Kentucky General Assembly introduces bills affecting college students


A person walks up the ice covered step of the Kentucky State Capitol on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, in Frankfort, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff.

Alexis Baker, Reporter

With the Kentucky General Assembly underway, new bills are being introduced that will directly impact Kentucky’s younger demographic. Here are three to watch this session:

S.B. 9

Senate Bill 9 is summarized as “an act related to hazing.” If passed, this bill will establish hazing in the first degree as a Class D Felony and hazing in the second degree as a Class A misdemeanor.

Spectrum News 1 said that the current consequences of hazing are up to universities and colleges. The consequences may include expulsion or suspension of students and organizations.

The bill defines hazing as “action which endangers the mental or physical health of a minor or student for the purpose of recruitment, initiation into, affiliation with, or enhancing or maintaining membership or status within any organization.”

According to the bill, these actions can be executed by minors or students in various ways:

“(a) Violate federal or state criminal law;

(b) Consume any food, liquid, alcoholic liquid, drug, tobacco product, or other controlled substance which subjects the minor or student to a risk of mental harm or physical injury;

(c) Endure brutality of a physical nature, including whipping, beating or paddling, branding, or exposure to the elements;

(d) Endure brutality of a mental nature, including personal servitude, sleep deprivation, or circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial mental distress;

(e) Endure brutality of a sexual nature; or

(f) Endure any other activity that creates a reasonable likelihood of mental harm or physical injury to the minor or student.”

The bill would also disqualify those convicted of hazing from receiving the Kentucky Education Excellence Scholarship, a scholarship program administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority.

A fire was lit under this bill by the family of Thomas “Lofton” Hazelwood.

Hazelwood, a member of UK’s Farmhouse Fraternity chapter, died from alcohol toxicity on Oct. 18, 2021, after a chapter related event. The Kernel recently uncovered details surrounding his death and the culture of hazing in his chapter.

Section 6 of the bill states “this Act may be cited as Lofton’s Law.”

This bill is sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills.

S.B. 20

The General Assembly is also introducing an additional bill that will directly impact the lifestyle of a mass amount of college-aged students.

Senate Bill 20 will attempt to ban TikTok from state government technology and networks. It has been declared an emergency due to the risk of sharing confidential data with foreign governments.

The bill states it will “prevent the use of TikTok on state government-issued equipment or while connected to any network owned, 20 operated, or otherwise under the control of state government.”

In the past five years, TikTok has become one of the most popular apps. It provides a constant loop of video content ranging from 15 seconds to three minutes.

According to the bill, the goal is to promote the preservation of safety, security, privacy of Kentucky and its citizens.

This bill is sponsored by Senators Robby Mills, Gary Boswell, Donald Douglas, Stephen Meredith and Phillip Wheeler.

S.B. 24

The General Assembly also introduced a bill that will impact how college students pay for their higher education in Kentucky.

Senate Bill 24 refers to changes in Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) funding for students who are graduates from noncertified high schools.

The bill defines an eligible noncertified school graduate as someone who meets the following guidelines:

“(a) Is a citizen, national, or permanent resident of the United States and a Kentucky resident;

(b) Graduates in the 2023-2024 academic year or thereafter from a Kentucky nonpublic secondary school not certified by the Kentucky Board of Education;

(c) Is not a convicted felon; and

(d) Completes all KEES noncertified student application requirements set by the authority.”

According to the bill, upon its approval, the base amount for the KEES award for noncertified school graduates will take an ACT score into account. Currently, KEES money only considers a noncertified school graduate’s GPA.

These changes do not apply to University of Kentucky students.

This bill is sponsored by Senators John Schickel, Jimmy Higdon, Ralph Alvarado, Gary Boswell, Donald Douglas, Rick Girdler, Stephen Meredith, Robby Mills, Adrienne Southworth, Damon Thayer, Lindsey Tichenor, Stephen West, Phillip Wheeler, Gex Williams, Mike Wilson and Max Wise.

As of Jan. 6 at 2 p.m., the General Assembly adjourned and these bills have not passed in the House. The regular session will convene again on Feb. 7th.