Week 8 of the 2021 Regular Session

With the end of the 2021 Regular Session in sight, we are wrapping up legislative efforts by passing a variety of bills and finalizing the state’s annual budget. 

The General Assembly needs to pass most bills by Tuesday, March 16, to consider any veto overrides that may be necessary. 

Why so soon? The legislature will recess on Tuesday, March 16 and will reconvene on Monday, March 29. During the recess period, the Governor will have time to consider bills that have arrived on his desk. Upon returning to the Capitol at the end of the month, the legislature will have two days remaining to pass additional legislation and override any vetoes. Therefore, any legislation sent to the governor during those final days will not be eligible for a veto override, as we are constitutionally required to conclude Regular Session business before April 1 in odd numbered years. 

In other news, the House and Senate have overridden the Governor’s vetoes on Senate Bill (SB) 3 and House Bill (HB) 6.Since both of these measures contain what’s known as an emergency clause, the bills go into effect immediately upon becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment.

Senate Bill 3 moves the Office of Agricultural Policy under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner’s Office.This is a bill that has been introduced a couple of times in the past and under both a Republican and Democrat Governor. In the Governor’s veto message, he argues that the bill is unconstitutional because it gives authority to the Agriculture Commissioner to appoint members of the Agriculture Development Board and the Agricultural Finance Corporation. This argument becomes a moot point because SB 3 statutorily detaches the boards from the Office of the Governor and places it under the Office of the Agriculture Commissioner. The legislature has the sole authority under the Constitution of Kentucky to reform law.

The office’s official role is to promote the interests of agriculture and horticulture, oversee agricultural revenue, and protect Kentucky’s livestock industries. Moving these critical boards under the authority of the Commissioner of Agriculture streamlines our efforts to strengthen Kentucky agriculture and help our farmers. 

House Bill 6 adds teeth to an already existing legislative committee which, with the passing of this bill, would become the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee. It codifies subpoena powers, gives the committee the ability to maintain the confidentiality of investigative documents and imposes fines on those in non-compliance with the committee’s efforts.

Several bills are now with the Governor for consideration including:

Senate Bill 84, known as “Dignity Bill 2.0,” forbids correctional facilities from placing in restrictive housing, administrative segregation or solitary confinement inmates who are pregnant or in a 6-week postpartum period.  The bill also requires that correctional facilities allow infants to stay with their mothers for 72 hours after delivery and requires that the facilities advise pregnant inmate’s notice of and access to community-based pregnancy-related programs.

House Bill 518 would change the makeup of the Kentucky State Fair Board and clarify how it operates. Not only does the fair board operate the Kentucky Exposition Center where the state fair is held, but also, operates the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville. The two properties have an annual $500 million economic impact and generate $40 million in taxes.

The General Assembly took significant steps regarding the one-year State Budget this past week. Biennial budgets, or two-year budgets, are traditionally enacted in even-numbered years, the 60-day regular sessions of the General Assembly. As the budget was being crafted last year amid the pandemic’s onset, legislators did not know what the economic outlook, and therefore, what state revenues would be. Out of an abundance of caution, it was determined to pass only a one-year budget, then return to the 30-day session this year to pass another. This year’s budget will essentially be a continuation budget and will look similar to last year’s. 

The budget conference committee met to publicly review and discuss decisions regarding the budget proposals from the Governor, the House, and the Senate. This committee consists of Majority and Minority Leadership and Appropriation and Revenue Committee Chairmen from both chambers. You can find the archived video of budget conference committee meetings by visiting www.ket.org/legislature/archives.

These final days of the session will be busy, so I encourage you to utilize the many legislative resources available to the public. Stay up to date on committee meetings and bill activity by visiting the LRC’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov. Additionally, you can stream live legislative coverage by logging onto www.ket.org/legislature.

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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