Week 1 of the 2021 Regular Session

The Kentucky General Assembly has officially gaveled in for the 2021 Regular Session. Our first official few days back in Frankfort have been productive. Diligent work over the course of the 2020 Interim and handling initial procedural responsibilities bring me confidence in what this 30-day session has in store.

The swearing-in ceremony of new legislators, including the newest members of the Kentucky Senate Majority Caucus, was held this week, confirming our 30-8 majority. Additionally, I am honored to say that I have been re-elected to my position as Majority Floor Leader. 

This legislative session will be unlike any to come before it. Standard procedures have been altered to avoid the spread of COVID-19 while still fulfilling our constitutional obligations to the Commonwealth. Lawmakers will also be tasked with passing another 1-year state budget.

The Kentucky Senate Majority Caucus has outlined some priority legislation. In fact, in the first few days back in Frankfort, both the House and the Senate passed several bills out of committee and their respective chambers. Among those is Senate Bill (SB) 1, a bill that will provide much needed clarification on the Governor’s authorities during a state of emergency. Maybe even more importantly, the bill ensures that the Governor must bring members of the people’s branch of state government into the decision making process so as to assure that emergency measures are defined, targeted, and give proper consideration to both the direct and indirect consequences of executive action that is taken. 

Additional bills include SB 2, which will provide overdue legislative and public oversight over the issuing of emergency regulations. SB 3 is a bill I have introduced numerous times in past sessions. It aims to place the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy within the State Agriculture Commissioners Office where it belongs. I have long supported this measure during past administrations and the recent politicization of GOAP proves why it is necessary. Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Paul Hornback will carry this bill in 2021. Finally, SB 9, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act has once again passed the State Senate. The bill would ensure any baby born-alive must receive reasonable life-saving care. SB 9 was vetoed last year by the governor. Unfortunately, the veto occurred after the legislature’s veto override window, so we were unable to overturn the governor’s decision last year. That will be remedied this year, as I trust any potential veto of pro-life legislation will be swiftly overridden.

A recent headline accurately reported that the Kentucky General Assembly has returned with purpose. I assure you, we have, and we are just getting started. There is good reason for our prompt action. If you have listened to me on talk radio, or heard my recent speeches from the Senate floor, you know that our legislative priorities are not new. They are proposals and much needed measures that have been at the center of discussion since March of 2020. The people of Kentucky have received a civics lesson as lawmakers spent most of the year having to explain why the General Assembly was unable to play any official role in the life-altering decisions that were being made unilaterally in the executive branch. Despite the frustrations of only the Governor being able to call the legislature back into session and make us a part of “Team Kentucky,” we pushed forward during the interim and have returned to Frankfort well-prepared, ensuring to our constituents that their cries for help have not gone unnoticed.

My fellow lawmakers and I have heard from thousands of struggling Kentuckians, including small business owners who have had their life’s work ripped from them and employees left jobless and unable to receive unemployment benefits; tens of thousands who have yet to receive an initial check. Parents in need of childcare just so they can go to work—assuming they were fortunate enough to still have a job. We have heard testimony from students explaining how they have been harmed by the arbitrary shutdown of their education.  The 2020 Interim was dedicated to hearing the voice of Kentuckians like them who have been lectured, ordered and ignored for far too long. 

The long-term impacts are significant and can no longer be ignored. The legislative purpose that the Kentucky General Assembly is moving with is the culmination of months of deliberation among lawmakers within the representative branch of government. The executive branch may have no interest in communicating with us, but we have been and will continue to communicate with constituents and each other to craft legislation that will truly address the challenges we are facing here in the Commonwealth.

I am honored for another year of representing the 17th District in the Kentucky State Senate. I will be keeping you updated over the course of the 30-day session.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me Damon.Thayer@LRC.ky.gov.

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