Special Session Update - Day 2
The second day of the special legislative session began with the Senate and the House briefly gaveling in before adjourning for the day. Today's action focused on committee meetings as the General Assembly moved bills quickly through the legislative process. The General Assembly hopes to conclude their business tomorrow, recessing for the veto period while Governor Beshear considers any vetoes.
We have summarized the bills below, but first a quick note on the political dynamics. The emotional undercurrents of the COVID issue are impacting the session as members are hearing from their constituents about masks, vaccines, and local control. Their constituents' vitriol has been reflected in votes and in speeches before committees and on the floor. It doesn't appear that there will be enough fissures to derail any of the bills, though it got close on House Bill 1 in the House Education Committee today.
EDUCATION (SB 1 & HB 1): The House & Senate Education Committee passed a modified version of the filed bills. Section 7 of the bill, which encouraged vaccine incentives in the school system, was completely removed. Changes were also made to Sections 10 and 11 regarding the Teacher Retirement System due to potential legal issues with the originally proposed language. The bill passed the Senate Committee easily, but the House Committee failed to pass the bill in its first attempt by one vote. The House committee reconvened this afternoon and the bill was passed by a 3-vote margin, though members still expressed concerns about the bill. The floor debate on these bills should be interesting as multiple amendments have been filed.
HEALTHCARE & HEALTHCARE FACILITIES (SB 2 & HB 2): Senate Bill 2 removes the ability to implement a statewide mask mandate, encourages public health, vaccine, and monoclonal antibody treatment campaigns on a local level, and outlines methods to allow visitors in long-term care facilities. Senate Bill 2 passed committee today but had some slightly different language on the monoclonal antibody treatment than House Bill 2, which passed the committee on Tuesday. Thus HB 2 was recommitted and will be before the House Health & Welfare Committee tomorrow morning. Senate Bill 2, along with its House counterpart House Bill 2, saw several amendments filed for consideration tomorrow that many consider to be threatening to employer rights. Specifically:
SFA 5 to SB2: Would make mandating a COVID-19 vaccine or proof of vaccine a violation of the Civil Rights Act
SFA 6 to SB2: Would prevent a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employers; would set certain rules to ensure any "mandate" follows set steps for allowing broad exemptions from any vaccine.
SFA 7 to SB2: Any employer that receives state funds cannot mandate a COVID-19 vaccine.
ARPA APPROPRIATIONS (SB 3 & HB 3): The House & Senate Appropriations & Revenue Committees favorably considered Senate Bill 3 and House Bill 3 respectively today. These bills appropriate funding to battle COVID-19, especially in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and schools. No committee amendments were adopted, but floor amendments have been filed including House Floor Amendment 1 (HFA1) to HB 3 would prevent any employer that receives state resources from mandating a COVID-19 vaccine.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT INCENTIVES (SB 5 & HB 5): These bills appropriate $350 million from the budget reserve trust fund to KEDFA to finance forgivable loans for companies investing more than $2 billion in Kentucky. The language allows the state to provide incentives on the front end, so Kentucky can compete with states that are able to provide cash incentives. The bills also include language to appropriate training funds to KCTCS for onsite employee training for companies locating in Kentucky above that $2B threshold, as well as other training grant opportunities. According to legislators there have been discussions involving specific companies for this incentive, but any company investing over the $2 billion mark would qualify. Both bills passed their respective committee unanimously.
LEGISLATOR COMPENSATION (SB 4 & HB 4): The Senate passed SB 4 out of committee yesterday; the House has yet to pass the bill out of its State Government Committee. The bill would prevent legislators from receiving legislative pay on necessary veto days during a special session. It is estimated to cost the Commonwealth $72,000 a day to hold a special session.
As we noted yesterday, two other bills were filed: Senate Bill 6 and Senate Bill 7. These bills are very similar to Senate Bill 2 and Senate Bill 3, respectively. They are not expected to move forward at this point.