Week 8 of the 2023 Legislative Session

Lawmakers returned to Frankfort on Wednesday, March 29, following the 10-day veto period, in which Governor Andy Beshear was allowed time to consider all legislation that had reached his desk. The Governor vetoed 15 bills in total but, likely given it is an election year, allowed several to go into law without his support (signature). Those bills were all added to the list of over 70 bills and resolutions he has vetoed but have been soundly overridden by the state House and Senate chambers since his inauguration.

To begin, I want to inform the thousands who have contacted my office, spoken with me at the grocery store, gym, movie theater and everywhere else that sports betting will soon be legal in Kentucky. I’ve long supported and strongly advocated for the bill in the Senate. Thanks to the good work of advocates, we secured the necessary threshold of votes to get the bill over the finish line.

Another measure I am proud to have given final passage to was House Bill 5, relating to the bourbon barrel tax. The bill will phase out the tax between 2026 and 2043. Distilleries were taxed more than $33 million on their barrels last year alone. Some changes from the original version help make school districts and local governments whole in the phase out by shifting the liability from the state to the bourbon industry, giving distillers a choice on how to move forward with the transition, and more. I am happy we will be phasing out this industry-harming tax and I trust the result will lead to even more economic growth and job creation, especially in areas in need that do not currently house bourbon barrels.

Among the bills passed is Senate Bill 75, which ensures representation where there is taxation (parking fees) as it relates to residents and travelers in Lexington within the jurisdiction of the Lexington & Fayette County Parking Authority, also known as LexPark. LexPark had recently increased parking fees and extended parking fee hours with little notification to residents and no public comment. Many of my constituents reached out to me rightly outraged by this action. I began by having a resolution adopted earlier in the legislative session encouraging LexPark to undo its decision, but unfortunately, the Senate’s message was ignored. Therefore, I introduced Senate Bill 75. The measure is similar to past legislation addressing the inappropriate nature of quasi-government agencies, unaccountable to the public, increasing fees on residents with little recourse. The bill ensures that elected officials must approve any recommended fee increases.

Bills enacted without the Governor’s support included:

  • Senate Bill 4 prevents the retirement of fossil fuel-fired coal plants unless utility companies demonstrate that taking them offline will not harm Kentucky residents or increase their energy costs.
  • Senate Bill 5 establishes a process by which parents can challenge questionable sexually explicit materials in their children’s schools.
  • House Bill 39 changes the governance of the Kentucky Horse Park by amending statutory provisions governing the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.
  • House Bill 264 is an economic development measure designed to attract new and maintain existing innovative companies. The bill removes burdens and red tape from companies and allows them to develop innovative products and processes in Kentucky and test those products for a year from overly restrictive laws and regulations. The companies will be supervised during this developmental period by the Kentucky Office of Regulatory Relief created within the Office of the Attorney General.

The following bills were vetoed and overridden by both legislative chambers:

Senate Bill 7 ensures 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 automatic deductions taken directly from public employees’ paychecks.

Governor Andy Beshear cited several inaccuracies in his Senate Bill 7 veto message. The bill does not impede a union member’s constitutional first amendment rights. In 2022, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals noted there is ‘no constitutional right to a check-off or payroll deduction system for political fundraising.’ The Governor’s insinuation union members have been stripped of their ability to easily pay membership dues by requiring them to go outside the public payroll system is patently false. It has never been easier given modern technology.

Additionally, the Governor alleges that for the Commonwealth to be eligible for $76 million in federal transit funds, “the U.S. Department of Labor must certify that arrangements are in place to continue collective bargaining rights for employees affected by the funding.” SB 7 does not change the right established in KRS 336.130 for public employees to engage in collective bargaining. Most notably, Senate Bill 7 grandfathers in the original terms of existing collective bargaining agreements through their expiration date.

Along with other inaccuracies, the Governor’s veto message is highly misleading because it concerns union dues and political contributions collected by public payroll systems, not charitable contributions or health insurance.

Senate Bill 65 made administrative regulations found deficient by a legislative committee null and void. Although various administrative regulations were found deficient over the last year, the Governor’s veto message speaks solely to the regulations related to expanding Medicaid coverage for vision, dental, and hearing services.

Members of the General Assembly urged the Beshear administration to refrain from expanding these services until the existing services provided within the Medicaid program – especially the current dental – could be sustained. Because of inadequate Medicaid reimbursement rates, Kentucky is facing a critical shortage of vision, hearing, and dental providers. Continuing to expand services when the current program is unsustainable and ineffective is an irresponsible policy initiative. The Governor’s veto message failed to mention the provision allowing individuals to continue receiving the services initiated or rendered under the expanded program. The Governor’s reckless effort to expand these services at a time when there are many other recipients and Medicaid provider needs that are just as relevant and arguably more pressing is irresponsible. The Governor’s message lacks vision, is tone-deaf, and lacks bite in addressing the holistic needs of Kentuckians.

Senate Bill 107—ironically and contrary to the Governor’s rationale in his veto message saying the bill “politicizes the process” of hiring the commissioner of education—mitigates the Governor’s own inappropriate political influence.

Only hours after Governor Beshear was inaugurated on December 10, 2019, he dramatically politicized the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) by completely dissolving the Kentucky Board of Education, appointing Democrats to all eleven voting-member positions, and thereby immediately paving the way for removing the state’s education chief with no just cause, then hiring current KDE Commissioner Jason Glass.

Glass, a journeyman in the education arena, had spent several years in Colorado before accepting the position of KDE commissioner. The indication is he was unsuccessful as a Jefferson County, Colorado, Public Schools superintendent.

Rather than creating “an unnecessary bureaucratic obstacle,” as asserted by Governor Beshear, Senate Bill 107 creates a necessary check and balance for what has sadly become nothing more than a political bureaucrat.

The Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 150 came as no surprise as he put his party’s politics over the people of Kentucky.

The bill aims to strengthen parental engagement and communication in their children’s education. It cleared the Senate with bipartisan support. The bill reinforces a positive atmosphere in the classroom and removes unnecessary distractions, such as social pressures mandating the use of ‘preferred pronouns’ in our schools. SB 150 provides expected privacy rights for restrooms, locker rooms and shower rooms that align with a child’s biological sex. Perhaps most importantly, Senate Bill 150 prohibits using chemical-altering drugs for minor children and ‘gender-affirming care’ that includes genital mutilation of minor children incapable of consenting to such irreparable life-altering decisions.

The 2023 session was a 30-day, non-budget session. Some bills were heard in legislative committees but ultimately did not make it over the finish line. Although some measures were not enacted, it is not to say they nor their advocate’s efforts are in vain. Beginning in June, we will enter the 2023 Interim period, where more in-depth policy discussions will continue in anticipation of next year’s 60-day legislative session.

I encourage you to stay engaged in the legislative process. You can find a listing of all enacted bills and those pending with the Governor by visiting legislature.ky.gov. You can find archived legislative coverage at KET.org/legislature/archives.

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