The 2023 Legislative Session is in the home stretch, with only 4 more legislative days before we enter the veto period. Next week we will be in session Monday through Thursday with two days scheduled for the House and Senate chambers to find agreement on any qualifying legislation. Friday, March 17 will begin the 10-day veto period until Tuesday, March 29 for the Governor to consider all legislation lawmakers have sent to his desk. I am eager to see any bills he may choose to veto that will enter the category of bills the legislature has swiftly overridden and enacted into law over his veto.
The session’s week 6 began to include the House and Senate chambers taking the other’s bills into consideration through legislative committees, giving several final passage and sending them to the Governor’s desk.
Bills sent to the Governor for consideration in week six included measures addressing:
- Teacher workforce shortages (Senate Bill 49) and providing professional development opportunities to educators (Senate Bill 70).
- Unemployment insurance (House Bill 146).
- Educational opportunities and workforce challenges (Senate Bill 54).
- Strengthening Kentucky’s rich winery industry and helping small farm wineries (Senate Bill 28).
Bills and resolutions approved by the Senate in week six and now with the state House of Representatives for consideration include:
Two of the most consequential bills passed this week were Department of Juvenile Justice related measures, Senate Bills 158and 162. Senate Bill 158 provides for an independent audit of DJJ facilities and provides funding to allow for that. An independent entity would be contracted with through the state auditor’s office and the bill sets certain expectations, not the least of which is providing the unfettered access to staff necessary to get to the bottom of the abysmal failure of the executive branch on this front. Senate Bill 162 is a comprehensive measure, returning the state to a regional facility model and allocating over $55 million over the next two years to help repair the broken culture and remedy the failed leadership at the top of the department. It addresses workforce challenges and implements a program to bring retired staff back into the workforce. It also provides staff with professional development opportunities and tools necessary to do their job and protect themselves and others.
Senate Bill 7 would ensure public sector dollars are not being politically weaponized against many of the taxpayers it exists to serve by engaging in funding political action committees through deductions directly from public employees’ paychecks. Taxpayers deserve to know that the system that serves them and their kids is not being used as a political prop and efforts outside the bounds of their children’s education.
The bill would prohibit taxpayer-funded and public-sector entities from facilitating employee contributions to political action committees without an employee’s written consent. It would disallow public employers from assisting a labor organization or other entity in collecting funds or financial information if the funds are used for political purposes. The bill provides the application of these restrictions if deductions were made under bargaining agreements before the effective date of this bill is not allowed.
Senate Bill 7 carries an emergency designation, which means it would go into effect immediately upon filing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s office.
Senate Bill 138 establishes guidelines helping the Education and Professional Standards Board to improve the certification of substitute teachers. The measure will serve to address workforce challenges within school systems. The bill creates three certification categories for substitute teacher applicants after state-required preliminary screenings and background checks.
Senate Bill 202 is a measure to address the increasing challenges related to student behavior our teachers and school administrators are dealing with regularly. The bill provides local school boards more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs if the student is considered a safety threat or is likely to cause a substantial disruption by allowing an expulsion to expand beyond one year. Students are to be placed—with review by the superintendent and due process for the parent—in an alternative education setting that may include, but is not limited to, a virtual program or academy and may include a performance-based program.
Senate Bill 148 would establish the Government Teleworking Task Force. It is important that your state government is functioning effectively and is responsive to your needs. We have an incredible increase in state employees working from home in light of the COVID-19 pandemic; some still have not returned to an office setting. The executive branch all but abandoned a portion of the Capitol Annex building in Frankfort, which is why the legislature recently claimed ownership over those unused offices and parking spaces. I’m a big believer that, in most cases, state workers should be at work in an office setting.
The task force would be challenged to investigate and make recommendations regarding the following:
- How the on-site presence of state employees can be reduced and cost savings realized now that many workers have transitioned to different teleworking models;
- How much in-person work hours have decreased since the pandemic and whether and to what extent has public service suffered due to the decrease; and
- What in-person staffing levels are necessary for the state government to maintain a high level of in-person customer service for residents.
Watch live legislative activity at KET.org/legislature. You can also track the status of other legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181.