Highlights of the legislative week typically occur in the historic Senate and House chambers, but this past week the Capitol Rotunda was the scene of an unforgettable moment for many in the statehouse.
Those attending the annual Black History Celebration, hosted by the Black Legislative Caucus, recognized a military hero who achieved great success but was not promoted to the position many believed he deserved due the racial prejudice he encountered throughout a military career that spanned more than three decades. During the Tuesday celebration, Gov. Andy Beshear announced to applause that Charles Young, who was born in 1864 to enslaved parents in Mays Lick, Kentucky, and went on to become the first African American Colonel in the U.S. Army, was being posthumously promoted to a Brigadier General in Kentucky.
Young’s commitment to service didn’t waver despite the prejudice he faced throughout his career, according to his friend, historian and NAACP founder W.E.B. DuBois. “Steadily, unswervingly he did his duty,” Dubois wrote in a memorial after Young’s death in 1922. “And Duty to him, as to few modern men, was spelled in capitals. It was his lodestar, his soul; and neither force nor reason swerved him from it.”
Throughout the rest of the week, legislative activity was in high gear at the Capitol. Numerous bills took steps forward in the legislation process, including measures on the following topics:
Diabetes. House Bill 12 would limit patient costs for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100. The legislation was approved by the House Health and Family Services Committee and is awaiting a House vote.
Eating disorders. Senate Bill 82 seeks to offer better treatment options to those with eating disorders by establishing the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council. The council would oversee the development and implementation of eating disorder awareness, education and prevention programs. It would also identify strategies for improving access to adequate diagnosis and treatment services and made recommendations on legislative and regulatory changes. The bill passed the Senate 34-0 on Monday and has been delivered to the House.
Expungement. House Bill 327 would require the automatic expungement of records in acquittals or cases in which criminal charges were dismissed. The bill passed the House 91-0 on Monday and has been delivered to the Senate.
High school vocational education. Senate Bill 156 would require the state to develop plans to transition state-operated secondary vocational education centers to local school districts by July 1, 2024. The bill was approved on Thursday by the Senate Education Committee and now awaits action from the full Senate.
Medical marijuana. House Bill 136 would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. The bill would establish policies for the cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medical marijuana. Users would be required to have a prescription and would not be able to use medical marijuana in a form that could be smoked. Counties would be able to opt out of the state-regulated-program. The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration of the full House.
Transportation secretary. Senate Bill 4 would no longer make the selection of the state transportation secretary a decision solely for the governor. Instead, the bill would create a Kentucky Transportation Board to be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would make a selection. The governor’s choice would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday and awaits action by the full Senate.
Vaping. House Bill 32 would place a 25 percent excise tax on vaping products. The bill was approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee on Tuesday and now awaits consideration by all House members.
There are convenient ways for citizens to stay in touch with the work of the General Assembly. The General Assembly’s website (legislature.ky.gov) provides information on each senator and representative, including their phone numbers, addresses and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.
To share a message with any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.