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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Kentucky Senate Panel Adds Needed Transperency To Child Death And Abuse Bill.

Senate panel overhauls bill aimed at reducing child abuse deaths

State Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville
 

FRANKFORT — A bill aimed at reducing deaths and serious injuries from child abuse and neglect in Kentucky got an overhaul Wednesday by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, which added several transparency requirements to the measure.

The committee unanimously passed a revised version of House Bill 290, which establishes a 20-person independent panel to review cases of children who have been killed or seriously injured as a result of abuse or neglect. There view panel is expected to recommended changes to the way Kentucky investigates and prosecutes child abuse deaths.
The measure now goes to the full Senate for consideration. HB 290 passed the House last month despite objections from the Kentucky Press Association that too much of the panel's work would be conducted in secret.

The Senate committee altered HB 290 on Wednesday to ensure that the review panel's meetings would be open to the public. Under the revised proposal, the group's meetings could be closed only when the panel discussed topics that state law already allows to be deliberated behind closed doors.
The committee also tweaked the bill to ensure that documents used by the panel would remain subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act. However, the documents would not be released by the panel but by the agency that has custody of the original documents.

Committee chairwoman Julie Denton, R-Louisville, added a provision that would put the review panel under the purview of the legislature's Program Review and Investigations Committee. The House's version of the bill attached the review panel to the state Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
Denton said during Wednesday's meeting that the Senate version of House Bill 290 struck a proper balance on the issue of transparency. The review panel must be able to review documents that it needs to make recommended changes, but the public must be able to understand how the panel makes its decisions and recommendations, she said.

Gov. Steve Beshear created the independent panel by executive order in July after several media stories highlighted shortcomings in the child-protection system. For the panel to continue, it needs legislative approval.
Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer with the Kentucky Press Association, said after Wednesday's vote that the changes made to HB 290 would make it easier for the public to determine how the panel does its work.
"It's substantially better than the original House bill," Fleischaker said. "The meetings will not be fully closed ... There will be much more transparency."
Denton said after Wednesday's meeting that the measure could be voted on by the full Senate on Thursday.

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