Week’s 1 & 2 of the 2021 Regular Session
As a state senator, I take pride in staying engaged with the 2nd District. Community engagement as an elected official usually occurs by speaking face-to-face during meetings or community events. These legislative updates provides me a welcomed means of reconnecting with you and others back home.
I can confidently say that the Kentucky General Assembly is making the most of the 30-day legislative session. In the first eight days back in Frankfort, lawmakers have already delivered six bills to the governor’s desk. I am happy to report that we are moving forward in deliberation but with purpose.
The past ten months have been challenging for all of us and the most frustrating of my time in the state senate. The passage of priority House and Senate bills verifies the legislature’s commitment to being a co-equal branch of government and ensuring the representative branch of state government has a seat at the table as life-altering decisions are considered.
Senate Bill 1 – This bill better defines executive authority during a state of emergency. It brings the representative branch of government to the table to be a voice for the communities its members represent. The bill will require legislative authorization before the governor can extend an executive order beyond 30 days if the order places restrictions on various public and private entities. The same requirement would exist for emergency executive orders. Similarly, it would require mutual agreement between the governor and the attorney general to suspend state statute during a state of emergency. Taking a less arbitrary and more targeted approach to addressing a state of emergency, SB1 would allow local officials to request an extension of executive orders only for their area and only for the amount of time they ask. SB1 also places parameters on the seizure or condemnation of property during a declared emergency. Specifically, the added language declares that this can only occur for the duration of the emergency and establishes that the owner of the property shall be compensated at fair market value. Finally, SB1 prohibits the manner of elections from being changed by executive order during a state of emergency.
Senate Bill 2 – For far too long, governors and their administrations have been able to blur the lines between executive and legislative branch authorities by making law through the use and abuse of the emergency regulatory process. SB 2 enhances this process’s legislative and public oversight by requiring an expedited public hearing and written comment period and allowing a legislative committee to review, amend, or find an emergency regulation deficient.
Senate Bill 3 appropriately places the Governor’s Office of Agriculture Policy under the office of the State Agriculture Commissioner. Each statewide office holds certain responsibilities delegated to it by the Constitution of Kentucky or state statute. It is only appropriate that this office falls under the office most relevant to state agriculture policy.
House Bill 1 provides clarity and reassurances amid a state of emergency for businesses, schools, parents, teachers, students, and religious institutions. It provides assurances that businesses, schools, and religious institutions may remain open and operational if they follow a comprehensive operating plan, which details how the business or school will adhere to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines or state guidelines—whichever is least restrictive— to ensure safety.
Additional legislation that has reached the governor’s desk includes:
Senate Bill 9, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which the legislature passed last year before the governor vetoed it, has been sent to the governor’s desk yet again. Unfortunately, last year’s veto came after the legislative veto override period, and lawmakers could not override it. The bill ensures that a baby born-alive in any circumstance receives lifesaving medical care.
House Bill 2 gives Kentucky’s attorney general the authority to seek an injunction and civil or criminal penalties for violations of statutes and administrative regulations guiding the practice of abortion. Current law only allows the attorney general to take action if the secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services requests that he or she intervene.
House Bill 5 also passed both chambers. It would improve oversight of the reorganization of state boards. Governors have used these boards to fulfill political agendas and favors in the past. In fact, over the last five administrations, there have been over 445 reorganizations of state agencies, cabinets, or boards. The bill would require all executive branch reorganizations and board reorganizations to require a vote of the General Assembly and refine gubernatorial authority when the legislature is not in session.
The Senate also passed several budget bills this week – but no firm decisions were made on how to spend tax dollars. The legislative and budgetary processes can be daunting even to a seasoned lawmaker.
Here’s what happened: The General Assembly jump-started the legislative process of enacting a budget. The keyword in that sentence is “process.” We did this by getting four bills dealing with the budgets of the three branches of government and the Transportation Cabinet into what’s called conference committees.
These committees are where Senate and House members work out their differences on what Kentucky should spend its money on. The compromises agreed upon are then subject once again to approval by the majority of members in each chamber.
Why the rush? Because the state constitution only allows us to hold a 30-day legislative session on odd numbered years – even if we have to pass a budget. Legislators usually pass Kentucky’s biennial budgets during 60-day sessions held on even-numbered years. That didn’t happen last spring due to the economic uncertainty brought on by COVID-19. Therefore, only a one-year budget was passed.
The Constitution of Kentucky requires that the General Assembly adjourn following the first part of the session. Wednesday, January 13, was our final day before adjourning in compliance with that constitutional requirement. The legislature will reconvene for the second part of the session on Tuesday, February 2.
I am also working on several pieces of legislation I hope to move forward this session. These include SB35, which would increase safety for those living in Assisted Living Communities, SB48, which would protect the personal identifying information of police, fire, corrections officers, judges, social workers and others in the criminal justice system, SB80, which would strengthen the process to decertify police officers who commit certain offenses, 21 RS BR 291, which would provide added protections to communities and first responders during riots. Finally, I’m working with the American Red Cross on a bill that would lift some of the Covid-19 related restrictions on child care centers throughout the state. I will keep you posted on these pieces of legislation as the session moves forward.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me Danny.Carroll@LRC.ky.gov. Or, you can review the legislatures work online at www.Legislature.ky.gov.