2022 General Assembly

J. Tyler Franklin

Republican state lawmakers plan to file an omnibus anti-abortion bill during the upcoming legislative session, making it harder for minors to get the procedure, creating more restrictions for abortion medication and setting requirements for disposing fetal tissue.

The bill will also include provision that would allow medical providers to refuse to perform procedures that “violate their conscience.”

Rep. Nancy Tate, a Republican from Brandenburg and a sponsor of the bill, said it will not include exceptions for women seeking abortions because of rape or incest.

“If there’s a human baby that’s created from that tragedy then the life of that human baby needs to be treated with dignity and respect as well,” Tate said.

The bill hasn’t been filed yet. Tate outlined the provisions in a legislative meeting on Wednesday.

J. Tyler Franklin

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants to require people accused of animal abuse to pay for housing and upkeep of their animals while their court cases are pending.

Republican Rep. Kim Banta, of Ft. Mitchell, and Democratic Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson, of Lexington, are sponsoring a bill that would create the “cost of care” law in Kentucky. It would allow courts and shelters to sue owners of animals seized in cruelty cases to pay for care until cases are resolved.

During a legislative hearing last week, Banta said the measure is good for animals and taxpayers.

“When animals are seized, taxpayers and the agencies are picking up the cost of care while the animals are being housed and taken care of,” Banta said.

Legislative Research Commission

When Kentucky lawmakers convene in January, they’ll be asked to consider removing a barrier to live organ donation. 

A bill pre-filed for the 2022 session, BR 267, protects organ donors from the risk of losing income or employment. The measure gives Kentuckians donating an organ or bone marrow one week of paid leave. 

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Shawn McPherson who says no one should be penalized for performing a life-saving service.

“When you decide to give a part of your body to someone else and then you’re going to live the rest of your life, you always have questions about how will that affect, how will that affect my longevity," McPherson told WKU Public Radio. "To me, that’s the real hero, the person willing to live with one less part of their body so that someone else can have a better quality of life.”

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A pared-down medical marijuana bill will be introduced during Kentucky’s next legislative session with hopes of gaining support among conservative lawmakers who have blocked it in the past.

The state House passed a measure in 2020 that would have allowed doctors to prescribe cannabis for several medical conditions and created a regulatory system to grow and sell it, but it was never taken up in the Senate.

The new version doesn’t allow people to grow their own plants. And like the older version of the bill, it doesn’t allow people to smoke marijuana—only legalizing products like edibles and oils.

Rep. Jason Nemes, a Republican from Louisville and sponsor of the measure, said the bill isn’t for the recreational use of marijuana; it’s only for people with serious medical conditions.

Duke Energy

Advocates are urging Kentucky to develop solar energy projects on farms and abandoned coal mines as the state considers expanding its renewable energy portfolio.

Developers have been planning and building large-scale solar projects around the state—some more successfully than others—as the technology becomes more affordable and pressure increases to develop renewable energy.

During a joint hearing of the legislature’s Natural Resources and Agriculture committees on Wednesday, Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said the state has the land and energy markets necessary for solar.

“There’s a corporate demand for renewable electricity. Economic development and that corporate demand will continue to be primary movers toward encouraging solar development in Kentucky,” Goodman said.

J. Tyler Franklin

A Democratic state lawmaker has filed a bill to require public middle and high schools to teach the history of racism in the country.

Louisville Rep. Attica Scott’s bill would require schools to teach about a list of subjects including the slave trade, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, residential segregation and the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Scott says a group of students asked her to carry the bill.

“I definitely feel like schools are addressing some of these issues differently than other schools. But this is a more robust dig and dive into the history of racism of the combination of racial prejudice plus power and how it impacts people’s lives,” Scott said.

Scott’s proposal comes after a handful of Republican lawmakers proposed measures that would purportedly ban critical race theory in Kentucky schools.

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A state lawmaker from Bowling Green is taking a second shot at convincing the General Assembly to pass a comprehensive student loan reform bill.

The measure pre-filed for the 2022 legislative session by Democratic Rep. Patti Minter would ban deceptive practices by student loan providers, and increase oversight of the student loan industry.

The same bill failed to pass during this year’s session.

Minter said her time as a history professor at Western Kentucky University has given her insight into how predatory lenders target desperate students. She told WKU Public Radio a former student she knows who’s been out of school for ten years is a cautionary tale.

