2020 General Assembly

J. Tyler Franklin

The Kentucky legislature again declined to pass a bill explicitly banning lawmakers from sexually harassing their employees during this year’s legislative session.

The legislature’s ethics rules don’t currently ban sexual harassment, though lawmakers have been punished for harassing employees under a rule that bans misuse of their official positions.

House Bill 168, sponsored by Taylor Mill Republican Rep. Kim Moser, would have defined sexual harassment as an ethical violation and created a process for the Legislative Ethics Commission to review sexual harassment complaints.

 


Ryland Barton

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed the so-called “born alive” abortion bill, saying that doctors are already required to give life-saving medical care to infants that survive abortions.

The bill, which passed in the final hours of this year’s legislative session, also would have given Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron power to regulate abortions in the state and shut down providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

During his daily press conference on Friday, Beshear said that supporters of the bill sought to create divisions during the coronavirus pandemic.

J. Tyler Franklin

In the waning hours of the legislative session, Kentucky lawmakers voted to give Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron power to enforce abortion regulations and shut down providers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Anti-abortion activists have criticized Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear for not shutting down the state’s two abortion providers under his ban on elective procedures during the pandemic.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, a Republican from Crofton, called Beshear, a “hypocrite.”

J. Tyler Franklin

On the final day of the legislative session, state lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s line-item vetoes to the state budget and revenue bills, all measures that he said would limit his ability to address the coronavirus pandemic.

Democrats have criticized the bill for limiting how Beshear’s administration would be able to transfer federal funds between various state agencies.

Rep. Steven Rudy, a Republican from Paducah and chair of the House budget committee, said that if the governor needs more flexibility moving money around, the legislature needs to be included in the process.

Liz Schlemmer

The Kentucky state senate voted Wednesday night to confirm all but one of Gov. Andy Beshear’s 11 appointees for the Kentucky State Board of Education.

Senators voted not to confirm board chair David Karem, a former state lawmaker, and main driver behind the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. Under state law, appointees who are not confirmed cannot serve again for two years, so Beshear will have to find a replacement.

The state board of education has been a stage for political battles in recent years. When Beshear took office in December 2019, one of his first acts as governor was to dissolve the board of education, which was filled with members appointed by his predecessor, former Gov. Matt Bevin. He then reformed the board with all new members, who are still currently serving. The Senate had until Wednesday, the last day of session, to confirm Beshear’s appointments.

Ryan Van Velzer

Gov. Andy Beshear has announced Kentucky now has 2,048 confirmed coronavirus cases and 104 deaths associated with the disease. He said that the number is likely higher due to lab closures over the Easter holiday.

Beshear said the state Capitol flag will be flown at half-mast for the next week to mark the 104 coronavirus-related deaths.

“Every Kentuckian we lose is one of us. And even if a report is one or two, it is still a loss to all of us,” Beshear said.

At least 629 people in Kentucky have recovered from the virus.

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Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature has passed a one-year state budget that keeps spending largely at current levels with plans to pass a new budget in next year’s annual session.

The bill now heads to Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, who has the power to veto all or part of the budget. Lawmakers will reconvene for the last two days of the legislative session on April 14 and 15 to consider overriding any vetoes or pass new bills.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the state is anticipating a steep drop-off in state revenues but will also receive financial assistance from the federal government. Still, budget writers have little idea of how much money Kentucky will have on hand to pay for expenses.

Kentucky LRC

When they reconvene in Frankfort on Wednesday, Kentucky lawmakers will consider a one-year budget instead of the normal two-year plan. Legislative leaders say the change is due to uncertainty about how much revenue the state will bring in during the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic downturn.

Rep. Steven Rudy, a Republican from Paducah and chair of the House budget committee, said that lawmakers will try to pass the short budget on Wednesday and write a new spending plan next year.

Alix Mattingly

A staffer for the Kentucky legislature has tested positive for coronavirus. The legislature has been meeting intermittently during the coronavirus pandemic and is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday to pass a final version of the state budget and other bills.

The staffer works for the Legislative Research Commission, the administrative arm of the legislature tasked with drafting bills, crunching numbers and assisting lawmakers. The agency is governed by a 16-member board made up of leaders from the Republican-majority legislature.

Rob Weber, public information officer for the LRC, said that the staffer is recovering and doing well, “given the circumstances.”

Kentucky LRC

The Kentucky legislature has passed an emergency bill to expand unemployment benefits, allow the governor to waive several business and tax fees and expand telehealth services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure also requires Gov. Andy Beshear to declare in writing when he decides to end Kentucky’s current state of emergency. If he has not done so by the start of the next legislative session, the measure allows the the legislature to end it.

The chief purpose of the bill is to provide relief to Kentucky workers and businesses bruised by the pandemic and ensuing restrictions that have closed down much of the state. Lawmakers also hope the measure will help prop up the state’s economy. By one estimate Kentucky could lose 67,000 jobs by June.

Lisa Gillespie

Kentucky’s Republican attorney general would be able to shut down abortion providers during the coronavirus pandemic under changes to a bill advancing in the state legislature.

A substitute to House Bill 451 expanding the attorney general’s powers to enforce abortion regulations quickly passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

The new language would give the attorney general power to enforce emergency orders issued by the governor banning elective medical procedures, “including but not limited to abortions.”

 


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The full Kentucky legislature will return to work on Thursday even though the general public has been barred from the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic, and despite warnings about group gatherings spreading the disease.

As of Wednesday evening, Kentucky has 198 confirmed coronavirus cases and five related deaths. The disease has spread rapidly since the state’s first case was announced on March 6.

The 138-member body did not meet over the last week, though a small group of lawmakers gathered to try and hammer out a final version of the two-year budget.

LRC Public Information

A Republican state representative has filed a measure that would allow people and businesses to sue the governor if they feel emergency restrictions are unnecessary, too broad or last too long.

The legislation comes after Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, has ordered many businesses across the state to be shut down or closed to in-person traffic during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge and the measure’s sponsor, said in an email that it would protect Kentucky workers and business owners from government overreach.

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With Kentucky’s economy slowing to a trickle during the coronavirus pandemic, the state’s already cash-strapped coffers and services are going to take a big hit.

The outbreak presents a massive challenge, both for Kentuckians who rely on state programs and for lawmakers currently trying to finalize a two-year state budget to possibly pass out of the legislature on Thursday.

Kentucky’s two-year revenue growth was already predicted to be lackluster before the pandemic and the state is facing several financial pressures from the growing prison population, Medicaid costs and struggling pension systems, among others.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

Kentuckians will be able to use more documents to obtain REAL ID licenses under a bill nearing final passage in the state legislature.

The measure would add property tax bills, current driver’s licenses and postmarked mail less than a year old to the list of documents Kentuckians can use to prove their identities to get the enhanced-security ID cards.

The bill comes as Kentucky is scrambling to get more citizens outfitted with REAL IDs and setting up regional offices around the state for citizens to obtain them.


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