2006 Legislative Accomplishments

by Rep. Susan Westrom
2006 Legislative Accomplishments

Normally, I post only those pieces of legislation which have passed, but this year I filed so many noteworthy bills that I will include them in this summary because I will continue to fight to get them passed in the future.

2006 Successfully Passed Legislation

HB 121 — A public safety bill: Requires long-term care facilities to disclose to family members if sprinkler systems are not in place at the time of their loved ones’ admission. This bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law on March 24, 2006.

HB 265 — Respiratory Therapy License: This bill updated the requirements for renewal. It passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor on March 15, 2006.

HB 468 — Telecommunications for the Deaf: Provides the transfer of already collected funds to expand the program distributing telecommunications equipment for the deaf. This bill was added to the state budget bill and passed during the 2006 Session.

HB 603 — Board of Dentistry: Increased the per diem for members of the Board of Dentistry. This bill passed both chambers and was signed by the Governor on March 28, 2006.

SB 11 — Human Trafficking: I was honored to be asked by Senator David Boswell to pass this bill for him in the house Chamber. This important legislation defines the crime of human trafficking and makes it punishable as a Class B Felony. You may recall that I drafted Human Trafficking legislation which passed the house unanimously in 2004, but it was not even heard in the Senate. I encourage you to be aware that the “spas” in strip malls and along interstates are often covers for houses of prostitution and filled with foreign women who are shuffled from state to state. SB 11 passed the Senate, then passed the House unanimously and then mysteriously escaped being sent to the Governor for his signature. This legislation would have provided an avenue for Kentucky to determine the level of human trafficking that is now found to be rampant world-wide. You can bet that you will see this legislation again.

HB 3 — Sexual Predator legislation: In the fall of 2005, young children were being visually assaulted by a predator who exposed himself on various school grounds. After receiving many calls from constituents, I did some research and found out this crime was considered a misdemeanor, only punishable with a $250 fine! I quickly determined that I would amend the sexual predator bill that was in place to make repeated offenses of this type a felony, and requiring registration on the Sex Offender Registry. I am pleased to report that HB 3 did pass with my amendment, and people who commit this type of crime will be held accountable in a meaningful way. We have the right to protect our children on sacred school grounds!

Important legislation which did not pass in 2006

HB107 — Family-Friendly Jury Duty: Requires that a person be excused upon their request, from jury duty when they are the primary caregiver for a child under the age of six, or a family member over the age of 65 who is disabled or unable to care for themselves. They will become eligible for duty after the caregiver responsibilities end. I filed this bill after I became concerned for children of mothers who were breastfeeding and were denied a delay in serving. Parents make extreme sacrifices to be at home for their children before they are school-age. Often, they do not have family members nearby to tend to them in an emergency, and they are unable to afford full-time care while serving as jurors. When someone cares for a disabled family member, it is sometimes impossible to find replacement care for long periods of time. One would think that lawyers would understand how distracted these individuals would be while serving on a jury! This bill did not receive a hearing in the Judiciary Committee. I will refile this bill in 2008 when the session is not abbreviated. You may want to review the Westrom Editorial, “Family Friendly Lobbyist” article published April 2005 in the Chevy Chaser Magazine.

HB 130 — Alcohol without liquid (AWOL): This bill was drafted to prevent the legal purchase of the AWOL device which is being marketed to young adults. The AWOL device works much like an aroma therapy machine and allows alcohol to go directly to the brain for immediate effect. Young people are drawn to such devices because they bypass caloric consumption and alcohol levels are difficult to detect. The FDA does not regulate the device since it is not used for medicinal purposes and ABC does not regulate because it is not liquid alcohol. This bill passed the House 98-0 yet when it went to the Senate, the Senate leadership would not allow a presentation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. I will not give up on this one since lives will truly be at stake once this machine hits Kentucky. You may want to read the Westrom Editorial, “Preventing the Worse Case Scenario” published January, 2006 in the Chevy Chaser Magazine.

HB 156 — Diploma Mills: This is my second attempt at passing a bill which would make it illegal to present a fraudulent diploma for employment purposes or to receive a pay grade increase for continuing education. Known as one of the fastest growing crimes, this crime not only “dumbs down” the workforce, but makes it impossible for employers to make an accurate hire. Those in the job market are unable to compete on a level playing field, and the public is left vulnerable if they are receiving professional services from someone who is not “degreed.” Fraudulent diplomas may be purchased online, and they are so impressive that they could fool anyone who does not know how to confirm educational achievements. HB 156 passed on the House Floor 93-0, yet the Senate would not allow a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. You may want to read the Westrom Editorial, “Deadbeat Diplomas,” published August, 2005 in the Chevy Chaser Magazine.

HB 223 — Horse Park Appropriation: Some bills are filed to be proactive. The Kentucky Horse Park is the designated site for the World Equestrian Events in 2010. This bill would provide funding to the Kentucky Horse Park Commission to speed up the construction of the new indoor equestrian arena. This event will place Kentucky on the world stage and with all the partisan bickering, I had concerns this would become a political football. I filed the bill in the event this project was not included in the budget and would need legislative action. Ultimately this project was funded in the budget and I did not need to take action.

HB 577 — Animal Cruelty: I filed this bill after there were repeated stories demonstrating a level of unimaginable animal cruelty occurring in the Bluegrass. The perpetrator, if convicted was fined not more than $500. To remedy this, I filed this bill making it a criminal offense to inflict abuse or neglect severe enough to risk death to the animal. It included language requiring the offender to pay for the animals’ care, housing, and veterinary needs during recovery. I was stunned at the public response in favor of the bill yet, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee blocked a hearing to pass the bill. You may want to read the Westrom Editorial, “Lax Animal Cruelty Laws,” published in the June 2005 Chevy Chaser Magazine.

After reading what did and did not pass, you may wonder what on earth was going on. Obviously, some of the bills that did not receive any attention from the Senate were substantially important for Kentucky as evidenced by unanimous votes out of the House. You need to be aware that I have opposition this fall and word on the street via the mouth of lobbyists is that the Senate Leadership wanted to control my accomplishments to assist my republican opponent. Political realities can be tough, however I do not think the people should pay like they did this last session. Partisan politics at its worst are not uncommon, and I will continually say that if you place a political party before the good of the people, you should not be in office.

You may want to read the Westrom Editorial “Looking Ahead to January 2006″ found on this website and you will see what my intentions were pre-session!