Scores of new laws will took effect this week in Kentucky, including one that will allow optometrists to perform some medical procedures that previously had been reserved for ophthalmologists.
Gov. Steve Beshear signed about 100 bills into law earlier this year, most of which took effect today (Wednesday).
One of the most debated laws will allow optometrists to perform some types of laser surgeries and to treat glaucoma and cataracts. Ophthalmologists had bitterly opposed its passage, but lawmakers overwhelmingly supported the move, insisting it was crucial to some of the state’s medically underserved rural communities. While optometrists examine eyes, measure vision and prescribe eye glasses and contact lenses, ophthalmologists are specialists who deal with eye diseases and perform surgery.
“In many areas, there’s no other person in the county who specializes in eyes besides the optometrist,” said Darlene Eakin, executive director of the Kentucky Optometric Association. “This gives Kentuckians greater access to more eye-care services.”
Eakin said only a third of Kentucky’s 120 counties have ophthalmologists while most have optometrists.
Even with the law in effect, Eakin said, it will be awhile before the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners credentials the first optometrist to do laser surgery. Regulations still are under development that will require optometrists to undergo additional training.
Other new laws will affect a variety of fields, from health care to politics. One will allow pharmacists to give flu shots to children ages 9 to 13. Another will require high schools to provide seniors with information about registering to vote. And another will increase the maximum political contribution to school board candidates from $200 to $1,000.
The government will have an expanded reach under eminent domain to secure rights of way for carbon dioxide pipelines, a move that’s intended to make it easier for Kentucky, which gets most of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, to deal with everincreasing federal restrictions on emissions of greenhouse gases.
A change in judicial law will allow people to recoup more money in small claims courts. The new law allows people to collect up to $2,500 for successful small claims, up for the previous $1,500.
Under the state constitution, most new laws take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session. Laws passed during the 2011 Regular Session, which ended March 9, will became effective on June 8, except for those with emergency clauses or with specific effective dates contained within the bills themselves.
Among other issues affected by legislation which took effect on June 8 are:
African-American Heritage. Senate Bill 64 creates the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage and outlines its board membership.
Diabetes. SB 63 creates a collaborative group to identify goals and plans to reduce incidences of diabetes and improve diabetes care. SB 71 creates a licensing process for diabetes educators.
Doctoral programs. SB 130 allows the state’s six comprehensive universities to offer certain advanced practice doctoral programs within limits.
Education. HB 425 allows outof state veterans to qualify for instate tuition at public colleges and universities.
Firearms. HB 308 establishes a program for people who have been banned from purchasing a firearm due to mental illness to recover that right.
Government publications. HB 33 bans state agencies from mailing most publications to the public unless they are requested by the recipient.
Homelessness. SB 26 reduces the fee for ID cards for the homeless from $12 to $4.
Occupational and physical therapy. SB 112 limits health insurance co-pays on occupational and physical therapy sessions to no higher than that of regular doctor’s visits.
Prescriptions. HB 311 allows Schedule II prescriptions, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, to be transmitted electronically or by fax. The bill also allows Schedule III-V drugs to be transmitted by fax; those can already be transmitted electronically.
Principals. SB 12 authorized local school superintendents to appoint principals after consultation with the school-based decision making council, a reversal of the current procedure.
School board elections. HB 228 increases the contribution limits for school board candidates to $200 for individuals and $1,000 for organizations.
Traffic laws. HB 289 adds fines for driving over the 70 miles-perhour speed limit and clarifies that vehicle-integrated GPS units are exempt from the state’s ban on texting or using other communications devices while driving.
Voter registration. HB 192 requires high schools to provide seniors information on how to register to vote and related information.
Wellness programs. SB 114 allows private health insurance plans to offer incentives and awards for wellness programs.
Compiled from AP, state reports