New state laws officially on the books

Published 11:00 am Thursday, June 29, 2023

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Legislation dealing with child abuse, drugs, gambling, mental health, gender services, education and many other topics will take effect Thursday after being approved by the General Assembly earlier this year.

Lawmakers approved more than 170 bills during the 2023 session, and the Kentucky Constitution states new laws take effect 90 days after they adjourn, making June 29 the effective date for most measures.  Exceptions are for bills with special effective dates, are general appropriation measures, or include emergency clauses which make them effective immediately upon becoming law.

Here are some of the more prominent measures, listed alphabetically by subject matter:

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Child Abuse: Senate Bill 229 seeks to ensure that law enforcement, social services and other authorities are properly notified and are communicating with each other in cases of child abuse.  It also requires agencies under investigation to cooperate with authorities.

Child Murder: House Bill 249 makes the intentional killing of a child under age 12 an aggravating circumstance. That ensures that a person who is guilty of killing a child would either be subject to life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

DUI Restitution: SB 268 allows courts to order restitution for children whose parents are killed or permanently disabled by an intoxicated driver.

Fentanyl Test Strips: HB 353 removes fentanyl test strips from state prohibitions on drug paraphernalia unless the strips are used in the manufacture or selling of the drug.

Gender and Sexuality: SB 150 focuses on health services and school policies related to gender and human sexuality. Many provisions took effect immediately, including the portions on school policies, but June 29 applies to part of the bill that bans puberty blockers, hormones and gender-related surgeries for minors.

Gray Machines: HB 594 says certain gambling machines, often called “gray machines” or “skill games,” are illegal. The devices have operated in a gray area in the state’s gambling laws, while growing more prevalent at gas stations and convenience stores over the past two years. Machines are allowed to stay onsite but must be shut down, per a court order. This will be in effect until the two court cases challenging the constitutionality of HB 594 are resolved.

Hazing: SB 9, known as “Lofton’s Law,” elevates reckless or dangerous acts of hazing to a crime.  First-degree hazing is a Class D felony with up to five years in prison if convicted, while second-degree hazing is a Class A misdemeanor, with up to a year in jail.

KEES for Workforce Training: SB 54 allows students to use a Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship to attend certain propriety school programs and workforce training programs that are focused on high-demand work sectors.  Students could also use KEES funds at an eligible college of art and design.

Physician Wellness: SB 12 allows physicians to participate in wellness and career fatigue programs without disclosing their participation to employers.  Supporters say it will help physicians deal with job-related burnout without fear of retaliation.

Police Wellness: HB 207 allows law enforcement agencies to provide confidential wellness programs for employee mental health, by shielding program records from subpoenas and open records requests.

Postpartum Depression: SB 135 requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create a panel focused on perinatal mental health disorders and provide related information and assessment tools online.

Religious Freedom in Schools: HB 547 provides religious freedoms for public school teachers, faculty and staff; including the right to engage in religious expression and prayer during breaks and to display religious items in personal spaces.

Sex Offenders: SB 80 bans registered sex offenders from loitering or operating a mobile business within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and public playgrounds or swimming pools. Part of the bill related to sex offender residences does not take effect until next year.

Sports Wagering: HB 551 legalizes sports wagering in Kentucky under the auspices of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.  Only licensed tracks will be permitted to obtain a sports wagering license, the bill sets up a fund to address problem gambling, and bans minors from placing wagers.  While the bill takes effect Thursday, Kentuckians will not see many changes until the racing commission finalizes and implements regulations related to sports wagering.

Student Discipline: HB 538, requires school boards to adopt policies related to expelling students who pose a threat to the safety and well-being of others, and disciplining students who have physically assaulted, battered or abused personnel or other students off school property if the incident is likely to disrupt the educational process.  It also provides more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs.

Teacher Shortages: HB 319 hopes to ease teacher shortages by cementing Kentucky’s place in the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact, reducing licensing barriers for teachers moving into the state.  It also requires the Kentucky Department of Education to establish a statewide job posting system.

Tracking Devices: SB 199 outlaws, with some exceptions, installing tracking devices on motor vehicles without the consent of the vehicle owner or lessee.

Learn more about the General Assembly by visiting their website.