Week 3 of the 2024 Legislative Session

The Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort on Tuesday after observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to start the third week of the 2024 Regular Session.

To begin, I co-sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 77 this week, introduced by Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, one of our newest members in the Senate and co-chair of the Kentucky-Israel Caucus. The resolution expressed unwavering support for Israel and our Jewish brothers and sisters and condemned the savage October 7 attacks by Hamas terrorists. I remain troubled, like many, at the protests on university campuses that sympathize with the motives of those seeking to eradicate Jews and destroy the free nation of Israel. A recent Harvard poll reflected a troubling trend among America’s youth, showing that 60 percent of respondents ages 18-24 believed the motives behind the killing of innocent men, women and children in Israel were justified. The vast majority of your Kentucky General Assembly will stand firmly with our nation’s greatest ally, Israel. Your legislature will remain resolved in opposition to the hate we are seeing abroad and, sadly, right here in Kentucky and America.

This week’s notable development was the unveiling of the biennial budget proposal by the state House of Representatives. The proposed bills, House Bill (HB) 6 and HB 1, are now available for review at Bills – Legislative Research Commission. With these proposals in hand, the Senate will begin its review and formulate recommendations.

I found Governor Andy Beshear’s response to the House’s proposal interesting, as he publicly ripped the proposal from his lectern rather than meet with House leaders to express his thoughts on the budget proposal. He indicated he would like to meet with them only at the end of his public criticism remarks of a much more fiscally sound proposal than his own. Sadly, this is par for the course of a governor who has never sought to govern but rather plays petty politics. Ultimately, his response is largely irrelevant.

The Senate will collaboratively work with the House. Lawmakers will remain committed to fiscally sound, disciplined budgeting of your taxpayer dollars. Our motto is to under-promise but overdeliver rather than attempt to tickle your ears with fiscally irresponsible big government promises. I’m sure there are several House proposals we will agree with, notably the House’s commitment to pay down state pension liabilities further and stabilize those systems for the state employees and teachers who rely on them. We will have our thoughts. After poring through recommendations over the next week, we will begin compiling our proposal. I will keep you updated on the pertinent details of the budget as it progresses.

There was an uptick in floor action this week as we passed several Senate bills (SB), including SB 10. This proposed measure aims to amend the Constitution of Kentucky (Section 95) by shifting elections for state constitutional officers to even-numbered years. The objective is to address voter fatigue, boost participation, enhance cost-efficiencies for local governments, and fortify the stability of government at various levels.

Despite recent bipartisan efforts to expand voting access, the 2023 general election saw an 8.7 percent decrease in turnout compared to four years prior. The amendment is anticipated to save local governments about $20 million annually and the state approximately $1.9 million annually in those years that an election would no longer occur. Perhaps the most convincing argument favoring the measure is that voters would be given an additional year free from political campaign ads, mailers and road signs. All indications are that voters are fatigued, as Kentucky holds elections three out of every four years. Only a few other states hold odd-year elections.

If the Kentucky House of Representatives ultimately passes SB 10 and is backed by the majority of Kentucky voters, the amendment would be made to the Constitution of Kentucky. Elections for statewide offices would still occur every four years, starting after the November 2027 election. An additional year would be added to the term of officers elected that year, with the subsequent election set for 2032.

I remain Kentucky’s signature industry’s strongest advocate in the Kentucky General Assembly. I was proud to support my colleague and fellow northern Kentucky member, Sen. Gex Williams’ SB 63, which would bolster Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry and strengthen tourism. It implements a reduction in passenger capacity for riverboats. The proposed threshold, set at 40 or more passengers, facilitates the legal service of alcoholic beverages on these vessels, supporting economic growth and enhancing the appeal of communities along Kentucky’s riverways.

Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort. Find the status of legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181. You can watch and follow legislative activity at KET/org/legislature and Legislature.ky.gov.

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