Beshear signed 78 bills into law last week: A few to know

Published 2:13 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

FRANKFORT — Gov. Andy Beshear is taking advantage of his early, storm-related return from Spring Break to sign dozens of bills into law.

Beshear signed House Bill 446, which requires student bus riders and their parents to sign a separate behavior policy for the bus.  If a student violates the policy by putting the driver or other students at risk, the bus driver can refuse to transport them until an investigation is complete.

The bill comes after Jefferson County Public Schools bus drivers walked out over working conditions, including violence and behavior issues on busses.

He also signed another school transportation bill, House Bill 447. It allows school districts to use alternative, non-school bus vehicles to get students to and from school. These vehicles will be clearly marked as transporting students.

A final school bus-related bill, Senate Bill 18, was signed by Beshear. It requires school bus equipment standards to be based on federal safety standards and bans discrimination against any manufacturers unless their equipment is defective.

Senate Bill 1 creates an endowed research fund to pay for research conducted by two or more Kentucky public universities. The fund will prioritize research that impacts human quality of life advancements and innovations in medicine, health or economic development.

While the legislature did not pass Sen. Danny Carroll’s comprehensive childcare bill, it did pass House Bill 695, which establishes the Adaptive Kindergarten Readiness Pilot Project. Beshear signed it last week.

The bill aims to prepare preschool kids for Kindergarten by giving families access to educational technology offering instruction in reading, math and science. Nearly half of the participants in the pilot program would be from financially disadvantaged families.

In the healthcare space, Beshear approved several bills. One would require health insurance coverage to include speech therapy to treat stuttering, while another would require coverage for preventative cancer detection screenings, tests and procedures.

House Bill 159 and House Bill 194 aim to protect health workers. HB159 gives providers criminal immunity from any harm or damages unless it was caused by gross negligence or wanton, willful, malicious or intentional misconduct.

HB194 expands the ban on assault against health care workers to anyone employed or contracted by a healthcare facility if the assault happens on the facility premises.

Senate Bill 255 sets several safety standards for social work done via telehealth, including sharing the identity of the social worker with the client as well as anyone who may have access to their communications.

Beshear signed House Bill 207, which deals with child sex dolls and pornography created using artificial intelligence

Child sex dolls are anatomically correct dolls with features resembling those of a minor intended for sexual use. Under the now-law, possession of a child sex doll is a Class D felony, while trafficking and importing dolls in Kentucky is a Class C felony.

Before, possession of a child sex doll could not be used as probable cause to search any further for child pornography.

Also, if AI pornography uses an actual minor as its source material, it will be considered child pornography. The state will not have to prove the actual identity, age or existence of the minor for offenders to be convicted.

Beshear approved Senate Bill 319, which includes various increased protections and rights for victims of crime, as well as House Bill 3, which expands the definition of human trafficking and requires more awareness and reporting.

Torture of a dog or cat is now a Class D felony in every instance under House Bill 258.

Law enforcement agencies can use retired officers to help with homicide cold cases under House Bill 551.

Senate Bill 45 establishes the Kentucky Ashanti Alert System, a comprehensive public alert system for missing adults and children. The system will use the Amber Alert System, as well as highway signs, law enforcement, media providers and the emergency broadcast system.