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New Kentucky laws are wide-ranging, from headlights to school Bible study to tougher drug penalties

They go into effect on June 29
Posted: 8:00 AM, Jun 18, 2017
Updated: 2017-06-18 12:40:01Z

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- A bundle of new laws go into effect in Kentucky starting June 29, and although most won't change anyone's life substantially, a few could have some impact.

New laws signed by Gov. Matt Bevin this legislative season will allow the development of charter schools, strengthen drug laws and offer relief to some juveniles by expunging their records.

One of the key legislative actions this year went into effect after Bevin signed them into law. Now the two laws that prevent abortions after 20 weeks and require doctors to show an abortion patient an ultrasound are facing a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The legislature also eliminated the prevailing wage rule on state construction projects, which also went into effect during the session.

A controversial bill that will allow charter schools for the first time in Kentucky was passed at the last minute by the legislature.

House Bill 520 will allow publicly funded charter schools to start next year. Local school boards can authorize them, but they will be governed by independent boards. The state can also get involved if a charter school doesn't get local authorization.

What's missing is the exact funding process, said Randy Poe, superintendent for Boone County Schools.

"They passed the law about charters, but there is not a clear funding mechanism," said Poe. "If it comes out of the school budget, then it will take away from what we do."

Poe said there's also concern among national groups that creating a parallel education system might leave the traditional system behind.

The legislature will have to resolve the funding issue next session, he said.

Here is a sampling of other laws that are about to go into effect:

Bible literacy: HB 128 will allow schools to offer an elective social studies class on the Bible in the context of the impact on today's world.

Colored lights: Only emergency vehicles will be allowed to have color coming from headlights, to make it easier to distinguish emergency from non-emergency vehicles. Got a bluish tint emitting from your factory-installed headlights? Those will be grandfathered in.

Delivery-services golf carts: HB 404 authorizes low-speed license plates on golf carts and other utility vehicles used for deliveries, ensuring that insurance information is filed with the state.

Fentanyl and other opioids: HB 333 tightens up penalties for trafficking heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives. It also limits such Schedule II controlled substances to three-day prescriptions.

Hate crimes: First responders such as police, firefighters and EMTs are given greater protection by HB 14, which says attacks against them are automatically considered hate crimes. This expands current state law that says a hate crime is an attack based on the victim's race, color, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.

Juvenile offenders: Senate Bill 195 will help some juvenile offenders get their lives back on track by having their criminal records expunged without a court process. Children now will have their records expunged two years after reaching adulthood or being released from commitment unless they have more offenses or pending charges.

Labor unions: You are no longer automatically enrolled in a labor union under SB6. Employees must be given a written request to join, and dues can't be taken from an employee's paycheck without their permission. Existing agreements are exempt.

Motor vehicle insurance: The state raised the minimum tort liability coverage for car insurance arising out of property damage from $10,000 to $25,000 through SB 114. This could mean that individual rates could go up slightly.

School calendars: School years could get shorter if districts adopt a "variable student instructional year," now allowed by SB 50. Students still have to be in class the same number of hours, but how the districts structure the day is up to them. A new schedule could start with the 2018-19 academic year.