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Seven bills to watch in the Kentucky Senate this week

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Seven bills to watch in the Kentucky Senate this week

By John Cheves
Lexington Herald-Leader-via Kentucky Press News Service

The Kentucky General Assembly resumes its 2017 session Tuesday afternoon with an ambitious conservative agenda set by the state's newly unified Republican leadership.

When lawmakers adjourned Jan. 7 for a monthlong break, they had just passed a flurry of bills establishing new restrictions on abortion and labor unions, and Gov. Matt Bevin enthusiastically signed them into law.

But in that busy first week, the Senate also put other bills on the fast track by giving them two of their three required readings on the Senate floor. That means bills dealing with concealed weapons, religion in schools, funding for Planned Parenthood and other controversial topics can now be passed and sent to the House in as little as one day. All they need is a committee vote, followed by a third and final floor vote. As of Monday, the House did not report that any of its pending bills already had two readings.

Here is Senate legislation to watch this week:

▪ Senate Bill 1, in the Senate Education Committee, would establish a new process for reviewing classroom academic standards and intervening in low-performing schools. Critics say they worry that SB 1 could be used to abolish the Common Core education standards adopted by Kentucky and many other states.

▪ Senate Bill 2, in the Senate State and Local Government Committee, would set new transparency rules for business conducted by the state's three public pension systems, and it would require Senate confirmation for gubernatorial appointees to the systems' governing boards.

▪ Senate Bill 7, in the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, would allow Kentuckians as young as 18 to carry concealed guns without the training, background checks and permit that currently are required. Some law-enforcement officials, including Lexington's police chief, say they oppose the bill.

▪ Senate Bill 8, in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, would prohibit state or local government money from going to an organization, such as Planned Parenthood, that provides abortions, refers women to places that provide abortions or gives women "information that encourages or promotes abortion."

▪ Senate Bill 14, in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would require that persons convicted of trafficking in any quantity of heroin or fentanyl be charged as Class C felons for the first offense and Class B felons for second and subsequent offenses. Existing law allows for Class D felony charges -- which means a lighter penalty -- if the amount of drugs was less than two grams.

▪ Senate Bill 17, in the Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, would allow students at Kentucky public schools and state universities to engage in religious or political activities, distribute religious or political material or express religious or political opinions, "free from discrimination or penalty." Also, teachers in public schools would be allowed to use the Bible to teach about religion, its history and its role in the United States.

▪ Senate Bill 18, in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, would establish medical-review panels to evaluate the merits of malpractice or neglect lawsuits filed against doctors, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care institutions. A lawsuit could not proceed to court until a review panel had rendered its judgment, which could be introduced as evidence at any subsequent trial.

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