Important Kentucky bills for students

Nailah Spencer

Kentucky state senators and representatives had to pass their last bills before midnight on Thursday, March 30, which concluded the 2017 Regular Session.

All bills passed by both the House and the Senate will become law by July 2017. Bills that have an emergency clause will become law 90 days after being signed by the governor.

Although the session has ended, Kentuckians should still be aware of bills passed. These bills affect the entire state of Kentucky, including UK students. Here are four bills that students should know about:

The first bill that directly affects students is Senate Bill 153, which could cause smaller universities to struggle. Kentucky universities will be required to compete for funding, even though not all universities have the same resources, sizes or sources of financial support.

According to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website, the goal of this bill is to increase the retention and progression of students toward timely credential or degree completion, increase the numbers and types of credentials and degrees earned by all types of students, increase the number of credentials and degrees that garner high-salary jobs, close the achievement gaps by increasing the number of credentials and degrees earned by low-income students, underprepared students and underrepresented minority students, and facilitating credit hour accumulation and transfer of students from KCTCS to four-year postsecondary schools. 

The second bill that could directly affect students is House Bill 14, which is related to hate crimes. According to the LRC, this bill means a sentencing judge can find a person to have committed a hate crime because of a person’s actual or perceived employment as a state, city, county or federal peace officer, member of an organized fire department, or emergency medical services personnel. This can affect student protesters. 

Senate Bill 17 could also affect students. This is an act relating to the expression of religious or political viewpoints in public schools and postsecondary institutions. According to the LRC, this bill permits students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments without discrimination and teachers to teach about religion without discrimination. 

The fourth bill is Senate Bill 136. This is related to in-state tuition for Kentucky National Guard Members. According to the LRC, an active member of the Kentucky National Guard who enrolls as a student in a Kentucky public university as a non-Kentucky resident shall be considered a Kentucky resident for tuition purposes.