FRANKFORT – Babies are among the big winners in the legislative session that wrapped up on Friday.
Lawmakers passed two bills intended to protect both the unborn and newborns.
In what many evangelicals consider a major victory, the House and Senate came together on legislation that will require women seeking abortions to have face-to-face meetings or real-time video consultations with their physicians or other medical personnel.
Kentucky law has required women to meet with a doctor before having an abortion since 1998. But many doctors have used a loophole to provide information to women via a prerecorded telephone message.
The legislation closing that loophole was the first that Bevin signed into law. It had widespread support from the faith community, including the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention, the state's largest religious organization.
Kentucky Baptist Convention lobbyist Tom Troth said evangelicals fared well with lawmakers.
"By and large it’s been a good session," he said.
Lawmakers also passed legislation that will allow staffed churches to provide temporary shelter for unwanted babies. That bill, signed into law by Bevin on Wednesday, adds churches to a list of safe havens where unwanted newborns up to 30 days old can be dropped off without fear of parents being criminally charged.
Churches wanting to participate in the Safe Haven program will have to display a sign stating its participation and operating hours during which staff will be present.
When an infant is dropped off, church staff would immediately contact 911 to transport the baby to the nearest hospital emergency room.
Legislators also approved a new marriage license form that would protect county clerks’ who oppose gay marriage from violating their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The legislation was in response to some county clerks’ objections to signing marriage licenses for same-sex couples after the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage last year.
Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was sent to jail for 5 days by a federal judge in September when she refused to issue marriage licenses.
Legislation to legalize casinos in the state got no tractions this year.
Despite a long history of wagering on horses, Kentucky doesn’t allow casinos. Forefathers saw to that by including language in the Constitution banning them.
Pro-gambling lawmakers have been pushing for years to change that, and it has generated huge debates in years past. This year, a bi-partisan bill that would have put the issue on the ballot for voters to ratify or reject stumbled out of the gate, never to gain any momentum.
This year’s version of the perennial legislation would have directed 90 percent of the revenue raised in the first 10 years to the pensions of teachers and government workers, and the remaining 10 percent would have gone to the help the state’s horse racing industry.
The perennial bill to legalize medical marijuana suffered the same fate, lacking enough support in a legislative election year to even clear the General Assembly’s committee process.