Dozens of new state laws approved earlier this year by the Kentucky General Assembly take effect on July 15. Here's a sampling.
Drivers who text while in a moving vehicle will be given courtesy warnings from police until Jan. 1, 2011. After that, violators will face fines and court costs. Also, new drivers will be prohibited from using cell phones while driving for the first six months after receiving a driver's permit.
The Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Association of Counties must adhere to the state's open records and open meetings laws. The groups, which were the subjects of scathing state audits last year about their financial transactions, must also place spending reports online and develop policies on ethics, procurement, hiring and compensation.
A council will be created to advise the state on equine health matters and to set up regional care centers for unwanted, neglected and abused horses. There also will be a livestock-care standards commission to prohibit local governments, with some exceptions, from having on-farm animal-care standards that exceed state standards. Other measures require the state apiarist to work with the Transportation Cabinet and local beekeeping clubs to identify state-owned rights-of-way that could be made into pollinator habitat sites for bees and encourage the development of bee habitats on mine reclamation sites.
Health insurance coverage will be expanded for the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders. Large-group and state-employee insurance plans must provide coverage in the annual amount of $50,000 for children with autism from ages 1 to 6 and up to $12,000 a year for older children with autism. Another law will create a new level of specialty treatment centers for children with severe psychiatric disorders who currently must go to other states to receive the level of care they require. Also, there will be more training for health care officials, day care workers and others who work with children to improve their abilities to spot signs of child abuse.
It will be a felony for workers at prisons, jails or detention centers to have sex with inmates. Also, possessing, growing or trafficking a form of the salvia plant that some people use as a substitute for marijuana will be illegal.
Students at community and technical colleges will find it easier to transfer credits to four-year universities because lower-division coursework will be aligned across all public colleges and universities.