The General Assembly reconvened today for the 50th legislative day of the 2020 Session and for the first time since recessing last Thursday under an amended calendar brought about by the COVID-19 crisis. When the legislature adjourned tonight they did so until next Wednesday, April 1.
The purpose of today's legislative action was primarily focused around providing the Governor some statutory relief to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. That relief came in the form of SB 150, a bill originally dealing with out of network health insurance billings, but the House removed those provisions on March 19 and replaced them with the COVID-19 statutory relief. The Senate and the Governor had some additional ideas for statutory flexibility so the bill was pushed into a conference committee today to make those changes. The final version of SB 150 will be available later this evening, but does contains the following:
- Expands various Unemployment Insurance provisions to allow for independent contractor and small business owners to apply, to match them up to the federal government changes, and to provide flexibility to the Education & Workforce Cabinet to administer;
- Mirrors the state tax filing deadlines to the Federal tax deadlines, but also waives penalties and interest for delayed state tax filings.
- Allows health care providers to utilize telehealth technologies to see patients and requires those visits to be reimbursed the same as a face to face visit.
- Provides local governments flexibility in tax filings, in meeting and reporting requirements.
- Allows for the relaxation of open meeting and open records laws to delay response to requests and to allow government officials to appear via remote technologies.
- The provisions in SB 150 are only to last as long as the State of Emergency lasts and the bill requires the Governor issue an end date of the State of Emergency.
There were other bills considered today either in a handful of special called committee meetings or on the floors of the chambers as concurrences or conference committee reports. Of note was final passage of: HB 2 (Human Trafficking), HB 415 (Direct shipping of alcohol), HB 150 (law restatements), and HB 484 (Public employee pension reorganization). Other legislative activity from today was aimed at preparing bills for action when the General Assembly returns next Wednesday.
We expect next Wednesday to be a long day of legislative activity with the primary focus being passage of the budget bills including the Executive Branch Budget and the Transportation Budget. In addition, we are expecting the legislature to finalize action on a handful of bills they want to see passed this session that primarily are non-controversial. Just a reminder that bills will need to be passed by midnight on April 1 in order to preserve the legislature's ability to override any gubernatorial veto before constitutionally mandated adjournment on April 15.
Speaking of the budget, the Budget Conference Committee made up of House and Senate Leadership and the two A&R Chairs will continue its work tomorrow and likely through the weekend to finalize the budgets for action next Wednesday. The Conference Committee agreed yesterday to base the budget on the "pessimistic" estimates provided by the Consensus Forecast Group. This change means that they will have $115 Million less in FY 21 and $174 Million less in FY 22 than previously anticipated. The House and Senate agreed to remove teacher and state employee raises and increases in SEEK and higher education. Additional cuts and/or changes will be needed to budget to the revised revenue estimates and therefore we expect the final budget bill to look much different that what was previously passed in either chamber.