By SEN. JOHNNY RAY TURNER
FRANKFORT — After a pause in legislative work on Monday in observance of President’s Day, the General Assembly reconvened on Tuesday ready to begin the second, busiest half of the legislative session. In the coming weeks, we will consider some of our most complex and significant bills, including the state’s biennial budget.
There are few things lawmakers take more seriously than a person’s right to vote. Our freedom to each cast our ballot at the poll was earned through the battle, blood and sacrifice of fellow Americans. And equal representation of all citizens is tantamount to our democratic government.
Currently in Kentucky, anyone convicted of a felony must appeal to the governor for an executive branch pardon to have their voting rights restored.
House Bill 70, passed 34-4 on Wednesday, would create another way for some felony offenders to regain the right to vote. HB 70 proposes an amendment to the state Constitution that would allow those convicted of non-violent felonies to regain voting rights after serving their sentences, including probation, parole and restitution.
I supported HB 70 in its original form. Changes made to the bill in the Senate, which alter the intent of the original bill, would require a five-year waiting period after felony sentences are complete before being allowed to vote. Under the added provisions, anyone convicted of an additional crime during the waiting period would become ineligible for the restoration of voting rights without a pardon from the governor, as would those convicted of multiple felonies.
As an advocate for this measure, I am glad we are addressing the issue. However, the Senate added stipulations that I think are problematic. I oppose the five year wait before rights are restored and other language, but I voted to move it forward. Why? Because I do believe in the process and I trust that when the bill goes to the House, that chamber will address those issues and we can fine tune this legislation in a conference committee.
HB 70 now moves to the House for further consideration.
As lawmakers, we need to ensure that the Commonwealth offers the best protection possible to protect our vulnerable senior citizens and citizens with disabilities. That is best done by strengthening our laws.
Senate Bill 98, passed this week, would create an adult abuse registry. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) would be required to establish a secure ledger of those people who have abused, neglected or exploited vulnerable adults. It also requires a “vulnerable adult service provider” to query CHFS about prospective employees and allow employers to make periodic queries regarding current employees.
I am very grateful this bill is moving forward and I am hopeful that the adult registry becomes law. I am encouraged greatly by the unified, bipartisan support shown for this measure. Our senior citizens and our disabled citizens are especially vulnerable to abuse and it is up to us to protect them.
Not every piece of legislation we take up is far-reaching or complex. Some are simple, common-sense measures aimed at making subtle improvement, like House Bill 181. Passed unanimously, this bill would allow broken eggs packaged for sale to be replaced with eggs of the same type, size and sell-by date. This egg lot consolidation would be completed by someone registered and trained by the Department of Agriculture. This is just a small way to help eliminate needless waste of our food products.
On Thursday, many of the local officials from around the state were in Frankfort for Kentucky Association of County Official Day. It was good to be able to talk to our leaders from back home to hear their concerns and priorities for our district. Their input is important because they are making decisions in our community every day. I appreciate all those from my district who came to Frankfort and took the time to visit with me. Their guidance, as is the input from all my constituents, is vital to my work in Frankfort.
To learn more about the Kentucky General Assembly and the work of the 2014 Regular Session, visit our home page, www.lrc.ky.gov. To leave a message for me, or any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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