“They've only paid $700 in 10 years toward the principle of the loan. The rest is interest,” Rep. Minter said. “Because what this person had done, without knowing it, was to sign up for a predatory, adjustable interest rate student loan that literally they’re paying nothing but interest for years.”

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A Republican state lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban businesses from requiring employees to get vaccinated or asking about employees’ vaccination status.

The proposal comes as some Kentucky businesses are doing just that—at least 11 major hospitals and health care providers in the state are requiring workers to get the vaccine as the coronavirus continues to surge.

The bill, filed by Marion Republican Rep. Lynn Bechler, would expand Kentucky’s civil rights code, forbidding employers from requiring proof of vaccination in order to work or apply for a job.

It also bans businesses from limiting or classifying employees based on their vaccination status.

Lawmakers will consider the bill when they return for the next legislative session in January.

Ryland Barton

Some Kentucky lawmakers are pushing for a bill to discourage lawsuits that seek to intimidate or silence critics with drawn-out court proceedings.

Free speech advocates say wealthy companies and individuals file what’s called a SLAPP—a strategic lawsuit against public participation—to retaliate against people or organizations that criticize them.

The lawsuits force critics to defend themselves during lengthy and expensive litigation before a court determines an outcome.

Rep. Nima Kulkarni, a Democrat from Louisville, is pushing the legislature to pass an anti-SLAPP law. She says the lawsuits create a chilling effect on free speech, and plaintiffs often don’t intend to win in court.

J. Tyler Franklin

Local superintendents in Kentucky are calling for more state funding for programs like special education, English language learning and at-risk students.

The state pays for the programs by adding to districts’ funding based on how many students they have, but education advocates say persistent inflation has weakened assistance.

During a legislative meeting on Monday, Somerset Independent Schools Superintendent Kyle Lively said the state’s education funding mechanism hasn’t adapted.

“In order to have an excellent and equitable education, we have to have an adequate and equitable funding system for public schools,” Lively said.

Kentucky pays for its schools through a combination of state and local funding. School districts raise money through local property taxes.

J. Tyler Franklin

  Two Kentucky lawmakers say they will file a bill allowing student athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness (NIL) during next year’s legislative session.

The move comes amid increased pressure for elected officials and the NCAA to allow players to profit from their contributions to the multi-billion-dollar college athletics industry.

Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order last week allowing student athletes to do just that starting July 1—meaning players can profit off endorsements, sponsorships, autographs, appearances and other ventures.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, and Sen. Max Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, want to go beyond the governor’s order and pass the policy into law.

Ryland Barton

A group of Republican lawmakers has filed a bill that would ban Kentucky businesses and schools from asking whether employees, students or customers are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The measure would also expand the state’s civil rights code, banning businesses from denying services based on someone’s “immunization status.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox, a Republican from Dry Ridge and one of the bill’s sponsors, said institutions shouldn’t be able to turn people away based on whether they have received the vaccine.

“Overall the intent here is to protect the privacy rights of citizens across the commonwealth. No aspect of this legislation is intended to in any way curtail the efforts at large to encourage people to receive a vaccine,” Maddox said.

J. Tyler Franklin

A Kentucky state lawmaker is introducing legislation that would keep transgender women athletes from playing on women’s sports teams. 

Winchester Republican Rep. Ryan Dotson said he’s prefiling a bill that will exclude transgender women and girls from those teams for public schools in the state, including universities. The Kentucky General Assembly will consider it when the next session begins.

“Allowing transgender women to participate in women’s sports gives transgender women an unfair advantage,” he wrote in an emailed statement Thursday.

“The measure would designate that participation for all athletic teams, activities, and sports be based on the biological sex of students eligible to participate,” he said.

KET screenshot

A Kentucky state lawmaker has proposed a measure that would make schools subject to fines and teachers subject to discipline if they talk about systemic racism in a certain way. 

Fort Thomas Republican Rep. Joe Fischer pre-filed the bill ahead of the next legislative session. It takes aim at critical race theory: the idea that racism is perpetuated on a systemic level. The framework has been around for decades, but it gained more attention after last year’s calls for racial justice.

Now those ideas are facing a conservative backlash, including from Kentucky conservatives like Fischer.