Bill to support military families passes House with bipartisan support

By Melissa Pettitt

A billed filed by Rep. Walker Thomas, R-Hopkinsville, to help support Kentucky’s military spouses passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday afternoon with bipartisan support.

House Bill 375, if signed into law, would permit eligibility of unemployment benefits for an individual who left a job to follow their military spouse when reassigned to another location more than 100 miles away. The vote on the bill was 80-0.

“The brave men and women who defend our nation are supported by the strongest, most selfless spouses,” Thomas said in a statement. “The Department of Defense offers numerous programs through each branch of service to support our military spouses, but the commonwealth of Kentucky must do their part as well. We are home to two vital military posts and we must be adamant in supporting not only the members of our Armed Forces, but the families that stand by their side.”

Under current law, the state the couple are relocated to must have adopted a similar statue for spouses to receive benefits. This new bill would strip that requirement. HB 375 is co-sponsored by another local legislator, Rep. Myron Dossett, R-Pembroke, as well as Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond.

For Thomas, who represents the Fort Campbell area and has been a primary sponsor on two pro-military bills, he says it’s about supporting families who make sacrifices.

“This would help the military spouses who are not leaving by choice of their own, but they could draw unemployment for a while until they could get resituated,” he said. “It’s really about helping military families when they get reassigned.”

The bill will now head to the state Senate for consideration.

Thomas also filed House Bill 405 last month which would exclude military pension plan distributions from the adjusted gross income reported for Kentucky Income Tax. Currently, retirement income is excluded from state income tax up to $41,110. According to information from the Legislative Research Commission, 73 percent of military retirees have a pension income above the $41,110 threshold and the estimated average yearly pension income of those with incomes above $41,110 is $56,000. There are an estimated 3,863 retired military members in Kentucky.

Thomas doesn’t expect that bill will be heard soon, as it’s expected the General Assembly and Gov. Matt Bevin will take a closer look at the tax and pension systems this year. But he did want to file it so other legislators had time to look at and read through it while research into its impact is conducted. HB 405 is currently in the Appropriations and Revenue committee.

Ky. Sen. Westerfield’s juvenile expungement bill passes Senate

A bill aimed at helping youth with criminal records get back on track passed its first hurdle to becoming state law Thursday, by unanimously passing through the Kentucky Senate.

Senate Bill 195, sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, will expand juvenile record expungement laws to include additional offenses and make it more consistent with adult record expungement law passed last year.

“The bill makes juvenile record expungement more consistent with the adult expungement bill we passed last year,” Westerfield said. “Juvenile records are largely confidential, however, there are some college applications, employment applications and various instances where youth who become young adults are asked to report those things and they either have to report them or lie about whether or not they are there. We want to give them the same shot (as adults). In fact, we want to give them a better shot at proving their behavior and becoming responsible adults.”

SB 195 requires a minor to not have been convicted of a felony for at least two years and excludes serious offenses outlined in KRS 439.3401 and sex crimes outlined in KRS 17.500. It also makes expungement of felony or public offense convictions discretionary.

The bill will now be sent to the House for consideration. Westerfield doesn’t foresee many objections in the House, but said there is a possibility they could make some logistical changes. He also pointed out the House overwhelmingly supported last year’s House Bill 40, which expanded the adult record expungement process.

In a statement from Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, he said, “SB 195 will help youth who stay out of trouble have brighter futures as contributing members of their community.”

Republished from The Eagle Post.

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