Kentucky Political News Headlines

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

KY Legislative Update - Sine Die



Sine Die

The Kentucky General Assembly brought the 2021 Regular Session to a close on its final legislative day just before midnight tonight. Before adjourning sine die, the legislature addressed several matters of significance the last two days that could be divided into two categories: Veto Overrides & Unfinished Business.

Veto Overrides
The Governor vetoed 20 bills and one joint resolution in whole and vetoed line items in HB 192, HB 195, HB 249, HB 320, HB 405, and HB 413 that the House and Senate had to consider overriding on the final two days of session. In the end they took action to override vetoes on 19 of 20 bills, except for SB 63, and the one resolution vetoed in whole. They also overrode line item vetoes in 4 of the 6 bills that contained them, except for HB 405 & HB 413.

Notable veto overrides included:
- HB 563 - This bill will bring school choice to Kentucky through education opportunity accounts that allow for dollars to be used for private schools and it addressed open borders between public schools as well.
- HB 320 - The bill appropriates $250 million for broadband and allows electric cooperatives to capitalize broadband affiliates to bring unserved and underserved areas of the state.
- HB 192 - The Executive branch budget is always the biggest issue in any session it is considered and this one is no different.

Unfinished Business
There were several matters addressed on the session's final days and it is important to note that the General Assembly has adjourned and will not have the option of overriding any vetoes that may be issued over the next 10 days on these bills by Governor Beshear. Those notable bills that made up the unfinished business of the session's final two days included:

- SB 4 - A priority issue for the General Assembly was addressing law enforcement's use of "no-knock" warrants in the wake of the Breonna Taylor incident in Louisville last spring. 
- SB 5 - A bill that was introduced early in the session and a priority issue for the General Assembly was to address COVID-19 liability relief for business, education and health care interests.
- HB 178 - Reorganization of the KY Board of Education including adding a teacher and student representative to the Board.
- HB 382 - A supplemental appropriation bill that appropriated $575 million (federal funds) to Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, $140 million (general funds) for all day Kindergarten, an additional $50 million (federal funds) for broadband specific to economic development projects and some language provisions dealing with consumer complaints related to broadband.  
- HB 574 - An omnibus revision to Kentucky's election laws that will change the way Kentuckians vote in 2022 when they go to the polls. 
- SB 36 - Appropriates $250 million (federal funds) for drinking water and wastewater grants to be administered through the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority.
- HB 556 - Provides a revolving loan fund for rural hospitals, but also adds several appropriations: $58 million (federal funds) for Capitol renovation, $10 million (general funds) for the West End Opportunity Zone, $127 (federal funds) million for school construction, $75 million (general funds) vocational school construction, $15 million (federal funds) for remote inmate arraignment, and additional appropriations for jails and diversion programs. 
- HB 321 - Syncs the state tax filing deadlines with the federal tax filing deadlines, but also sets up a special taxing arrangement for the West End Opportunity Zone, restructures the dates on a historic structure tax credit, and deals with cigarette tax administration.

We will be reviewing the General Assembly's actions over the next couple of days and will provide you an end of session report by week's end. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

KY Legislative Update - Time for Recess



Time For Recess
The General Assembly completed their 28th legislative day just before midnight on March 16 commencing the Veto Recess. The Governor will have until March 27 to veto any bills before the legislature reconvenes on March 29 & 30 for the final two legislative days of the 2021 Session.

Before adjourning tonight the legislature brought final passage to several bills, most notably:

HB 563 - School Choice - Creates education opportunity accounts that can be used to pay for a list of academic expenses including out of district tuition and private school tuition as well as creating a tax credit for charitable contributions into these accounts

HB 320 - Broadband - A measure to appropriate $250 million of federal funding for broadband deployment and to allow electric distribution cooperatives to capitalize broadband deployment was passed unanimously through the House and Senate after a Senate committee substitute was adopted.

HB 413 - Unemployment Insurance - Legislation to freeze the employer tax rate, suspend the employer surcharge, and other changes that will address increasing employer costs due to COVID-19.

