This Week at the State Capitol


Lawmakers passed more than 160 bills before gaveling out Thursday for a veto recess. A high-resolution photo is available here

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 29, 2024) — More than 160 bills earned a final tap of the gavel this week, including a new state budget and an omnibus crime bill, as lawmakers worked late into the night to clear a trove of legislation off the House and Senate floors.

Friday marked the beginning of the 10-day veto recess, and lawmakers were keen to wrap up as many bills as possible before adjourning for the break. That led to four days of fast-paced action in committee and several marathon floor proceedings that resolved just before midnight on Thursday.

A slate of budget bills has hung heavy over the agenda this year, but the House and Senate reached a deal on a $128 billion plan for the state executive branch before gaveling out.

Supporters say it will provide historic investments in education, public safety, economic development and other key priorities over the next two years. But critics argue that the plan should have channeled more funds to public schools and to improve conditions in juvenile justice.

Along with the executive branch budget, lawmakers also reached an accord on a nearly $3 billion plan to fund one-time investments in infrastructure and community projects. That package relies on money from the state’s budget reserve trust fund.

Separate budget bills for the state road plan and the legislative and judicial branches are also headed to the governor.

Another priority measure for majority lawmakers – the Safer Kentucky Act – won final passage in the House on Thursday following an impassioned debate over public safety, incarceration costs and the appropriate response to homeless camps.

The legislation, House Bill 5, would crack down on repeat, violent offenders. It would also allow prosecutors to file a manslaughter charge against anyone who sells or distributes fentanyl that causes a fatal overdose. Other provisions seek to curb unlawful street camping and set limits on charitable bond organizations.

The House and Senate also came together on Senate Bill 2, a much-discussed measure that seeks to enhance school safety by allowing some veterans and former police officers to serve as school “guardians.” It also calls on school districts to assemble trauma-informed teams to improve mental health interventions.

SB 2 won a final nod in both chambers Thursday and has been delivered to the governor.

The Senate ended the week with an intense debate over House Bill 7, which stalled on the Senate calendar two weeks ago. The bill would create a regulatory framework for operating autonomous vehicles on public highways in Kentucky.

Senators voted 20-18 on final passage after opponents raised safety concerns about how driverless vehicles would perform on roadways, particularly in challenging conditions.

Proponents argued that that technology has proven safer than human drivers and will set the stage for more innovation in Kentucky. The bill was delivered to the governor on Thursday.

Among the scores of other bills that received final passage this week were key measures on medical records for minors, truancy, youth gun violence, child abuse and consumer data. Here’s a look at some of the bills that cleared a final vote:

Aerospace Industry: Senate Bill 127 seeks to support Kentucky’s aerospace and aviation industries by fostering public-private partnerships and enhancing workforce development across the state.

Adoption Records: House Bill 87 would allow some family members to inspect adoption records if they are related to someone who was adopted or to the birth parents who gave up a child for adoption. The records could only be inspected after both birth parents or the adoptee have passed away.

Animal Abuse: House Bill 258 seeks to strengthen state laws against torturing a dog or cat. That includes stiffer penalties for first-time offenders, who would face a class D felony rather than a misdemeanor charge under the bill.

Breast Exams: House Bill 115 seeks to eliminate co-pays and cost-sharing requirements for high-risk individuals who need follow-up diagnostic imaging to rule out breast cancer.

Cancer Detection: House Bill 52 would require health benefits plans to cover preventive cancer screenings and tests without requiring patients to pay a deductible charge for the services.

Child Care Subsidies: Senate Bill 240 would clarify that foster parents who work remotely can receive child care subsidies.

Child Protection: House Bill 278 would ramp up the criminal penalties for offenders who sexually abuse, assault or exploit children. The bill also seeks to prevent people convicted of sex crimes or violent felonies from working in public schools. Another provision in the final bill would require age verification to access adult websites.

Child Sex Dolls: House Bill 207 would create felony penalties for possessing, trafficking, importing or promoting the use of a child sex doll. It would also expand laws against child pornography to include computer-generated images of an identifiable minor.

Civics Education: House Bill 535 calls on the Kentucky Board of Education to create academic standards for civic literacy in high schools. That would include lessons on America’s founding, the U.S. Constitution, principles of government and civil liberties, among others.

Consumer Data Protection: House Bill 15 would establish new privacy protections for digital consumers. It would allow consumers to review and correct any data that companies collect on them. Consumers could also refuse to have their data sold, and they could demand that their data is deleted.

Crime Victims: Senate Bill 319 calls for the Crime Victims Compensation Board to make their application process available online, to publish the application in additional languages, and to establish a tracking process for claims. It also clarifies that those eligible to file claims include spouses, siblings, personal representatives, and primary caregivers to the victims of crime. Among other provisions, it also would remove the five-year statute of limitations to file claims.

Emissions Standards: Senate Bill 215 would forbid state agencies from adopting or enforcing California’s emission standards on motor vehicles.

