Although there are dozens of issues still unresolved during this year’s legislative session, the outcome of most if not all depends on a single word we have all learned over the past two weeks — coronavirus.
The actions much of the country has taken this month in response to this fast-moving virus are unprecedented, at least in modern times. Many states, including Kentucky, have temporarily shut down all public schools, and our colleges and universities have taken similar steps. Restaurants are closed except for drivethrus and curbside pickup; sporting events have been cancelled; and we’re all told to stay home as much as possible, avoiding crowds of any size.
In the face of these challenges, I want to take this opportunity to thank our local healthcare workers, our first responders, our school staffs, our business owners and everyone else who has stepped up to help those in need.
We’ve always been there for each other, but we’ve never had to rise to the occasion like this. There is no doubt we will be talking about this month decades from now.
I also want to say how much I appreciate Governor Andy Beshear and his administration for keeping us informed through multiple press conferences and social media updates.
If you have access to the Internet, you can keep up with the latest information from state officials by visiting this website: kycovid19. ky.gov. A toll-free hotline at (800) 722-5725 is available as well, should you have questions about the disease or other related matters.
Keeping the spread of the coronavirus down is something we all must play a part in. That is why it is important to stay home even if you are not sick or have not been exposed, because it’s still possible you could become a carrier.
During those times you leave home, please try to keep at least six feet between you and others, and wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds. If you think you have been infected and have symptoms, call your doctor first before visiting his or her office or going to the hospital, unless it’s an emergency.
The current number of confirmed cases in Kentucky was 25 as of Monday, but with no vaccine or cure, that number could grow exponentially in a matter of days. Europe’s attempts to clamp down on virtually all public activities shows us what can happen if we let our guard down.
The General Assembly called off session for two days, but was set to return on Tuesday this week. The Capitol is closed to the public, and legislative staff is having its hours staggered so there are not too many employees present at any given time.
At this point, it is too early to say what legislation the House and Senate will take up, knowing that we may have to call the session off at some point in the days ahead. Passing a state budget has to be our first priority, and we should also consider legislation that would help our schools with these extended closures and other Kentuckians who may need help with their health insurance or unemployment.
Before legislators headed back home late last week, we did pass several noteworthy bills I would like to mention.
That includes legislation to improve laws governing human trafficking while increasing the public’s awareness of this growing crime.
Local government employees will be glad to know the House has also approved a bill that will give their public retirement system more authority over how it is governed. This has been a request from local governments for years.
For our veterans, Governor Beshear has already signed a bill into law that will move Kentucky’s fifth nursing home for veterans forward. This one will be built in Bowling Green.
In criminal justice matters, the House also voted for a bill that will raise the threshold for felony theft to $1,000. This figure has not kept up with inflation, and the current limit is a contributing factor to our rising jail and prison populations.
Another bill will make it possible for those with a felony record to access the KEES scholarships they earned while in high school. This approach will help them get their lives back on track by making college more affordable for them.
As I mentioned, the General Assembly is returning to the Capitol this week, but it is too soon to say what it will ultimately enact into law.
In the meantime, I will continue to keep you posted, and I encourage you to let me know your thoughts on legislation or any issue affecting the state. You can email me at Angie.Hatton@lrc. ky.gov, and the toll-free message line is 1-800-372-7181.