Senator Turner’s Legislative Update

Published 9:47 am Saturday, January 29, 2022

To my friends, unfortunately I had to miss a few days of voting this week, as I may have come down with the flu. Fortunately I did not contract COVID-19, but out of an abundance of caution for the safety of my staff and fellow senators, I stayed home for the first half of the week.

Thankfully I was able to return to Frankfort on Thursday and cast my votes on the bills passed throughout the week.

First, on Monday, January 24, the senate welcomed The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office from Atlanta. The delegation joined the Senate on the floor and was honored for its generous $100,000 donation to aid victims of the horrific storms in western Kentucky. During the visit, we thanked our Taiwanese friends for the generous donation while stressing the importance of our friendship.

As Taiwan continues to deal with an increasingly aggressive Communist regime in China, it’s more important than ever that we continue to support them in their time of need.

On Tuesday U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell visited Frankfort, and provided an update from Washington and encouraged us to keep up the good fight here in Frankfort. The rest of the week the Senate focused on passing important bills for the people of Kentucky.

The following are a few of the bills passed by the Senate this week, which are now on their way to the state House of Representatives for consideration:
Organ donation is a simple and selfless act that we can all do. Organ donation can help people across the commonwealth and United States in the direst times of need.

Senate Bill 30 aims to make voluntary organ donation more widely known and participated in. The bill allows for organ donation signup and monetary donations to the ‘Trust for Life’ during online vehicle registration renewals or while in-person at the county clerk’s office.

The ‘Trust for Life’ affords every Kentuckian obtaining a driver’s license or ID an opportunity to donate to promote organ and tissue donation. The trust has raised more than $9 million since its inception in 1992. In 2018, more than 45 percent of all Kentuckians obtaining a license contributed. Trust for Life uses funds to raise public awareness and encourage organ and tissue donation.

Incest is a horrific and disgusting crime. Our current guidelines for individuals convicted of this sick act are outdated, and thankfully this bill addresses that. SB 38 classifies the act of incest by an offender as a violent crime, ensuring violent offenders serve no less than 85 percent of their sentenced time.

Under existing law, violent offenders can become parole eligible after serving only 15 percent of their time. As uncomfortable of a topic as this might be, this is a serious issue that needs to be promptly updated. This bill insures that we get these sick individuals off our streets and behind bars, where they belong.

Over the course of the pandemic, as Kentucky attempted to respond to COVID-19, we quickly recognized the flaws in our state statutes relating to executive powers during a state of emergency. Schools, small businesses and at one point even our houses of worship, were attacked by the Governor’s office. It all occurred when the General Assembly was not in session, and unable to take action.

SB 88 establishes the framework of what a special session would look like if one is initiated by the General Assembly. Currently, only the governor can call a special session, per the Constitution of Kentucky. In last year’s session, House Bill 4 was passed. That bill places a constitutional amendment on the next general election ballot for Kentucky voters to determine if they would like the General Assembly to be able to call a special session.

Kentucky is currently one of only 14 states in the nation that does not allow the legislative branch to call a special session. In the interest of answering our constituents’ needs, I encourage your support of the constitutional amendment. I am proud to say my successful election to the 29th district helped pave the way for a Republican super majority here in our state Senate, making it easier to pass important bills like this.

SB 100 allows for residents of assisted-living facilities, long-term care facilities and mental health hospitals to be visited by a ‘compassionate caregiver’ under certain health and safety protocols. A compassionate caregiver could be a family member, legal guardian, outside caregiver, friend, or volunteer, who will be allowed at a resident’s bedside.

The bill extends the original provision put in place by lawmakers during the recent special session. Prior to action by the Kentucky General Assembly, reports detailed heart-wrenching stories of elderly residents passing away alone, separated from those who made their lives meaningful. SB 100 considers the holistic well-being of those in their last days by giving equal attention to social, emotional and spiritual needs.

SB 45 aims to bring efficiencies to the Medicaid program by limiting the number of managed care organization contracts accepted by the state. This bill will reduce the regulatory burden of healthcare providers which will ultimately cut administrative costs, passing the savings on to Kentuckians.

As always, I am here in our commonwealth’s capitol fighting for eastern Kentucky values. I have been a fighter my entire life, and every day I will continue to take that fight to our capitol.

As all of you know, this town isn’t always known for common sense, but I will continue to be that voice of reason.

Please, if you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me or my staff.

Senator Johnnie Turner (R-Harlan) represents the 29th District, which includes Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher counties. Sen. Turner is vice-chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. He also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Transportation and Judiciary.