The Kentucky General Assembly returned to session today for the remaining 22 days of the 2021 Session. Legislative activity will be intense as the General Assembly deals with significant issues during the pandemic under new procedures and an amended calendar.
The legislature passed seven bills and sent them to the Governor’s office for his consideration during the first eight days of the session prior to the January recess break. As noted below, six of these bills were vetoed by Governor Beshear. While there have been some indications based on public statements that negotiations may take place between the Governor and legislative leadership concerning some of these bills, the General Assembly is expected to act quickly on its return to override the gubernatorial vetoes.
With Republican supermajorities in each chamber, the legislature will have little difficulty in mustering veto overrides that only require a constitutional majority of one more than half of the members in the 100 member House and the 38 member Senate. Discussions between the branches are expected to occur only after veto override has been accomplished.
- SB 1 – Sponsored by Senator Castlen, legislation to limit a governor’s executive authority during times of emergency.
- SB 2 – Sponsored by Senator West, legislation related to administrative regulations and the process by which state agencies issue emergency regulation.
- HB 1 – Sponsored by Rep. Rowland, legislation to allow entities to remain open if following CDC guidelines or Executive Branch guidelines, whichever is least restrictive. The bill also includes provisions to waive unemployment insurance late fees and penalties for employers.
- HB 2 – Sponsored by Rep. Fischer, legislation to allow the Attorney General to seek injunctive relief and civil and criminal penalties against abortion facilities. Set additional parameters for abortion procedures during times of emergency.
- HB 3 – Sponsored by Rep. Massie, legislation to change the venue for challenges to a state statute from Franklin Circuit Court to the circuit court in the county of the plaintiff’s residence.
- HB 5 – Sponsored by Rep. Meredith, legislation related to temporary reorganizations.
Over the January recess, legislative leaders began informal negotiations between the chambers on the legislative version of the executive branch budget. Reportedly, there was progress in the negotiations, but a finished product that will be made public remains some days off. Consequently, the details of the budget are not yet public. However, there are indications that it may essentially be a continuation budget, with a few changes, as legislators chart a cautious and safe course in view of the uncertainties of the economy in the coming fiscal year.
Other Significant Issues
There is no shortage of significant issues that may be dealt with in the remaining days of the session. COVID liability relief remains a priority on the legislative agenda with difference in approaches to be resolved. Prior to adjourning, the House passed HB 10 which was received in the Senate with no action having been taken, and the Senate’s version of liability relief, SB 5, in the Senate Economic Development, Tourism. and Labor committee.
Other pressing issues such as addressing the fiscal needs of the road fund and the unemployment insurance trust fund, working around a Kentucky Supreme Court opinion that found the historical racing to be unconstitutional and strengthening broadband infrastructure, as well as many others remain to be addressed in the final days of the session.
Changes in the Calendar and Process
Changes to the Session calendar were made by the leadership over the recess break. The amended calendar, which may be viewed HERE, has several significant modifications to limit the number of bills filed. Under the new calendar, February 2nd, rather than February 5, will be the last day for legislators to make bill requests.
Likewise, the time for filing bills has been shortened to February 10 in the Senate and February 11 in the House from February 12 and 16 respectively. Other changes to the calendar for February, included putting the General Assembly on a four day workweek with drafting days on Mondays, when the legislature will not be in session.
With access to the Capitol and Capitol Annex severely restricted, the Legislative Research Commission has taken steps to open the process to the public with a new on line process for requests to testify on bills before committees.
The LRC has also taken steps to expedite public access to committee amendments and committee substitutes. In the past, these changes to legislation have not been accessible to the public until after the floor session and the updating of the LRC website. Under the new procedure, ID amendments and such committee substitutes will be posted on the committee’s materials website as soon as possible following the meeting at which they were adopted.