The final gavel has fallen for the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly! This year, the Governor and the Kentucky General Assembly were tasked with crafting a two-year state budget, tackle redistricting, advance policies to address the COVID-19 pandemic, tax reform, and other policy priorities that would be good for the communities they represent and the Commonwealth. If we take a second to reflect, that’s a heavy lift in a long 60-day session.
There was good news for kids in this year’s legislative session—including in the state budget. Please note the list below doesn’t include all policies passed, but a high-level review of Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priority bill as well as other kid-related policies.
- SB 8: Establishes new membership of the State Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, clarifies the definition of neglect, expands the definition of fictive kin, expands Medicaid reimbursement eligibility for professionals who provide critical services at Children’s Advocacy Centers, and expands opportunities for youth aging out of foster care.
- SB 97: Requires coroners to immediately notify law enforcement, the Department for Community Based Services, and local health department upon the death of a child and strengthen the process when a child fatality or near fatality occurs, including expanding the External Child Fatality and Near Fatality Review Panel.
- SB 102: Requires schools to provide a yearly census of the school-based mental health providers to determine if the ratios of providers to students is meeting the mark.
- SB 151: Permits the administrator of a school that participates in the Federal School Breakfast Program to authorize up to 15 minutes of the student attendance day to provide the opportunity for children to eat breakfast during instructional time.
- SB 178 (contains HB 174): Extends Medicaid eligibility for certain new mothers for up to 12 months postpartum so they can have continuous, uninterrupted access to health care.
- HB 499: Establishes the Employee Child Care Assistance Partnership program, as well as reporting requirements and a fund to be administered by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
- HB 1: The two-year state budget that, among other things, will impact child health coverage, education, safety, and more.
- Fully funding full day kindergarten to boost our youngest students’ academic achievement and strengthen their social and emotional skills.
- Increased per-pupil SEEK funding so public schools can ensure all students have the resources to learn and thrive.
- Sustained supports for school-based health services.
- Increased funds for the School Food Services Program so students have access to nutritious meals at school.
- Increased funding for Family Resource and Youth Service Centers (FRYSCs), who work with families to remove barriers to student learning and have been a critical lifeline throughout the pandemic.
- Increased investment in the Department for Community Based Services workforce, as well as funds a creative proposal that could allow workers respite from the frontlines.
- Sustained funding for the HANDS in-home visiting program to ensure this service is available to and utilized by new parents across Kentucky.
- Allocated funding to support a team of child abuse pediatricians and specially trained staff who treat children experiencing abuse and neglect.
- Allocated funding for independent living supports for young people aging out of foster care.
- Prioritized the child care sector by securing a $2 per day child care provider reimbursement rate increase, as well as funds for the Employee Child Care Assistance Partnership established in HB 499.
- Sustained Medicaid and KCHIP funding so children and their families can continue accessing necessary health care services and secured funding to establish a Bridge Health Insurance program so Kentuckians can continue accessing needed health care services.
- Allocated federal funding to support the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.
- Increased funding for domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and Children’s Advocacy Centers, all of which provide vital services to survivors of abuse.
- Allocated funds for the implementation of the new suicide prevention hotline, 988.
Other positive bills that passed that we were tracking:
- SB 9: Specifies the Department of Education’s role in assisting local school districts with regard to reading instruction, supports, and interventions; require a local board of education to adopt and implement a reading universal screener and reading diagnostic assessment; permit a local school district to adopt a common comprehensive reading program for K-3; and more related to improving students’ literacy outcomes.
- HB 44: This bill was changed and had provisions added during the veto period and went through a free conference committee before ultimately being passed. Among the other items that made it into this bill, we were very excited to see an option for a local school district’s attendance policy to include provisions for a student’s mental or behavioral health status.
- HB 525: Adds Certified Community Health Workers as a billable Medicaid service. The bill lays out the criteria to be certified as a community health worker, as well as where CHWs can practice, and what type of services they can provide.
