Week 7 of the 2024 Legislative Session

Having passed the midpoint of the 2024 Regular Session, it’s a pivotal time to reflect and renew our dedication to our legislative responsibilities. With just under 30 legislative days remaining, we recommit ourselves to the crucial tasks that lie ahead.

Throughout the session, we’ve had the privilege of hosting various student groups and esteemed guests within the halls of our Capitol. Their presence has infused our deliberations with fresh perspectives, reminding us of the importance of civic engagement and the responsibility we bear to mentor and empower the next generation of leaders in the commonwealth.

In the words of John Quincy Adams, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” As we navigate the complexities of governance, this quote reminds us that true leadership is marked by its ability to inspire others to reach their fullest potential.


In light of Presidents’ Day, it’s fitting to pay homage to the exemplary leadership and selfless sacrifices of those who have held our nation’s highest office. Much like John Quincy Adams, our past presidents have steered the course of history with their visionary leadership, guiding us through moments of adversity and transformation.


The pace of activity picked up in the Senate this week as we passed several bills, including:


I was proud to co-sponsor Senate Bill (SB) 4, which is yet another step by the supermajorities of the Kentucky General Assembly to financially stabilize Kentucky teachers’ ailing pension system. For some background, since 2017 when the state House of Representatives flipped to a Republican supermajority, finally aligning with the Senate that has held a majority since 2000, lawmakers have committed to improving the solvency of our teachers’ retirement system. Approximately $10 billion has been poured into the system. That includes almost $4.5 billion over what state law would have required to be invested.


SB 4 simply ensures all teachers and administrators in urban and rural districts are operating on the same standard regarding the sick leave program. It ensures all earned sick leave for teachers and administrators is protected and sets a 10 sick day maximum that can be calculated toward final retirement benefits. The bill largely sets up a reporting mechanism to know the true costs we owe for our teachers’ sick leave program by requiring the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System (TRS) to collect the information from local school districts. School districts already have this information, but we learned TRS was not monitoring it and thus did not know what the state owes for the sick leave program. 


The Kentucky General Assembly paid off $380 million in liabilities for the program several years ago thinking we had paid off the full liability only to later learn from TRS that the liability was still over $500 million. We paid that remaining amount off in the current state budget. For the long-term solvency of our teacher’s pension system, we know the true financial liability of the sick leave program. Above all else, the General Assembly’s top priority must be to give our teachers confidence they will always receive their monthly retirement checks. 


Estimates indicate that by 2030, lawmakers will need to spend $2 billion yearly to help sustain TRS. For a little context, if our general fund revenues remained about the same, we are placing well over 10 percent of our annual budget into this one retirement system alone. Those costs do not include the largest pension system for state employees. Despite the incredible financial investment we’ve made into TRS, the funding ratio since 2017 has only improved by 0.9 percent. This is troubling but gets to the point of why bills like SB 4 are so vital.


I co-sponsored SB 6, which was approved by the Senate, to ensure students and employees of public postsecondary institutions are not penalized for refusing to endorse discriminatory concepts. It also prohibits preferential treatment based on political or social ideology and mandates that courses don’t advocate discriminatory concepts as fact. Additionally, SB 6 mandates new student orientation programs and allocates at least 50 percent of diversity initiative employees’ duties to supporting Pell grant students. The attorney general can enforce the act through civil action, and institutions must publish designated course information on their website.


SB 20 is another bill I co-sponsored, which addresses the growing trend of violent crimes committed by youth across the commonwealth. It would amend current law to default certain violent crimes committed by juveniles above the age of 15 to be tried as an adult in circuit court.  This would apply to juveniles charged with a Class A, B, or C felony in which a firearm was used in the commission of the offense. Additionally, convicted violent juvenile offenders of a Class C felony for wanton endangerment with the discharge of a firearm or an assault in the second degree would be required to serve at least 50 percent of their sentence before they are eligible for probation, shock probation, parole, conditional discharge, or other form of early release. Importantly, the bill allows local trusted elected officials, the county attorney and the commonwealth’s attorney—who are more likely to be familiar with a juvenile—to move the defendant back to juvenile court.


SB 11 would enhance school safety efforts by requiring schools to be notified within 24 hours when a juvenile is charged with certain crimes, ensuring better communication and proactive measures to protect our students. SB 11 is another step in Kentucky’s efforts to lead in school safety, as past measures have become a model being adopted by other states in the U.S. I can see this latest measure going a long way in strengthening communication among school personnel and law enforcement and making notifications and the alert of potential threats to our schools more possible.


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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