HB 249 - The "revenue" bill that moves alongside the budget that contains several tax administration and compliance changes along with tax policy changes.

HB 126 - A bill to increase Kentucky's felony theft threshold to update for inflation and provide some minimal criminal justice reform

HB 372 - Legislation that provides a sales and use tax exemption for data centers passed with an amendment that allows for a remote worker tax credit.

HB 405 - A supplemental appropriations bill that contains KSP salary changes, AG staffing increases, a $2 increase in Childcare Assistance Program amongst others.


Please note that many bills that were passed with changes tonight have not yet been made publicly available. We will review and update you in our weekly report later this week.



Monday, January 4, 2021

2021 Session Preview




2021 Session Preview

 

The Kentucky General Assembly will convene on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, for its odd-year, thirty-day, short session, and is currently scheduled to meet four legislative days until January 8 when it will recess before reconvening on February 2 for the remaining 26 legislative days. Sine die adjournment is currently scheduled for March 30.

  

While it is customary for the first four legislative days of the short session to be chiefly focused on organizational matters such as the formal election of leaders in each chamber and designation of committee chairs and committee assignments, 2021 may be an exception. It is possible that legislation can move during the first week as happened in 2017. If legislation is considered during the first week, the legislature would need to meet at least until Saturday, the 9th of January for a bill or bills to pass both chambers and could extend into the following week. 


Leadership & Partisan Makeup

The partisan makeup of both the House and Senate remain overwhelmingly Republican with the GOP holding supermajorities in both chambers. The November elections saw the Republican majority swell to 75-25 in the House and to 30 to 8 in the Senate. 

Constitutional legislative leadership elections will not be formalized until each chamber takes floor action on the first day of the session, however these elections took place in Majority caucus action in December when the following leaders were elected:

Senate

Senate President Robert Stivers 

Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens

House

House Speaker David Osborne

House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade


The election of partisan officers by the respective Majority and Minority caucus in each chamber has also been completed and is as follows:


Senate 

Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer      

Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams   

Majority Whip Mike Wilson 

Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey 

Minority Caucus Chair Reggie Thomas

Minority Whip Dennis Parrett  

House

Majority Floor Leader Steven Rudy

Majority Caucus Chair Susan Miles

Majority Whip Chad McCoy

Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins

Minority Caucus Chair Derrick Graham

Minority Whip Angie Hatton

 

Committee rosters have not been officially announced yet and won't be formalized until the session begins next week. An unofficial copy of the House committee rosters is available HERE. Committee Chairs have been announced in the House & Senate, here are the changes from last session:

 

Senate

Sen. Robby Mills - State & Local Government

Sen. Wil Schroder - Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor 

Sen. C.B. Embry - Veterans & Military Affairs

 

House

Rep. Jason Petrie - Appropriations & Revenue

Rep. Ed Massey - Judiciary

Rep. Kim King - Tourism & Recreation 

 

Political Dynamics

Given the overwhelming Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and a Democratic governor, vigorous debate is expected as both parties promote their priorities. As is mentioned below, legislative efforts to limit the Governor's authority could set the tone for how the legislature and Governor will work together during this session. 

 

The Governor is the only Democrat voice in statewide offices and Democrats will be challenged to remain relevant in the 2021 debate. Governor Beshear will deliver a State of the Commonwealth address on January 6 at 7pm, when he will outline his priorities and budget proposal. However, given the GOP supermajorities, they will be able to largely craft their own agenda and budget. 

 

While there are certainly worse problems to have, the magnitude of the GOP's success may prove to be a somewhat mixed blessing as leadership seeks to keep the large caucus contented and avoid factionalism.  Moreover, the 2023 gubernatorial election is just over the horizon with a deep bench of prospective Republican candidates who will be positioning themselves for a run for the nomination. 

