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Sen. Chris McDaniel: Report on legislative session in home stretch; seeking agreement on qualifying bills

The 2023 Legislative Session is in the home stretch, with only six more days before we enter the veto period. Next week we will be in session Monday through Thursday with two days being for the House and Senate chambers to find agreement on any qualifying legislation.

Friday, March 17 will begin the 10-day veto period until Tuesday, March 29 for the Governor to consider all legislation lawmakers have sent to his desk.

Wednesday was Nonprofit Day at the Capitol. I am proud to work with Kentucky’s nonprofits and they push to make our Commonwealth better in every community. I was happy we were able to support a Kentucky Nonprofit Assistance Fund with $75 million from ARPA funds in the latest state budget. The funds can provide eligible Kentucky nonprofits to up to $100,000 in one-time direct relief funds. We have well over 20,000 nonprofits in Kentucky and they do a fantastic job. I am happy to support them in their unique missions.

Sen. Chris McDaniel

This week our action included the House and Senate chambers taking the other’s bills into consideration through legislative committees. Further, several received final passage and were sent to the Governor’s desk.

Bills sent to the Governor for consideration this week included measures addressing:

• Teacher workforce shortages (Senate Bill 49) and providing professional development opportunities to educators (Senate Bill 70).

• Unemployment insurance (House Bill 146).

• Educational opportunities and workforce challenges (Senate Bill 54).

• Strengthening Kentucky’s rich spirits industry and helping small farm wineries (Senate Bill 28).

Of special note this week:

I want to commend two of my Senate colleagues, Senators David Givens and Danny Carroll. The two did a fantastic job working on the Department of Juvenile Justice work group, which I am happy to report has culminated in Senate Bills 158 and 162.

Senate Bill 158 puts into motion a much-needed independent audit of Kentucky’s DJJ facilities. Most importantly, it sets the expectations of what the audit will look like and grants access to staff within DJJ in hopes that the failure of leadership can be better dissected and addressed. The bill allocates necessary funding to provide for the audit, which will be contracted through the state auditor’s office.

Senate Bill 162 is a comprehensive bill, allocating over $55 million in the next two years to help address needs within DJJ. As Senate budget chair, I strongly support this allocation. This bill would return the state to a regional model, address workforce challenges through professional development opportunities and establishes a program to allow retired employees to return to work. The bill also reorganizes parts of DJJ to enhance accountability and better ensure compliance.

Senate Bill 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board to improve the certification of substitute teachers. The measure will serve to address workforce challenges within school systems. The bill creates three certification categories for substitute teacher applicants after state-required preliminary screenings and background checks.

Senate Bill 145 removes the athletic eligibility language preventing non-resident students, such as home school students, from participating in interscholastic athletics for one calendar year from the transfer date. It returns the governance of all non-resident student participation in interscholastic athletics Kentucky High School Athletics Association.

Senate Bill 202 is a measure to address the increasing challenges related to student behavior our teachers and school administrators are dealing with regularly. The bill provides local school boards more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs if the student is considered a safety threat or is likely to cause a substantial disruption by allowing an expulsion to expand beyond one year. Students are to be placed—with review by the superintendent and due process for the parent—in an alternative education setting that may include, but is not limited to, a virtual program or academy and may include a performance-based program.

Senate Bill 148 would establish the Government Teleworking Task Force. It is important that your state government is functioning effectively and is responsive to your needs.

We have seen an incredible increase in state employees working from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; some still have not returned to an office setting. The task force will be challenged to investigate and make recommendations regarding the following:

• How the on-site presence of state employees can be reduced and cost savings realized now that many workers have transitioned to different teleworking models;

• How much in-person work hours have decreased since the pandemic and whether and to what extent has public service suffered due to the decrease; and

• What in-person staffing levels are necessary for the state government to maintain a high level of in-person customer service for residents.

Task force membership would consist of four state House of Representatives and four Senate members, which the House Speaker and Senate President will appoint. The Government Teleworking Task Force would meet at least monthly during the 2023 Interim.

In closing, I want to thank my friend, Pastor Bill Clark, senior pastor at Hickory Grove Baptist Church, for opening the Senate in prayer on Tuesday. It was great having him in the chamber.

Watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.

Senator Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, represents the 23rd Senate District in northern Kenton County. McDaniel is Senate Appropriations and Revenue chair and serves as an ex-officio member of each budget review subcommittee. He is a Senate Licensing and Occupations, and State and Local Government committee member.

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