Firearms: House Bill 357 would forbid government agencies from creating a list of privately owned firearms – or their owners – unless the information relates to a criminal investigation. The bill also aims to prevent credit card companies from creating unique merchant codes for gun stores.

Foster Care: Senate Bill 151 would allow family members who take temporary custody of a relative’s child to become certified as a “child-specific foster home.” That would allow them to access more state resources and support.

Health Care Background Checks: Senate Bill 145 would allow health care providers enrolled in the Medicaid program to conduct employee background checks through Kentucky’s child and adult abuse registries.

Health Care Liability: House Bill 159 protects health care providers from criminal liability when a medical error harms a patient. The bill exempts harm resulting from gross negligence or wanton, willful, malicious or intentional misconduct. The governor has signed HB 159 into law.

Horse Racing Commission: Senate Bill 299 would revamp the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to create a fully independent agency called the Kentucky Horse Racing and Gaming Corporation.

Juvenile Offenders: Senate Bill 20 seeks to curb youth gun violence. Among several provisions, it clears the way for juveniles to stand trial as adults if they use a firearm in the commission of certain felonies and they are at least 15 years old.

Kratom: House Bill 293 aims to regulate kratom, an herbal drug frequently sold online and in convenience stores. The bill would prohibit sales to people under 21 and provide guidelines for manufacturing and labeling the product.

Kindergarten Readiness: House Bill 695 would establish an adaptive kindergarten readiness pilot project within the Kentucky Department of Education. The program will offer reading, math and science instruction through an online platform.

Legislative Vacancies: Under House Bill 622, vacant seats in the U.S. Senate would be filled through a special election rather than an appointment by the governor. The winner of the election would serve for the remainder of the term.

Loss of Income Insurance: House Bill 179 would clear the way for employers to offer their workers an option to purchase paid family leave insurance. Workers who buy the insurance would receive temporary wage replacement when caring for a sick family member, a new child or other eligible needs.

Missing Adults: Senate Bill 45 calls on Kentucky State Police and other state officials to operate a new alert system that helps find missing people over the age of 17.

Official State Rock: House Bill 378 changes the official state rock from Kentucky agate to coal. It also changes the official mineral from coal to calcite and the official gemstone from the fresh-water pearl to Kentucky agate.

Pseudoephedrine: House Bill 386 would ease purchase limits on pseudoephedrine to help people with chronic allergies legally obtain enough of the medication to meet their needs.

Research Consortiums: Senate Bill 1 would create an endowment fund to support collaborative research consortiums among public universities in Kentucky. Administered by the Council on Postsecondary Education, the program would focus on research projects that seek to improve quality of life through medicine, health and economic development.

School District Task Force: House Concurrent Resolution 81 would establish the Efficient and Effective School District Governance Task Force to study the organizational structures of Jefferson County Public Schools and develop possible recommendations to ensure effectiveness.

School Notifications: Senate Bill 11 seeks to speed up notifications to schools when a student has been charged with a crime.

Speech Therapy: Senate Bill 111 would eliminate some insurance coverage limits on speech therapy for stuttering.

Student Transportation: House Bill 447 calls on the Kentucky Board of Education to update regulations so that school districts can use smaller passenger vehicles instead of buses for transporting students to school and related activities.

Truancy: House Bill 611 calls for school officials to file a complaint with the county attorney when a student misses 15 days of school without an excuse. For students in elementary school, the parent would be held responsible.

Veteran Suicide Prevention: House Bill 30 calls on the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs to create a suicide prevention program for service members, veterans and their families.

Vintage Distilled Spirits: House Bill 439 would create a regulatory and licensing structure for the commercial sale of vintage distilled spirits in Kentucky. It would also allow some confiscated alcohol to be auctioned – instead of destroyed – with proceeds benefiting alcohol wellness efforts.

Window Tinting: Senate Bill 46 would allow windshield tinting on vehicles as long as at least 70% of light can still pass through the material.

Youth Employment Programs: Senate Bill 128 would allow non-profit organizations to employ 12- and 13-year-olds for the purpose of learning life and employment skills. To participate, organizations would need to first receive approval from the state Department of Workplace Standards, and the work could not exceed 18 hours a week.

Youth Medical Records: House Bill 174 would stipulate that parents have access to their child’s medical records. Right now, children ages 13 and older must sign a waiver for parents to have access.

The governor has 10 days to take action on bills that have passed the general assembly He can sign measures into law, allow them to become law without his signature, or issue vetoes. The governor also authority to veto line items in the budget.

However, lawmakers have reserved two days to reconvene in April, when they can override vetoes and continue passing bills. The chambers are scheduled to gavel back in on April 12 for day 59 of the 60-day session and adjourn sine die on April 15.

Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to read bills and follow their progression through the chambers. Capitol observers can also track budget bills on the 2024 Budget Bills webpage.

Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.