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Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Flurry Of Bills In Late-Night, Last-Minute Session

J. Tyler Franklin

With time expiring on the business-end of this year’s legislative session, Kentucky lawmakers sent a flurry of bills to Gov. Matt Bevin’s desk on Thursday night.

Bevin now has 10 days — excluding Sundays — to veto bills or sign them into law. Legislators will return for one final day on March 28 to consider overriding vetoes or passing any last-minute measures.

Bevin has not been shy about using his veto powers in recent years, but the Republican-led legislature has overridden his rejections in many cases over the last two years.

The bills that passed Thursday ranged from one of the most extreme anti-abortion measures in the country to an overhaul of the state’s ignition interlock program to an expansion of Kentucky’s law that allows people with low-level felony convictions to eventually clear their records.

Here are some other bills that lawmakers sent to Bevin to sign on Thursday:

In God We Trust

House Bill 46 will require the words “In God We Trust” to be displayedin Kentucky public schools in a prominent location like a school entryway, cafeteria or common area. The measure doesn’t include penalties for not posting the motto, but allows people to sue if they feel schools aren’t following the requirement.

Stripping Secretary Grimes’ Powers

House Bill 141 would strip Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes of her role as chair of the State Board of Elections. The move comes after accusations that Grimes misused voter data and has too much authority over the board’s staff and operations.

A similar measure was voted down in a legislative committee two weeks ago, but the language re-emerged in the form of an amendment attached to a different bill, circumventing the committee.

Grimes, a Democrat, released a statement Thursday night saying the bill is politically-motivated. “The Republican majority upended the State Board of Elections tonight without even the basic understanding of how it functions or what the proposed legislation does,” Grimes said.

Abortion ‘Reversal’

Senate Bill 50 would require doctors to tell patients that they can reverse medically-induced abortions by taking the hormone progesterone. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has warned against mandating doctors inform patients about the process, saying that it is “not based on science.”

Lawmakers also passed a bill that would ban abortions in Kentucky if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that legalized the procedure.

Tax Cuts, More Spending

Lawmakers voted to allow Gov. Bevin to borrow $75 million for state parks improvements while also cutting about $105 million in state revenue in the form of tax cuts for banks, corporate interests and other changes.

The move comes as Kentucky is struggling with a $37 billion pension debt that forces the state to devote more and more money to the ailing retirement systems. During the current budget, about 14 percent of all state spending goes towards pensions.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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