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January 21, 2022

Submitted by Senator Reggie Thomas

FRANKFORT ⎯ Lawmakers returned to Frankfort on Tuesday following a prolonged holiday weekend to honor the decorated life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Even though it was a short legislative week, members in Frankfort continued meeting with various agencies and stakeholders to discuss significant legislation as it makes its way through the process.

In the first week of the 2022 Regular Session, the House and Senate passed several bills dealing with redistricting. Following the 10-day veto deadline period, Governor Andy Beshear chose to veto House Bill (HB) 2, the Kentucky House of Representatives map, and Senate Bill (SB) 3, the United States congressional map. Both were returned to the General Assembly, where I voted to sustain the Governor’s vetoes. Ultimately, both were overridden by a majority in the legislature. The measures are now before the courts because of recent legal challenges.

A bill designed to increase literacy for thousands of Kentucky’s children received approval from the Kentucky Senate on Wednesday. The Kentucky Read to Achieve Program was enacted in 2005 to support schools in implementing a reading diagnostic and intervention program for struggling readers. Senate Bill (SB) 9, known as the Read to Succeed Act, would amend the existing Read to Achieve Act by creating a comprehensive system of supports, interventions, and evidence-based learning to enhance early literacy outcomes in public schools. It includes specifications and requirements for the Kentucky Department of Education and local school districts.

SB 9 also calls for more collaboration with the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, Kentucky Educational Television, and the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The Kentucky Department of Education estimates that implementing the requirements would cost between $15 million to $20 million in the fiscal year 2024, but education officials anticipate federal pandemic relief funds could help cover the cost.

Although the Read to Succeed Program has had excellent results in other states, I am concerned that it might compromise the Read to Achieve Program currently in place. Presently, the Read to Achieve program has a ninety-nine percent (99%) success rate of moving students from illiteracy to reading at or above grade level. Furthermore, by trying to do it in a classroom setting, you potentially have 15 or 20 illiterate students in one class and one teacher attempting to teach all of them how to read. I fear this may cause some students to fall through the cracks. For these reasons, I voted no. However, the measure passed on the Senate floor with a 27-7 vote. It now heads to the House for further consideration.

Other bills passed in the Senate this week:

SB 11 aligns Kentucky’s Assisted Living social model with that in many other states. It calls for classifying Assisted Living as licensed long-term care and allows existing Personal Care Homes to convert to licensed Assisted Living. The bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 30-2. I voted no because SB 11 does not require Assisted Living facilities to enhance their standards or conditions for providing care to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. I firmly believe that these residents deserve high-quality care in all Assisted Living facilities, and SB 11 completely fails in that regard.

SB 43 intends to streamline the duties of the Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee through the Legislative Research Commission. The measure passed unanimously.

SB 55 seeks to clarify the name of a primary stroke center to a certified stroke center. The bill also adds thrombectomy-capable stroke centers to the required list of certified acute stroke ready hospitals. It passed in the Senate with unanimous consent.

SB 56 defines an opioid antagonist as any U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication designed to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Kentucky has been severely impacted by the opioid epidemic, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. I applaud and proudly support any effort put forward to negate the effect of opioids in our communities. It passed by a vote of 35-0.

SB 100 creates an “essential compassionate caregiver” designation to visit a resident in-person at long-term care facilities, assisted living communities, and state mental hospitals. The purpose is to enhance a patient's physical, mental, or social well-being. SB 100 passed 35-0.

Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 20 creates the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CFHS) Organizational Structure, Operations, and Administrative Task Force to oversee procedures within CHFS. The adopted resolution passed with unanimous consent.

We are now three weeks into the 2022 Regular Session. I expect budget deliberations to soon become a significant issue in the coming weeks. Please stay engaged! I will do my best to keep you updated and informed about what is happening in Frankfort throughout the session.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, I remain accessible by email at Reginald.Thomas@LRC.KY.GOV. You can also leave a message for me on the Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. Citizens with hearing impairments can use the Kentucky Relay Service at 711.

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