- HB 263: Increases penalties if the victim of criminal abuse is under 12 years of age, known as Kami’s Law.
- SB 271: Requires the Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center to compile data on domestic violence fatalities, occurrences of dating violence and abuse or domestic violence and abuse, and reports of suspected dating violence and abuse or domestic violence and abuse deaths.
Although many positive measures passed this session, there are missed policies and budget items that would help kids and families.
- Once again, we saw a missed opportunity to ban conversion therapy to protect the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth (HB 12). We saw rhetoric in Frankfort shifting to the trans women in sports bill, which overtook the opportunity to have a conversation around banning conversion therapy.
- SB 166: This bill was aimed at allowing local cities and counties to regulate the sale, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products to help curb tobacco and e-cigarette use among youth. However, we saw some momentum at the end of session for statewide tobacco retail licensure which is a measure we can potentially continue to work on in the interim and next session.
- Additionally, we saw a missed opportunity to prevent tobacco use among youth, former foster youth, and pregnant women within the state budget. We were looking to the legislature to include an increase in funding for tobacco prevention and cessation funding that was ultimately not included.
- There was another missed opportunity in the state budget this session to expand funds that boost health insurance enrollment, especially to close gaps in coverage for Latino children.
- Lastly in the health arena, the legislature missed the opportunity to boost school-based health investments so that school districts can attract and sustain qualified mental health service providers.
- SB 296: This bill would have utilized community-based sentencing alternatives that promote both rehabilitation and accountability while factoring in whether a person is a primary caregiver so parents can continue providing for their children. It was introduced in the Senate, but never heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee. We look forward to continuing the conversations next session.
- HB 571: This bill would have required a court-designated worker to refer children 12 years of age and younger to the Family Accountability, Intervention, and Response (FAIR) teams to be connected with services, instead of sending these young children through the juvenile justice system. It was introduced in the House and never received a committee assignment. We anticipate action during the interim.
- Safety/Child Welfare:
- SB 297: This bill would have modified “chain of command” child maltreatment reporting procedures and require immediate cross-agency reporting to ensure the report of child abuse or neglect is properly communicated to the appropriate external agencies. While the bill was filed, it did not advance to get a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is the first year the bill was filed and introduced. We anticipate action during the next legislative session.
- HB 83: This bill would have ensured unemployment insurance is available to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. It passed the Kentucky House and was received in the Senate but failed to advance. We hope to build upon this momentum for the next legislative session.
- Economic security:
- As the pandemic has proven, we all fall on hard times and a strong safety net is crucial to catching Kentucky kids and families. As we move into the interim, we hope the General Assembly will use the task forces created in HB 7 to identify where holes in this net exist, not make them larger. Missed from the conversations regarding safety reforms were support for those who earn income and are able to increase earnings, offering the greatest chance of achieving what we all seek – financial security for families, such as an earned income tax credit.
- Senate Concurrent Resolution 142: This resolution would have created the Early Childhood Education Task Force to conduct a comprehensive review of the early childhood caregiving and educational structures and operations in the Commonwealth. Additionally, require the task force to submit findings and recommendations to the Legislative Research.
Two types of leaders make these wins for kids possible: legislative champions and, just as importantly, the advocates and organizations who work so hard on behalf of kids and families. Advocates, thank you for your emails or phone calls to legislators, social media posts, legislative visits, attendance at Children’s Advocacy Week, and more. Your efforts were critical during this legislative session.
As we look ahead to the possibilities in 2023, we at Kentucky Youth Advocates are optimistic that, when the legislature resumes next year, legislators will again have Kentucky kids and their families at top of their priority lists. And we are certain that advocates like you will lend your voices to speak up for those kids and families.
Using our legislator lookup tool, TAKE ACTION by calling, sending an email, or writing a social media post thanking your state Senator and Representative for stepping up for kids in 2022.
View the Bill Tracker to see the final status of 2022 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities and other bills that are good for kids.