Legislature passes many bills amid coronavirus pandemic

From direct shipment of alcohol to criminal justice reform, both the House and Senate were busy passing a variety of significant bills Wednesday, as lawmakers also practiced social distancing throughout the day in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The House passed a bill that would allow the direct shipment of alcohol to and from consumers in the Commonwealth, in addition to bills that set forth a transportation budget for the next two years, including the state’s biennial road plan.

In the Senate, a number of bills were taken up to provide second-chance opportunities for those who have made mistakes, including legislation to help employees receive treatment for substance abuse, provide probation credits for good behavior, and grant automatic expungement of a person’s charges that are dismissed or result in an acquittal with prejudice.

Below are details on these key bills and their status:

SB 173 – Recovery Through Employment (Sponsored by Sen. Matt Castlen)

Would require the state to develop a framework to support businesses that voluntarily implement employer-facilitated substance use disorder protocols for employees or prospective employees who fail drug screenings.

SB 173 encourages the retention of employees struggling with a substance use disorder by relieving fully compliant employers of liabilities associated with negligent hiring, retention, or supervision. The bill language is permissive in that it only impacts those employers who voluntarily participate in the program.

A floor amendment filed by Senate President Robert Stivers clarified some of the requirements of participating employers concerning detecting the use of substances that can cause substance use disorders.

Status: Passed by the full Senate, received in the House.

HB 415 – Direct Shipment of Alcohol to Consumers (Rep. Adam Koenig)

Would allow Kentuckians to receive beer, wine, and spirits to their home from in-state and out-of-state producers. The bill would require alcohol shipments to be very clearly labeled and an ID check and signature upon delivery.

Shipping limits agreed to by all types of producers are included in the legislation as well as provisions to ensure shipments are not made to dry areas of Kentucky where alcohol sales are prohibited. It also maintains Kentucky’s sales and excise tax collection on all inbound shipments and eliminates the 80 percent delivery rule for retailers.

Status: Passed the full House on Wednesday, was received in the Senate, and received a first reading in the Senate.

HB 353 and HB 354 – Kentucky Transportation Budget and Kentucky Road Plan (Rep. Steven Rudy)

Both bills fund transportation projects across the Commonwealth over the next two years.

House Bill 353, which provides financing for the operations, maintenance, support, and functioning of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, outlines the funding for aviation, highways, public transportation, and vehicle regulation, among other state programs.

House Bill 354, the 2020-2022 Biennial Highway Construction Plan, details highway projects over the next two fiscal years by county.

Status: Both HB 353 and HB 354 were passed by the full House on Wednesday and were received in the Senate.

HB 327 – Expungement (Rep. Kevin Bratcher)

Provides automatic expungement of a person’s charges that are dismissed or result in an acquittal with prejudice, seeking to ensure Kentuckians are seen as innocent until proven guilty and have the ability to expunge their records when a case has been dismissed with prejudice so they are not held back.

Status: Passed the full Senate with a Senate Committee Substitute, now awaits concurrence in the House.

HB 284 – Probation Credits (Rep. Derrick Lewis)

Incentivizes people to get back on track, by cutting down on the time a person is on probation based on the completion of certain education, skills training, work, or substance use disorder treatment milestones.

Status: Passed the full Senate with a Senate Committee Substitute, now awaits concurrence in the House.

HB 312 – Academic Needs of Foster Children (Rep. David Meade)

Seeks to empower teachers and schools with the information they need to help Kentucky’s foster kids be successful in the classroom.

HB 312 would strengthen the sharing of academic information between school districts about foster children when they must enter a new school and would require a child’s caseworker to communicate directly with the new school when critical placement and service decisions are made.

Status: Passed the full Senate, now awaits concurrence in the House.

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