a large convention has already pulled out of Louisville in response to the law as well.

(Photo courtesy of Vox)

House Bill 333 – Pain pill restrictions

It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic has been on the rise for years, and more recently a drastic increase in addiction and fatal overdoses has sparked action in our communities and the institutions that govern them.  House Bill 333 forbids health practitioners from writing prescriptions for pain medications like oxycontin, a schedule II drug, for more than 3 days for patients with acute pain.  There are some exceptions to the rule; patients who have pain as a result of a major surgery may need pain management for a longer duration as they heal.  This law makes penalties much harsher for trafficking heroin as well as fentanyl, the stronger synthetic opioid that has been creeping into drug shipments and contributing to the skyrocketing of opioid fatalities over the past year.

House Bill 520 – Charter schools

Publicly funded charter schools will now be allowed in the state of Kentucky, and this bill also includes regulations for establishing them.  While many say that charter schools seem to be one of the best ways to guarantee success for a student, others feel that it there is no evidence to support them being any better than a public school with the proper resources and funding.  Those who opposed this bill say it equates to putting a band-aid on a bullet wound, and that the funds could have been redirected back into our school system to offer better pay for quality teachers and improve the lower performing schools.

House Bill 14 – Blue lives matter

This bill addresses and harshens punishment for the targeting of police officers and first responders to emergency calls by making it officially a hate crime.  This bill seeks to protect the brave men and women who serve our community and sometimes find themselves in danger due to misplaced anger.  However, some fear this law could detract from the essence of Kentucky’s original hate crime law, or be used to unfairly arrest or frame those who are protesting police brutality or defending themselves.

Senate Bill 120 – Judicial reform; second chances 

As a part of a continuous movement for criminal justice reform, this bill gives felons the opportunity to earn professional licenses, including medical.  It also allows the inmates to begin earning wages and obtain work experience during their time served.  There are other reformed provisions included that hope to curb problems with overcrowding in our jail system, such as those which protect people from being incarcerated if they can’t afford court costs.

Senate Bill 195 – Juvenile records expunged

Law which establishes the process for expungement of juvenile records.  This excludes certain violence crimes and sex offenses.

House Bill 128 – Bible Electives in the public schools

Allows local school districts to offer elective social studies courses on Hebrew scriptures and the Bible.  Reasoning behind the bill was so that students may “understand the bible to realize the impact it has had on our culture today”, stated the sponsor, Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro.  School districts will be required to make sure teachers are qualified to teach the bible, follow state and federal regulations for the courses that maintain religious neutrality, and accommodate the diverse religious views of the students.

House Bill 156 – Coal endowment

This bill established the Kentucky Coal Fields Endowment Authority, to use part of the commonwealth’s coal severance tax money for economic development, public health and infrastructure improvement/projects.

Senate Bill 11 – Nuclear power plants make a comeback

Lifts the moratorium (temporary ban) on building nuclear plants in Kentucky.

House Bill 237 – Food donation immunity

This law protects supermarkets, farmers, restaurants and the like from being sued if someone gets sick from donated food.  This law is expected to cause a drastic increase in the amount of donated food to food banks as well as decreasing unnecessary food waste.

Senate Bill 75 – Campaign donation ceiling raised

Local or state candidates can now receive up to $2,000 per election from campaign contributors instead of $1,000, among other small adjustments to contribution laws in KY.

Senate Bill 117 – Veteran teaching opportunities 

Veteran’s who have earned a bachelor’s degree (in any field) can now get a provisional teaching certificate as long as they meet some other criteria.  After they complete an internship, they can transfer their provisional cert. into a professional.

House Bill 38 – Playgrounds and sex offenders

Sex offenders cannot step foot onto a public playground without first getting written permission from the appropriate government entity prior to.

Senate Bill 4 – Medical malpractice

Medical review panels, made up of other healthcare providers and the like, may now review and recommend on malpractice claims before the patient takes the case to court and charges are pressed.

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