Kentucky bills to watch that focus on children’s welfare in 2024

Legislation filed to address child abuse, neglect and more

By: - January 17, 2024 5:30 am

Children eat lunch together on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, at the iKids Childhood Enrichment Center in Benton, Kentucky. (Kentucky Lantern photo by Abbey Cutrer)

Kentucky’s youth face a plethora of challenges that stand between them and their ability to thrive fully. 

Some bills filed during the 2024 legislative session would address key issues surrounding child abuse, neglect and more

Here are a few pieces of legislation to watch. 

Making diapers accessible 

Cassie Chambers-Armstrong, D-Louisville. (LRC Public Information)

A Senate bill that would exempt diapers from the sales tax has bipartisan support, including from Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. 

Senate Bill 97 was introduced by Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D-Louisville, and now has a slew of bipartisan co-sponsors. 

“I support tax cuts, and Kentucky already exempts sales tax on items like groceries and medicine, so I think an exemption on something as important as diapers makes sense,” Thayer said in a statement explaining his support. “We might have partisanship in Frankfort sometimes because of philosophical differences, but we don’t have polarization as you might find in Washington D.C. Senate Bill 97 is a good example of a measure that can bring people together from across the aisle. I’m happy to co-sponsor the bill.” 

If a family can’t afford diapers, they may leave their child in one for too long, resulting in rashes or worse, the Lantern previously reported

Diapers for one child cost around $80 monthly, according to Louisville’s Office for Women. Those who can’t afford that may not be able to go to work or take their children to child-care centers that require parents to supply diapers. 

“I don’t want to say that getting rid of our 6% sales tax is going to solve all of the problems,” Chambers Armstrong said Thursday. “But we know from experience and from the many other states that have tried this, that it works, that it helps and that it helps our kids.”  

Fighting child sexual assault 

Rep. Stephanie Dietz, R-Edgewood, filed a bill that would make it a Class D felony to knowingly own, sell or otherwise offer a child sex doll. 

House Bill 207 would also make it a Class C felony to bring a child sex doll – defined as a “doll, mannequin or robot that is intended for sexual stimulation or gratification and that has the features of, or has features that resemble those of, a minor – into Kentucky with plans to sell or otherwise distribute it. 

Rep. Stephanie Dietz, R-Edgewood. (LRC Public Information)

“Sexual abuse cases in which the victim is a child are some of the most difficult cases to try in court,” Dietz said in a statement. “The victims will have to deal with the physical, mental, and emotional impact of this sexual assault their entire lives. With HB 207 we’ve identified a way to help law enforcement and prosecutors and I’m hopeful we can get it through this session. The individuals who sell these dolls are doing no more than contributing to the sexual assault of children.”

She added: “These dolls are manufactured, sold and used purely for the intent of raising sexual arousal and feeding the desire to have sex with a child. It is time we recognize that in statute and provide another tool for prosecuting child sexual predators.”

Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders said the state loophole that currently lets people use these items has “allowed pedophiles to practice victimizing children” and doing away with it “will save countless children from rape and sexual abuse.”  

Recognizing child abuse 

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, filed legislation that would require animal control officers in Kentucky to learn how to recognize child abuse and neglect – physical, sexual and emotional. 

Senate Bill 106 would require animal control officers to complete training on this every two years starting by the end of January 2025. 

“Studies (have) shown there is a strong link between animal abuse and child abuse,” Tichenor said in a statement. “It seems that animal abuse is a pretty good indicator of child abuse and if this legislation saves one child’s life, it will be well worth it.” 

Other bills to watch 

Other bills to watch that are related to child welfare, which the Lantern has reported on, include: 

Kentucky Youth Advocates, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for children’s welfare, is also tracking related bills this session. 

To read more about the bills KYA is watching this session, visit https://kyyouth.org/bill-tracker/

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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.

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