Legislative Update by Damon Thayer: Religious Freedom Act on the table

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The Senate had a full week of legislation and committee meetings, in addition to logging in long hours working on the state’s biannual budget. With 10 days remaining, you will see a flurry of bills voted through the chambers and updates on the budget and state’s road plan these last few working days.
This week, the Senate considered and approved many important measures. Two in particular propose constitutional amendments.
Senate Bill 158, the Religious Freedom Act, is a measure that will protect religious freedom from an overbearing government. If approved by the House of Representatives, Kentuckians will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the government has the right to infringe on religious beliefs except in a case of a compelling government interest and only then, using the least burdensome means. Courts would have more ammunition in favor of religion in the cases of, for example, the jailing of Amish who refused to highlight their buggies and people in Bell County who wanted to pray before football games. SB 158 takes us back to a traditional, more reasonable, standard.
The other constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 10, would give the legislature more authority over administrative regulations. Administrative regulations have often been problematic for the Legislature, with the executive branch issuing them and enforcing them as law, sometimes counter to legislative intent.
Although we do have an oversight process in place, some regulations do not receive approval by the Legislature, and are reissued and enforced by administrative bodies anyway. This measure, through the constitutional amendment, would ensure that legislative findings on the appropriateness of administrative regulations could not be so easily ignored.
If these measures pass the House, where they require a 60-vote supermajority, it will be presented on the ballot this November for voter ratification.
An additional measure affecting administrative bodies, Senate Bill 8, would require that any administrative bodies appointed by the governor be dissolved within 180 days after the end of his or her term. I believe it is important to offer new opportunities every four years to review the value of each board and commission. Boards and commissions can be reconstituted by the Legislature, if deemed necessary. This will reduce the number of appointed bodies that remain in place and costing taxpayers money years after they are no longer relevant.
Diabetes is one of the leading chronic diseases in Kentucky. While there are many dedicated medical professionals who can assist those with diabetes to manage the disease, there also happens to be those without proper instruction or credentials.  Senate Bill 198 establishes minimal quality standards by directing that diabetes educators be certified. Families confronting the disease have enough to worry about. They should have the peace of mind to know they are receiving correct information from a knowledgeable source.
If you would like to learn more about our work, you can check us on the World Wide Web at www.lrc.ky.gov.  If you would like to leave a toll-free message for me, the number is 1-800-372-7181.  A taped message of information on legislative committee meetings can be heard at 1-800-633-9650 and to check the status of a bill, you may call the toll-free Bill Status Line at 1-866-840-2835. I also welcome emails at damon.thayer@lrc.ky.gov.

Senator Thayer represents the 17th Senate District which includes southern Kenton County, and all of Grant, Owen, and Scott Counties.  He is the chairman of the Senate State and Local Government Committee and serves on the Agriculture Committee, the Licensing, Occupations & Administrative Regulations Committee, and the Transportation Committee.