Where 12 High-Profile Bills Stand As Kentucky Legislature Enters Final Stretch

Mar 12, 2019

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There are only four working days left in this year’s legislative session, but a lot can happen in a short period of time in the Kentucky General Assembly.

Lawmakers will meet for three days this week to pass bills before Gov. Matt Bevin considers whether to approve or reject legislation during a 10-day “veto period.”

Then, the legislature resumes for one final day on March 28 to consider overriding any of Bevin’s vetoes or passing any last-minute legislation.

Here’s a rundown of some of the high-profile bills still in the works during this year’s legislative session:

Private School Scholarship Tax Credits

House Bill 205 is one of a handful of education-related bills that triggered teacher protests in Frankfort this year. The measure would give tax breaks to people who donate to nonprofit organizations that award scholarships for students to attend private schools.

The bill still hasn’t completed the first step of the legislative process — passing out of a committee — so it’s unlikely to advance on its own at this late stage. Opponents have worried that the measure could be attached to another bill, but legislative leaders have tamped down expectations for that as well.

Teacher Pension Board Revamp

House Bill 525 would diminish the statewide teachers union’s role in nominating members to the board that manages pensions for educators and has also been the subject of teacher protests. The measure has passed out of the House State Government Committee and has been scheduled for a vote in the House for more than a week, but has not received one.

Teacher Pension Benefits

House Bill 504 would raise the retirement age for future teachers hired in Kentucky and also slightly weaken their pension benefits. The bill amounts to a compromise between those who want to address the state’s pension debt by tinkering with benefits of future state workers and teacher advocates, who have drawn a line in the sand against moving educators out of “defined benefit” pension plans.

The bill has not been heard in committee and is unlikely to advance.

Regional University Pension ‘Buy Out’

House Bill 358 would allow Kentucky’s regional universities and other quasi-state agencies to leave the state’s pension system in exchange for paying off their share of the retirement debt over 25 years. The agencies would then be required to provide other retirement plans to employees.

The bill would also delay — for the second year in a row — massive increases in how much regional universities and other agencies have to contribute to the pension systems.

Critics of the measure say it would deprive the pension systems of much-needed funding.

Republican leaders of the legislature have said some version of the measure will likely pass, especially the delay of higher pension contributions.

Expungement Expansion

Currently, Kentuckians convicted of one of 61 Class D felonies can clear their records once they complete their sentences, wait another five years and pay $500.

Under Senate Bill 57, people with other non-violent, non-sexual Class D felony convictions could clear their records after a 10-year waiting period. The current version of the bill would lower the fee to $150.

The bill has already passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

Tax bill

House Bill 354 would make changes to the two-year tax bill that passed out of the legislature last year. The original version of the bill would add a tax exemption for admission tickets sold by nonprofits and for university sport events. It also adds several corporate tax exemptions.

The Senate passed its own version of the bill that would restore the state’s policy of taxing net gambling winnings instead of gross winnings.

Because of the disagreement, leaders of each chamber are hammering out differences in a “free conference committee”— a process that gives lawmakers wide latitude to add more provisions.

Teacher advocates have worried that the tax exemption for private school scholarships will be added during the free conference committee process. Last week, House Speaker David Osborne said he didn’t think that “there’s a lot of sentiment” for doing that.

Budget bill

House Bill 268 would re-open the two-year state budget that passed last year. The original version of the bill would allow the state to spend $150 million over the next three years on state parks improvements. It would also fund research programs at state universities.

But the Senate deleted all the new spending in its version, except for $290,000 for Kentucky State University.

Lawmakers are hammering out differences in a conference committee.

No-License Concealed Carry

Senate Bill 150 would allow people who are at least 21 years old to carry concealed firearms without a permit in the same places permit holders currently can. The bill has passed out of the House and Senate and awaits Gov. Bevin’s signature. He has said he will sign it.

School Safety

Senate Bill 1 encourages local school districts to hire more school research officers and mental health counselors. It also requires school staff to take training sessions to deal with active shooters and mental health issues. The measure provides no funding for the initiatives, but supporters say they will take that up during next year’s budget-writing session.

The bill has been signed into law by Gov. Bevin.

Abortion

Lawmakers have advanced several anti-abortion measures this year and Republican leaders of the legislature have said that some of the measures are designed to challenge Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that bans states from restricting abortion before the point of fetal viability.

Senate Bill 9 would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, about the sixth week of pregnancy. The bill has passed the Senate and awaits a vote in the full House.

House Bill 148 would totally ban abortion in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The measure has passed out of the House and awaits a vote in the full Senate.

House Bill 5 would ban abortions based on the race, gender or disability of the fetus. It has passed out of the House and awaits a vote in the full Senate.

Senate Bill 50 would require doctors to report all medically-induced abortions to the state. It would also require doctors to tell patients that the procedure can be reversed, despite warnings from medical professionals. The bill has passed out of the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

Senate Bill 227 would require doctors to provide nourishment if an infant is born alive following an abortion. The bill has passed out of the Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

Solar Net-Metering

Senate Bill 100 would change how people with solar panels on their houses get compensated for putting energy back onto the power grid. Currently, households receive credits equal to the retail rate of power. Under the proposal, the Public Service Commission would set the rates.

The bill has passed out of the Senate and House, but so far the chambers have disagreed with a final version.

Medical Marijuana

House Bill 136 would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis to patients with conditions like cerebral palsy, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, nausea and chronic pain. The bill would not allow the plant to be smoked or grown.

The bill passed out of a House committee and awaits a vote in the full House, but faces stiff opposition in the Senate.