The session has now entered the veto recess period with the conclusion of week 13 of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly. Lawmakers worked late to ensure critical legislation was sent to the governor ahead of the veto period. The House and Senate passed over 100 bills this week.
The veto recess period allows the governor to review and consider the legislation the General Assembly has passed. My colleagues and I in the state Senate and state House of Representatives will return to Frankfort for the final two days of this session on Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14. Then, we have reserved the opportunity to override any governor’s vetoes on the bills passed by the General Assembly. We will still have the chance to pass additional bills, but their vetoes cannot be overridden.
The highlight of week 13 was the final passage of the budget bills, including those funding the operations of our three branches of state government: the executive branch (House Bill 1), the legislative branch (House Bill 243), and the judicial branch (House Bill 244). Additionally, we passed the state Transportation Budget and Road Plan, which funds new and improved state highways, roads, and bridges. The Senate played a significant role in each of these critical bills. I am pleased with what each of them means for the future of our state and our district.
The state budget bill cleared the Senate without a single vote in opposition. This is a testament to the diligent and careful planning of the bill over the past several weeks. Hundreds of hours have been invested into crafting the state’s spending plan, with careful consideration of the best interest of Kentuckians in mind. The investment of Kentucky taxpayers’ time and energy made the funding opportunities outlined in these budget bills possible.
Despite the many challenges thrown our way these past two years, the spending plan for the next two years took advantage of the unique funding opportunities available while remaining fiscally responsible and conservative with our precious tax dollars. We are addressing the issues from COVID-19 and natural disasters head-on and investing in our state employees like never before with significant pay raises. We are making further historic investments in education, paying well above the required amount into the state teacher pensions once again, and providing school districts with financial relief by assisting with transportation costs and funding all-day kindergarten. The final budget will help create a safer and brighter Kentucky home for our families and children.
Even though week 13 only consisted of two legislative days, it was undoubtedly the most productive of the session regarding the number of bills making their way through the process. I was happy to support several bills that reached the governor with the Senate’s fingerprint on them.
● House Bill 607 is a bill I was proud to champion through the Senate following the excellent work of bill sponsor and friend, Rep. Adam Koenig. The bill standardizes the excise tax on every pari-mutuel wager placed in Kentucky, taxing all such bets off the top at 1.5 percent, eliminating the 15-cent per person admission tax our race tracks currently face, and more. The bill further strengthens Kentucky’s signature industry while raising more money for the state’s general fund to go toward the valued government-funded areas in this year’s state budget. I am confident this bill will be signed into law in the days ahead.
● House Bill 9 is charter school legislation, an educational policy effort I have long supported. In 2017, the General Assembly established a funding mechanism for charter schools. House Bill 9 finally establishes the first two publically funded pilot project schools, one in the west end of Jefferson County and the other in northern Kentucky. The bill also sets the parameters for districts’ ability to opt-in or opt-out of having charter schools and how enrollment will be determined. This is a big step forward in providing additional educational opportunities for students and families.
● House Bill 3 is a pro-life measure referred to as the Humanity in Healthcare Act. It addresses several aspects of abortion, including access to abortion-inducing drugs. After a December 2021 policy shift by the Food and Drug Administration, these drugs are now readily available through online websites with limited oversight and accountability. This bill corrects this troubling problem. I am also happy to say the Senate added an amendment to the bill banning abortions when the baby’s gestational age is beyond 15 weeks.
● House Bill 8 is a tax modernization measure lowering Kentuckians’ income tax. It does so responsibly and will not blow a hole in state revenues. Income tax rates will be reduced by a half percent if specific criteria are met. Lowering income taxes is made possible by broadening service taxes to particular services.
● House Bill 315 further showcases the General Assembly’s commitment to improving broadband access for our rural communities. HB 315 mandates $182,769,000 from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and $67,231,000 from the ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Fund are to be set aside for the Broadband Deployment Fund. This crucial legislation will establish the Office of Broadband Development and clarify how the office is to administer and implement the Broadband Deployment Fund. Additionally, the bill allocates $20 million in new funding from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund to create the Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund to replace utility poles for the construction of broadband networks.
I am eager for the implementation of these bills and others into law, as I trust they will continue to move our state forward in a positive way. I will keep you updated on the status of the numerous bill pending a decision from the governor and, ultimately, those that may need further action from the legislature.