2020 General Assembly

Blake Farmer | WPLN

Kentucky abortion rights advocates hope that their lives will be easier with a Democratic governor in office, but they will still have to contend with a strongly anti-abortion legislature.

Tamarri Wieder is the public affairs and policy director for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. She says that Gov. Andy Beshear’s defeat of Gov. Matt Bevin last year shows that voters didn’t rally around anti-abortion causes.

“He tried to really use Andy Beshear’s pro-choice stances against him and it failed,” Wieder said.

“While the makeup of the General Assembly hasn’t changed, I think the voices and the votes in Kentucky are standing up and realizing the hypocrisy of these bills and how damaging they are to the commonwealth.”

Kentucky LRC

Republican leaders in Kentucky’s legislature are rallying around a bill that would ban cities, public agencies and universities from adopting so-called “sanctuary” policies that snub federal immigration officials.

The proposal has raised concerns from immigration and civil rights advocates who worry that it would prod public workers into enforcing federal immigration law and increase the number of Kentuckians facing deportation.

Sen. Danny Carroll, a Republican from Paducah and the bill’s sponsor, said that it would create more avenues for citizens to report undocumented immigrants.

Ryland Barton

Republicans in the Kentucky legislature are pushing to require voters to show a photo ID in order to cast a ballot.

The bill is a priority of the state’s new Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams, who also says there are 300,000 out-of-date voter registrations in the state that need to be purged.

During a news conference Wednesday, Adams said that campaigning on voter ID helped him defeat his Democratic opponent during last year’s election.

LRC Public Information

For more than a decade, Kentucky House Rep. Jim Gooch has denied the existence of human-driven climate change.

The Republican lawmaker from Providence has chaired the House Natural Resources and Energy committee for 20 out of the last 21 years. The committee is responsible for legislation including forestry, mining, flood control, public utilities and renewable energy.

Back in 2007, Gooch made national news for holding a hearing on climate change that didn’t include any actual scientists. Gooch’s views have moderated somewhat over the past 12 years, from outright denial to begrudging acceptance that humanity has in some ways contributed to warming.


Liz Schlemmer

 Kentucky’s legislative session kicked off with lots of conservative red meat on Tuesday — gun rights advocates held a day-long rally outside the Capitol and leaders of the state Senate announced that their top two bills will be an anti-“sanctuary city” policy and a voter ID proposal.

But the main task lawmakers will have to tackle over the next 59 working days will be writing a new two-year state budget while state revenue is predicted to be far outpaced by costs.


Ryland Barton

Gov. Andy Beshear announced that the state will pay for thousands of Kentuckians to take the GED, a group of four tests that serve as an alternative to the high school diploma.

The battery of tests normally costs $120 and the state’s Education and Workforce Development Cabinet has set aside $600,000 in an effort to eliminate financial barriers for would-be test takers.

Beshear said that if there is more demand from test takers, “we’ll find the money.”


New Budget is Key Issue as Kentucky Lawmakers Convene

Jan 7, 2020

Lawmakers are returning to Kentucky's Capitol to start a 60-day session that will be dominated by work on a new state budget. The House and Senate will convene at midday Tuesday.

This year's session will stretch into mid-April. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers, but there's a new political dynamic with Democrat Andy Beshear now in the governor's office.

In their budget work, Beshear and lawmakers will confront spending pressures amid projections for only modest revenue growth in coming years. Rising costs for pensions, health care and corrections will complicate their work.

J. Tyler Franklin

A little more than two months after Kentucky voters weighed in on who they want to govern them for the next four years, the state’s new batch of constitutional officers were sworn in Monday morning.

Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman were inaugurated in December but the constitution requires the five other officials who run the state’s executive branch to take office a month later. Those include the attorney general, secretary of state and agriculture commissioner.

The new class of constitutional officers are all Republicans except for Beshear, who introduced the group saying that they are “all on the same team” despite partisan differences.

Ryan Van Velzer

A bill filed ahead of this year’s legislative session would ban retailers from providing certain kinds of plastic bags and limit the use of plastic straws and foam containers.

Every year more than eight million tons of plastic end up in the oceans, costing at least $8 billion in damages to marine ecosystems, according to a UN Environment report. Among the largest sources of this pollution are plastic bags and single-use plastics.


Kentucky LRC

A western Kentucky lawmaker is supporting a pre-filed bill to ban sanctuary cities in the state. Sanctuary cities are municipalities that limit, or don’t coordinate with, federal officers to enforce immigration law. 

The bill Republican Rep. Richard Heath is co-sponsoring would prohibit local governments from becoming sanctuary cities and allow the state to withhold funding. Heath serves McCracken and Graves counties.


The legislation would also ban postsecondary schools from enrolling, employing or contracting with people who are undocumented. 

Lisa Autry

Kentucky lawmakers convene January 7 for the start of the 2020 legislative session in Frankfort. 

The 60-day session will be dominated by the drafting of a new, two-year state budget.  State Rep. Wilson Stone of Allen County, a member of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, says one of the biggest challenges will be finding the money to give $2,000 across-the-board pay raises to public school teachers, which is something Gov. Andy Beshear promised while campaigning for office.

"I suspect we’ll be able to find it in lots of small places, but I’ll be interested to see if we cut any major lines in the budget in order to add that money to public education," Wilson said.


A lawmaker from western Kentucky wants to double the length of time state representatives serve in office. Such a move would require a change to the state’s constitution. 

Rep. Richard Heath wants to increase the length of legislative terms for Kentucky House members from two to four years. He also thinks the state’s elections should be staggered so that only 50 members of the House are up for election at a time, instead of all 100. 


Heath serves Graves and McCracken counties and plans to introduce a bill including those changes during the 2020 General Assembly. The Republican from Mayfield says the way the state currently elects its House members is confusing to many voters.


A lawmaker from Hardin County is hoping Kentucky follows the example of Tennessee and other states that don’t impose an income tax on its residents.

Supporters say transitioning away from an income tax and increasing the state’s sales tax would make Kentucky more attractive to businesses.

Opponents say it would be a boon to the wealthy, while hurting low-income and vulnerable residents.

The effort to move Kentucky away from relying on income tax gained steam in 2018. That’s when Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed into law a massive overhaul of the state’s tax code.


A new law that goes into effect next week will require Kentucky drivers to donate $10 when buying and renewing some special license plates. That same law will also end production of the special plates for organizations that do not register enough users.

Kentucky defines a special license plate as one which identifies the driver as, “a member of a group or organization, or a supporter of the work, goals, or mission of a group or organization.” There are dozens of special license plates, and the majority of them (including military, university and nature plates) already include a mandatory donation.


Family Says Kentucky Lawmaker Is Severely Ill In Hospital

Dec 26, 2019
LRC Public Information

Kentucky House Majority Floor Leader John “Bam” Carney is in an intensive care unit battling what his family says was a sudden sickness.

A statement from family says Carney is being treated for a severe case of pancreatitis and infection at Norton Hospital in Louisville. A relative says the lawmaker got sick while eating lunch Sunday.

He was taken to the emergency room early Monday and diagnosed with pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. The statement says Carney could have feeding tubes for weeks and drain tubes for months.