2020 General Assembly

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.


Ryland Barton

Out-of-state wineries would be able to ship directly to Kentucky drinkers under a bill making its way through the state legislature.

Kentucky is one of only five states that doesn’t allow direct winery-to-customer shipments, according to Free The Grapes, an industry group that monitors the issue.

But under a bill that passed out of a committee in the state Senate on Tuesday, out-of-state wineries that get a Kentucky license would be able to ship up to two dozen 9-liter cases to Kentucky customers each year.

Kentucky LRC

Democrats in the Kentucky House of Representatives derailed a measure that would have given cash-strapped local governments more flexibility in how they raise taxes.

The proposed constitutional amendment initially had support from both parties, but in a surprise move, several Democrats decided to pass over their votes—a rare moment in which the minority party determined the outcome of a vote.

Republicans cried foul on the maneuver. Rep. Jerry Miller of Louisville noted that several of the abstaining Democrats were co-sponsors of the bill.

Thinkstock

The Kentucky House Appropriations and Revenue Committee presented its vision for the biennial budget on Thursday.

The committee presented bills for funding plans for the executive and legislative branch as well as the committee’s revenue proposal. There was no mention of major spending cuts that have characterized budgets over the past 14 years. 

Committee chairman Steven Rudy, a Republican representative from Paducah, noted that his committee’s budget proposal kept the same debt ratio of 5.3% as the governor’s, but contains some key differences. While both proposals included a 1% raise for all state employees, the governor’s budget proposed a higher raise for teachers that Republicans didn’t include.

Ryland Barton

Kentucky lawmakers advanced two anti-abortion bills on Wednesday — one would give the state’s new Republican attorney general more power to enforce abortion regulations, the other would require fetal remains to be buried or cremated after the procedure.

Both bills passed out of the legislature’s House Judiciary Committee while several abortion rights activists silently sat in the audience, donning white bonnets and red cloaks — a reference to the dystopian novel-turned-TV show, The Handmaid’s Tale.

House Bill 370, the fetal remains bill, is similar to a 2016 Indiana law that was challenged and ultimately upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

 


Rhonda Miller

Some Kentucky legislators want to raise awareness about suicide among farmers.

House Bill 59 would declare the third Wednesday of September, “Farmer Suicide Prevention Day” to bring awareness to mental health challenges that farmers face.

“This issue has been around for a long time. It’s just that it really hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves and is, often times, a hard conversation to have,” said Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles.

Quarles said the bill is designed to start those conversations about suicide.


Ryland Barton

Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration has launched a website where Kentuckians with felony records can determine if they have had their voting rights restored.

The effort comes after Beshear, a Democrat, issued an executive order restoring voting rights to people who have finished their sentences for non-violent felony convictions.

On Wednesday, Beshear said that 152,000 people would be eligible to have their voting rights restored.

 


Thinkstock

The Kentucky House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast ballots in this year’s General Election, a top legislative priority for Republican leaders in the legislature.

After significant revisions, the measure provides several ways for those without photo IDs to vote, but opponents of the legislation say it will suppress voter turnout and create confusion for voters and election officials. Because of those revisions, the bill will go back to the Senate for final approval before heading to Gov. Andy Beshear.

On Tuesday, Rep. Angie Hatton, a Democrat from Whitesburg, was gaveled down by the House Speaker after accusing Republicans of pushing the bill for political reasons.


Jess Clark | WFPL

bill to end corporal punishment in Kentucky schools is facing hurdles clearing a state senate committee, according to advocates for the measure.

House lawmakers passed the ban on corporal punishment 65-17 in February. But supporters of the ban say it’s having trouble getting heard in the senate education committee.

Kentucky Youth Advocates director Terry Brooks said some lawmakers in the committee believe the matter should be up to local school boards.

“Frankly I am a little surprised and disappointed,” Brooks said in an interview.

Screenshot from KET

Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is throwing his support behind a bill that would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with preexisting health conditions.

The announcement comes a day after the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, which includes a requirement that insurance carriers provide coverage for those with preexisting conditions.

Calling it an issue of “life and death,” Beshear said that insurers shouldn’t have the option to deny coverage to anyone.

 


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