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The Kentucky Association of Counties

Legislative issues advance, big boost to broadband funding proposed

By Gracie Lagadinos, Government Affairs Associate
Wednesday marked the 22nd legislative day and the short, 30-day session is wrapping up. Despite the limited number of work days remaining and legislation moving quickly, bills focused on county legislative priorities are on the move.

$250 million to the Broadband Deployment Fund

HB 320, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Reed (R- Green, LaRue, Marion) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Petrie (R- Logan, Todd, Warren (part)), allocates $250 million to provide unserved and underserved areas critical broadband access. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as counties, schools and businesses transitioned to a virtual format, a lack of access to broadband service became even more detrimental. This bill allocates the general fund dollars on the following schedule to the Broadband Deployment Fund:

  • $30 million during the second quarter of fiscal year 2021-22;
  • $70 million during the third quarter of fiscal year 2021-22;
  • $150 million during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021-22.

HB 320 also includes language allowing electric cooperatives to deploy broadband to unserved and underserved areas. The bill was originally a shell bill, meaning it was filed with no substantive language as a placeholder to be amended when needed for an issue. 

That amendment came on the House Floor Wednesday to significantly increase the House Committee version’s allocation of $100 million to $250 million for last-mile buildout. This floor amendment was offered by Rep. David Meade (R- Lincoln, Pulaski (part)). It now heads to the Senate. Contact your senators and ask them to support this critical legislation.

$20 million to the Rural Hospital Operations and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund

HB 556, sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley (R- Boyd (part), Greenup) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Petrie (R- Logan, Todd, Warren (part)), allocates $20 million to the Rural Hospital Operations and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund, which was created last year under HB 387, sponsored by Bentley. 

The fund is available to hospitals in rural counties defined for this purpose as those having a population of fewer than 50,000. HB 556 passed on the House floor unanimously Wednesday and awaits a vote in the Senate. 

Sheriff audit costs

HB 265, sponsored by Rep. Mary Beth Imes (R- Calloway, Trigg (part)), helps counties and sheriff offices save tax dollars by consolidating multiple Sheriff’s Tax Settlement Audits into a single audit. HB 265 passed in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee unanimously and heads to the Senate floor on the consent calendar, meaning it will not have to be debated as a standalone bill so long as it remains on consent. 
Indemnification of prosecutors 

SB 29, sponsored by Sen. Rick Girder (R- Boyle, Lincoln, Pulaski), provides that the attorney general, a commonwealth's attorney or a county attorney shall be indemnified by the Finance Cabinet for financial loss after being sued for an act or omission in the course of official duties. The bill passed out of the Senate and out of the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, and heads to the House floor for a final vote. 

Jail safety

SB 140 sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills (R-Caldwell, Crittenden, Henderson, Livingston, Union, Webster) helps reduce contraband mailed in to county jails by requiring U.S. mail to be converted to an electronic format and a means for prisoners to receive correspondence from the court, attorneys or a public official via email. The bill also requires jails to provide non-contact visitation areas and unmonitored phone lines. It passed the Senate Wednesday and heads to the House. 

Constables 

HB 267, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig (R- Boone (Part), Kenton (part)), ensures constables exercising peace officer powers are properly trained. 

The bill leaves in place most of the current powers of constables. It grandfathers in all current constables who are re-elected in 2022. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, those constables and deputy constables who were not a constable or deputy constable in the preceding four-year term of office will be required to be Peace Officer Professional Standards certified to exercise peace officer duties. It also requires the Department of Criminal Justice Training to admit at least per class one constable who meets the same qualifying requirements as sheriff deputies. 

KACo Legislative Director Shellie Hampton testified in support of HB 267 along with the Kentucky League of Cities during the House Local Government Committee Wednesday. 

Abandoned and blighted properties

SB 105, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills (R- Caldwell, Crittenden, Henderson, Livingston, Union, Webster) allows counties to seek a conservatorship for vacant/abandoned residential, commercial or industrial buildings, which have met requirements including remaining vacant for at least one year and have numerous code violations. SB 105 passed in the House Local Government Committee Wednesday and heads to the House floor. 

Reapportionment of magisterial districts

SB 171 sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Bracken, Campbell, Pendleton) was amended in committee Wednesday to include the provisions of HB 566 to address the issue behind the delay in completing the decennial reapportionment process on time.

Because of COVID-19, the census data needed for reapportionment will be delayed until September. State law requires the process to begin in May of the first year following the census. The provision amended into SB 171 would change that to the second year following the census - May of 2022. Delaying this date ensures fiscal courts will not have to redo reapportionment and redistricting in the event any redrawn state legislative districts overlap fiscal court districts. The bill next heads to the full House for a floor vote. 

Stopping unauthorized capture of photos or videos by first responders

SB267, sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder, would make it a crime for first responders to capture photographic or video graphic images while in the line of duty for any purpose other than a job-related purpose. 

First responders are defined as coroners, certified deputy coroners, local emergency management directors; firefighters; emergency medical services personnel; peace officers; and rescue service personnel. The bill passed out of the Senate unanimously Wednesday and awaits action in the House.

Virtual court proceedings

HB 551, sponsored by Rep. Chris Freeland (R- Lyon, Marshall, McCracken), was heard for discussion-only during the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. 

KACo, the sheriffs, jailers, county attorneys and commonwealth’s attorneys worked with Calloway County Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson on this legislation to continue the current COVID-19 instituted Supreme Court rule that reduced as many inmate transports as possible, saving tax dollars. 

This bill, as written, requires that any defendant confined in any jail or detention facility in this state and who is to appear in any circuit, family or district court in this state do so remotely via two-way audio-video communications between the court and the jail or detention facility. While this bill was not voted on in committee, we have a commitment from legislators and all parties involved to work on a resolution to this issue during the 2021 interim. 

Follow KACo on Twitter and Facebook @KACo for the latest updates on legislation.

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