Senator Wil Schroder's Legislative Update
It’s sometimes good to pause during session and acknowledge events taking place outside the Senate chamber. In the Capitol Rotunda, Colonel Charles Young was posthumously promoted to the rank of brigadier general in Kentucky during the Legislative Black History Month Celebration on Tuesday. Despite being born into slavery, Young overcame stifling inequality to become a leading figure in the years after the Civil War. He was the third African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1889. Young would go on to serve with the 9th and 10th cavalries. He was wounded leading a charge against Pancho Villa’s troops and was credited with saving a large part of the 13th Cavalry.
In 1903, Young became the first African American superintendent of Sequoia National Park. A year later, he was the first African American officer appointed to duty as a military attaché. From 1894 until falling ill on an intelligence mission and dying in 1922, Young was the highest-ranking African American serving in the Army. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery where he was eulogized by his friend, civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois. The posthumous promotion was memorialized in Senate Resolution 143, adopted by a voice vote.
Back in the Senate chamber, Kentucky’s four female senators were recognized during the adoption of Senate Resolution 153, declaring Thursday a Day of Celebration for the 100thanniversary of the League of Women Voters. The group was founded by leaders of the suffrage movement after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The group’s goal was to help women understand and carry out their new responsibility as voters.
As the Senate eagerly awaits the budget proposal from the House of Representatives, we remain busy in Frankfort passing bills both out of committee and out of the Senate to send to our colleagues in the lower chamber during the sixth week of the 2020 Regular Session.
The Governor has already signed two House Bills into law. House Bill 236 incorporates federal United States Department of Agriculture guidelines related to hemp into the Kentucky statute. It establishes hemp testing procedures for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and opens up private market testing to help address a backlog of hemp products. This bill benefits our agriculture industry and Kentucky hemp farmers. House Bill 186 eliminates potentially costly requirements for the more than 171,000 Kentuckians who operate direct sales or multi-level marketing businesses.
Main topics of discussion this week included measures relating to students, health care, and the overall well-being of Kentuckians.
Senate Bill 101 ensures dual credit hours earned in high school would be transferable to Kentucky’s colleges and universities. In dual credit, a student is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously. Several years ago, the General Assembly passed similar legislation dealing with two-year colleges and four-year universities. That legislation aligned courses with the colleges so the credits earned for those course hours could be transferred to universities. Senate Bill 101 passed by a 38-0 vote.
Nearly 900,000 Kentuckians, including almost 30,000 children, have been diagnosed with an eating disorder. Senate Bill 82 targets access to care for eating disorders by establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The group would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education, prevention, and research programs. The council would also be responsible for making recommendations regarding legislative and regulatory changes to improve access to care for those diagnosed with an eating disorder. Senate Bill 82 would also establish a trust to support the activities of the council. It would be funded by public and private sector grants or contributions. Supporters of Senate Bill 82 said it was the first step in addressing access to care. Currently, there are no acute care programs, residential, or partial hospitalization programs for eating disorder patients in Kentucky. The bill passed by a 34-0 vote.
Senate Bill 30 would limit Kentucky to three managed care organizations, known as MCOs in healthcare parlance, to operate the Commonwealth’s massive Medicaid program. The goal with this legislation would be to reduce costs for medical providers. Supporters of Senate Bill 30 said medical providers, particularly rural hospitals, were drowning in paperwork associated with complying with multiple MCOs’ peculiar rules concerning everything from credentialing of doctors and facilities to pre-authorizations, appeals and payments for medical care. They added that Senate Bill 30 would also save taxpayer money by reducing the state's contract compliance monitoring of the MCOs. Senate Bill 30 reflects wider frustrations with MCOs, which was once touted as a way to reduce the cost of administering Medicaid. Senate Bill 30 passed by a 29-7 vote.
Senate Bill 123 would confirm various executive orders reorganizing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It would also create a new division of telehealth services after the state disbanded a telehealth board a couple of years ago. The new division would allow the cabinet to continue to provide oversight and resources to Kentucky’s telehealth providers. Telehealth is the use of technologies, such as videoconferencing, to support long-distance health care programs. It is seen as a way to reduce health care costs while expanding health care access to rural areas. Senate Bill 123 passed by a 38-0 vote.
As we approach the holiday weekend and the halfway mark of the 60-day legislative session, I would like to say thank you to those of you who have offered comments, questions, and concerns. Your input is greatly appreciated. I wish you and your loved ones a happy Valentine's Day and a safe President’s Day weekend!