2020 General Assembly

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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.


Ryland Barton

As Kentucky works to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andy Beshear is urging the state legislature to either quickly pass a two-year budget or adjourn and return for a special session in the coming months.

After taking a two-day hiatus, the General Assembly has reconvened to try and pass more bills, ignoring recommendations by the CDC that people not gather in large groups in order to stymie the spread of coronavirus.

House Speaker David Osborne, a Republican from Prospect, said that lawmakers are working on an expedited schedule and hope to pass a budget next week.

Kentucky LRC

Republican leaders of the Kentucky legislature say that the 2020 legislative session will continue as scheduled despite worries about large gatherings exacerbating the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, House Speaker David Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers announced that they are restricting in-person access to meetings to lawmakers, essential staff and reporters.

But the Republican legislative leaders said that the legislature would be back to business on Tuesday.

Lisa Autry

A vast majority of Kentucky’s 120 counties are now considered Second Amendment sanctuaries.  Leaders in those counties have re-affirmed their oath to uphold the Constitution when it comes to the right to bear arms, but what’s known as the "2A Movement" has hit the brakes in Daviess County.  

Jason Potts is a certified public accountant, and it’s tax season.  You could say he’s blowing off a little steam at Rock Hill Range in Daviess County.  He brought with him his AR-15, and two semi-automatic handguns for target practice. He says shooting is in his blood.

"I’m 45, and my entire life I’ve been a gun owner," said Potts. "My dad was in the Army, I grew up around it, and I grew up hunting with him.”


WKU Public Radio

A bill to restore voting rights to some people with felony convictions has taken a step forward in the Kentucky legislature after being expanded to restore other civil rights.

Kentucky is one of two states in the nation that permanently bars people from voting once they are convicted of a felony unless they receive a pardon from the governor.

The proposed constitutional amendment would restore voting rights once an individual completes their sentence for a felony conviction, as long as the crime doesn’t involve election fraud, bribery or sex.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville, said that restoring civil rights once people have completed their punishments is an “unqualified good.”

Ryland Barton

The Kentucky House of Representatives passed a bill that would add language to the state constitution saying that it guarantees no right for women to get abortions.

House Bill 67 is one of several anti-abortion bills advancing during Kentucky’s legislative session this year. Since it would alter the state’s constitution, the measure would have to be approved by a majority of Kentucky voters during a referendum on Election Day this year.

Rep. Joe Fischer, a Republican from Fort Thomas and sponsor of the bill, said that it would guarantee that judges in Kentucky’s state courts don’t rule in a way that guarantees abortion rights.

Ryland Barton

Long-awaited construction of a veterans nursing home in Bowling Green has taken another step forward. 

Governor Andy Beshear signed HB24 on Tuesday that appropriates $2.5 million for pre-construction on the nursing home. 

The General Assembly approved $10.5 million in state bonds in 2017 to fund the project. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has committed $19.5 million, but the design work must be completed before the state can receive the federal funding.  In a news conference at the state Capitol, Beshear said signing the bill was a way to show appreciation for veterans and their sacrifice.


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