 

Legislative Process

The 2020 session of the General Assembly ended under extraordinary circumstances and unprecedented processes with the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic. The 2021 session will begin and operate under extraordinary circumstances and unusual processes as the pandemic continues. 

 

Access by the public to the Capitol Annex and the Capitol will be severely restricted and limited to those testifying on legislation or by appointments with legislators. It is expected that committee meetings will continue to take place virtually and that the logistics of those virtual hearings will shorten the amount of time that committees will be able to meet. This will likely impact the amount of legislation that can be considered and further we anticipate that the volume and the flow of legislation to be restricted by leadership in each chamber. The Senate has gone as far as removing a chamber rule that forces bills to be referred to committees. 

 

Floor action will also be impacted by COVID restrictions this session. In the House, it is expected that many members will watch floor proceedings from their offices and vote remotely. The Senate plans to meet in Chamber but with modifications to enable social distancing.  

 

Issues

The pandemic will also shape many of the issues that will be the focus of legislators' attention in 2021.

 

Budget

First and foremost is the adoption of a budget for FY 2022, since the 2020 General Assembly deferred a biennial budget because of the economic uncertainty of the times. Revenue estimates for the current fiscal year and Fiscal Year 2022 are more positive than anticipated with an estimated surplus in the General Fund of $126M in FY 21 and $53M in FY 22. The Road Fund also includes better than expected projections with a surplus of $34M and $16M, respectively.

 

When Governor Beshear introduces his proposed budget on the 6th, it will be much earlier than in a normal budget session. This is because the General Assembly has only thirty days to complete this work, and the process is being expedited.

 

COVID Related Priority Issues

The Legislature is likely to consider the following COVID related issues:

 

- Executive Authority - Majority parties in both Chambers have indicated that they will pass limitations on a Governor's authority during times of emergency. Bills have been prefiled in the House and Senate, but efforts are underway on consensus legislation that could be acted on very quickly, potentially during the first week.  

 

- Education - The effects of the pandemic on schools in increased expenses and the effects of long-term closure with reliance on virtual learning will be considered.  

 

- Liability Relief – Legislators plan to enact limitations on civil liability resulting from Covid 19 litigation. Leaders have said over the past several months that providing liability relief to employers, churches, schools and healthcare facilities is a priority.

 

- Unemployment Insurance – Efforts will be made to look at changes to limit rate increases on employers and stabilize the trust fund. 

 

- Broadband - The pandemic has highlighted the need for better broadband connectivity particularly in rural areas. This may be an area where there is less partisan strife as leaders in both parties and the Governor have discussed the need for investment in broadband. 

 

Other Issues

Other issues will come from unfinished business from the 2020 session. Infrastructure needs and the consideration of an increase in revenue in the Road Fund have been before the legislature for several sessions and will be discussed again in the 2021 session. Various aspects of criminal justice reform and substance abuse treatment have been the subject of interim study and will be before the General Assembly along with law enforcement reforms. Other issues that could be addressed in this short session include telehealth reforms, the Kentucky Supreme Court decision on historical horse racing, and workforce issues.

 

Prefiled Bills

You can access lists of prefiled bills by subject area via links below:

 

Education Bill List

 

Energy-Environment Bill List

 

General Business Bill List

 

Health Care Bill List

 

Health Insurance Bill List

 

Insurance Bill List

 

Transportation Bill List

 

Legislative Calendar 

 

The Legislative Calendar for the 2021 session is available online, but here are a few dates to keep in mind under the current calendar:


January 5 - Session Convenes

January 5-8 - Part I. Organizational Session - Swearing in of new members, formally electing leadership, naming committee chairs, and setting committee rosters 

January 11-February 1 - Recess - Some committees will meet, but they don't normally take any action

February 2 – Part II, Regular Session Convenes

February- 5 - Last day for Bill requests

February 12 - Last Day for new Senate bills

February 16 - Last Day for new House bills

March 15 & 16 – Concurrence Days

March 17 -30 -- Veto Recess

March  30 - Final Legislative Day and Sine Die Adjournment.