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Rita Smart

From dawn to dusk and beyond, we worked tirelessly this past week in the General Assembly, addressing a number of issues aimed at strengthening working families and protecting our communities and the commonwealth as a whole.

We made significant headway on issues I have identified as priorities. We passed and sent to the Senate some important measures.

With unanimous, bipartisan support, the full House approved House Bill 8, which would allow dating couples to seek legal protective orders in cases of domestic violence, abuse, sex abuse, or stalking. Kentucky is the only state without such protections.

House Bill 213, our comprehensive effort to address the increasing use of heroin and overdose deaths, received total bipartisan support. The heroin epidemic is a major issue for Madison County. The number assigned to the heroin bill carries special significance. It honors the memory and Feb. 13 birthday of my colleague Rep. Joni Jenkins’ nephew, Wes Jenkins, who died from a heroin overdose. The full House approved the bill on the anniversary of his birthday with a 98-0 vote.

I supported legislation that would gradually raise Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by July 2017. It now goes to the Senate for consideration. HB 2 would increase minimum pay to $8.20 in July, $9.15 in July next year, and then $10.10 in 2017. This would give minimum-wage workers the same buying power they had in 1968. More than 390,000 Kentuckians make less than $10.10 an hour. Most of them are women. The bill also would encourage equal pay for equal work between employees who do similar jobs, with a few common-sense exceptions such as seniority, merit or productivity.

House Bill 70 would voters decide on a a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to felons convicted of certain offenses after completion of sentences and probation. I supported this legislation which was approved 86-12 and now goes to the Senate.

House Bill 145, known as the “Smoke-free Kentucky” bill, passed the House this week in a close vote. The bill would enact a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants, bars, workplaces and other public places ,with a few exemptions, including clubs and cigar bars. I supported this bill and hope the Senate will finally approve smoke-free environments for our workers.

Kentucky’s veterans also were on our minds this week as House Bill 352 was approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee. It would provide a consistent pathway to college credit for military service by directing Kentucky colleges and universities to work together and determine what academic credit to award honorably discharged service members, based on service and specialties. This bill ultimately aims to help our active-duty military personnel and veterans find employment and get ahead when they complete their service. I’m thankful for the service of all our military men and women and will enthusiastically support this legislation on the House floor.

This is just a sampling of the many bills we’re considering in this, our 30-day session conducted in odd years. With 13 legislative days completed, we’re almost halfway through, but a lot of work remains.

I appreciate your opinions on issues and encourage you to contact me through the Legislative Message line at 1-800-372-7181; by email at Rita.Smart@lrc.ky.gov; or by writing me c/o Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601.

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