Legislative Update – February 21, 2020

We began the week by remembering our founding fathers and the noble leaders who helped shape our great nation. On Presidents Day, we salute all U.S. Presidents, past and present, especially Kentucky’s son, Abraham Lincoln. 

If you’ve visited the Capitol, you may remember the grand statue of President Lincoln in the rotunda. There is a century-old tradition of rubbing his left boot for good luck. Especially popular during the session months, lawmakers and visitors frequently touch the statue as they pass through the rotunda. While the hustle and bustle of the session could always use a little more positivity and luck, the statue serves as a daily reminder of Lincoln’s remarkable leadership and moral courage he displayed as a lawmaker, the type of Kentuckian we should all aspire to be.

Week seven marks the halfway point of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly.  For the past couple of months, I, along with my colleagues in the Senate and House, have been working diligently to pass legislation on a wide variety of issues facing Kentuckians and our Commonwealth. With a little fewer than 30 days left in the session, we want to make sure that we are maximizing our time here in Frankfort. 

There was no shortage of bill movement in Senate committees and the chamber this week. The State & Local Government Committee heard testimony and passed several constitutional amendments including Senate Bill (SB) 58, which would limit the Governor’s ability to grant pardons beginning 30 days prior to a gubernatorial election and ending at that gubernatorial inauguration. SB 62 would grant persons convicted of a felony other than a sex offense, a violent offense, or an offense against a child, the right to vote five years after completion of sentence.

Also passing through the Senate State & Local Government Committee was SB 15, also known as “Marsy’s Law.” This constitutional amendment and national effort is no stranger to the Kentucky General Assembly, having been passed in 2018 with bipartisan support. Similar to the previous bill, SB 15 would require victims of crime to be notified throughout the judicial process. This year’s bill adds in the requirement that victims must be notified in advance of any pardon or commutation of a sentence, which is not currently required by law.

The Senate passed another priority measure this week. SB 4 is a bill that serves to depoliticize the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC). Governors in the past have utilized KYTC as leverage when allocating funding for road projects. SB 4 would codify into law the previous administration’s Strategic Highway Investment Formula for Tomorrow (SHIFT) initiative, a data-driven, objective approach to compare capital improvement projects and prioritize limited transportation funds. SB 4 would establish a diverse Transportation Board which would be responsible for recommending the state road plan to the Kentucky General Assembly. However, legislators would still make the ultimate decision on the state’s six-year road budget. SB 4 would also provide necessary oversight over the appointment of the Cabinet Secretary. Board members, in coordination with various organizations such as the Kentucky Association of Counties and the Kentucky League of Cities, would nominate three well-qualified Secretary Candidates for the Governor to choose from. 

Passing in the Senate with bipartisan support was SB 50. This is a technical measure regarding pharmacy benefits and seeks to remedy unfair practices by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) within the Medicaid program. SB 50 tackles many issues including preferred drug lists, reimbursement methodology and dispensing fees within Medicaid managed care.  SB 50 would provide transparency by requiring the contracted PBM to disclose any potential conflict-of-interest with the state Medicaid department, managed care organizations, pharmacies and other groups involved in the pharmaceutical industry. Also, the PBM would have to disclose any fees it imposes on pharmacies.

The amended version of SB 50 would protect a nearly 30-year-old federal arrangement, titled the 340B Drug Pricing Program, which requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide drugs to some health care organizations, such as Kentucky’s rural hospitals, at significantly reduced prices.

Thank you for your calls, emails, and visits to the Capitol. With more than 30 days of the legislative session behind us, our main focus will continue to be the state budget and road plan as we lay out the Commonwealth’s financial path for the next two years. 

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