Leaving the capitol without a budget plan for the next two years was an awful way to end the week, and there’s no excuse for it. The governor will surely call us back into special session in May, and hopefully by that time leaders of both chambers will come to an agreement that we can all live with.
The budget disappointment shouldn’t detract from the very good bills we did pass this session. A lot of people will benefit from some of this legislation, and many lives will be saved.
The most prominent of these bills is House Bill 1, which will give judges more tools to resolve domestic violence cases before someone is killed. “Amanda’s Bill” is named after Amanda Ross, a young lady who died all too young at the hands of someone she had loved. I served beside her accused murderer, Rep. Steve Nunn, during my first two terms in the House, and I couldn’t be more proud of her family for using her death to make a positive difference in the lives of others. Domestic violence can affect anyone, and it’s time for its victims to stop feeling ashamed of their situation and use the force of the law to protect themselves and their loved ones.
HB 1 will give judges greater flexibility to require GPS tracking devices to be worn on the ankles of some domestic abusers. One of the drawbacks to GPS technology is that it functions much like cell phones do, so in our area, with its steep hills and rugged terrain, it may not be as effective as it would be in Louisville or Lexington. There are other limits on how quickly a judge can mandate a GPS ankle bracelet, too, to protect their constitutional rights. I don’t want people to think that HB 1 is a cure-all for domestic violence, but it’s a good first step to protecting battered Kentuckians.
We also gave final passage to Senate Bill 4, which will make it easier for people to donate their heart, kidneys, and other vital organs when they pass on. It can be a confusing and heartbreaking experience when a loved one dies, and it’s a difficult decision for anyone to make — especially when your loved one didn’t make their own plans very clear. It’s even more confusing when the law doesn’t make it clear who’s in charge of making that decision, or even how to make sure your wishes are followed when you’re gone. Despite the best of intentions, your decision to donate your organs may be trumped by your children’s refusal. SB 4 will streamline the entire process and cement your own decision as the final verdict. For the first time, that will even extend to the ability to withhold your permission. Right now, if you don’t want to donate your organs, your loved one can give them anyway, but beginning this summer, that all changes.
I’ll spend the next few weeks going over other bills that we passed, because information is the best weapon in our democracy.