Herald-Leader Editorial

Senate proved less obstructive; sound, long-stalled bills passed

Sound, long-stalled bills passed

March 19, 2013 

A big question going into this year's General Assembly was whether the change in Republican leadership would thaw the Senate's freeze-out of bills coming from the Democratic House.

We're happy to report it did, enabling several good proposals that had been stalled for years to finally make it into law.

Unfortunately, the session's marquee issue, pension reform, ran aground on the twin boulders of funding and philosophy.

Negotiations are expected to continue, and perhaps there will be a compromise for lawmakers to consider when they return for their final two days next week.

The good, if modest, measures, that did get enacted include laws to combat human trafficking, expand the availability of post-conviction DNA testing and gradually raise the school dropout age from 16 to 18.

All three had received House approval in earlier sessions, only to die in the Senate. This time they made it through both chambers.

Also, the Senate improved a House bill creating a review process for cases of fatal or near-fatal child abuse and neglect. Thanks to the Senate's efforts, the final version provided more transparency and enhanced independence for the review panel (though it still probably didn't go far enough on either count.)

On the down side, the Senate stuck with the politics of exclusion by killing a bill that would let voters decide on a constitutional amendment restoring the voting rights of felons who have paid their debts to society.

The Senate inaction continues Kentucky's dubious distinction as one of only a few states that do not automatically restore voting rights.

On the up side, the new chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, freshman Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, chipped away at the Senate roadblock to expanding domestic-violence protective orders to include younger and unmarried couples.

Kentucky now is one of only two or three states that exclude from domestic violence protections couples who have never been married, had children or lived together. Members of same-sex couples can get protective orders in Kentucky, but not a single woman who is being stalked and threatened by an ex-boyfriend.

The bill expanding protective orders cleared Westerfield's Judiciary Committee, which also moved the bill to combat human trafficking.

But Senate Republican leaders never allowed a full vote, for reasons they have yet to explain.

The Senate could build on its improving reputation for reasonableness by finding a way to approve the protective order bill during the final two days.

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