Under Kentucky’s constitution, a legislative session’s start and finish are largely set in stone. The General Assembly always convenes on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January, and, in even-numbered years, it cannot meet for more than 60 days and must adjourn by April 15.
With those guidelines in mind, the General Assembly returns to the Capitol early next week, facing a predictably long agenda and a relatively short amount of time to address it.
As is always the case in even-numbered years, enacting the state’s next two-year budget will take precedence, but there will also be hundreds of other bills to consider. Most of this legislation will fall into five broad categories: education, health, economic development, criminal justice and government.
Examples of all five can be found in the nearly 240 bills that have already been pre-filed.
Under education, these proposals would do such things as ban corporal punishment and extend all-day kindergarten in every school district and revoke driver’s licenses for 90 days if a person illegally passes a school or church bus. Other important educational work will be funding the school-safety law passed during the 2019 legislative session in response to the Marshall County school shooting a year earlier.
Another group of youth-related bills would limit teen access to e-cigarettes by raising the purchase age, increasing their taxes and all but eliminating added flavors. The goal is to begin reversing a national trend showing that nearly a third of teens have vaped by the age of 14, which is up from nine percent just five years ago.
As for other bills improving our health, there are proposals to do such things as require medical practitioners to offer overdose-reversing medicine when they prescribe opioids and to limit surprise medical billing, which happens when families find themselves facing unexpected healthcare costs that can quickly reach tens of thousands of dollars.
In areas that bridge health and economic development, one bill would reverse 2018 changes that significantly limited the number of doctors authorized to diagnose black lung in workers’ comp mining cases; and another bill would make health insurance available the first day a person starts working, if insurance is part of that employee’s benefits package.
Other workplace bills would raise the state’s minimum wage, which hasn’t changed in more than a decade, and give employees more legal protection if they are a crime victim and need time to leave for court proceedings.
When it comes to improved government, there are bills that would make it easier for Kentuckians to vote and that would automatically restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their punishment.
Gov. Beshear’s recent executive order makes it possible for many felons to register to vote now, but a constitutional amendment would ensure this decision couldn’t be reversed by a future governor.
Other bills aimed at the Executive Branch would increase reporting of how public equipment like state airplanes are used for political or personal reasons and that would limit the time governors and other constitutional officers have to accept political donations to pay back personal loans they made in their run for office.
Several of the bills filed for the upcoming legislative session have already generated a considerable amount of public discussion. Those would legalize marijuana, either medically or recreationally; and also make it possible to have casino gaming and/or sports wagering in the commonwealth.
While it is too soon to say which bills will ultimately become law, the one known factor is that the public’s input is crucial in deciding what passes.
If you would like to learn more about these and others bills, their full text can be found online at legislature.ky.gov. That website is also where you can find such other information as committee meeting times.
I also encourage you to contact me if you have any questions or comments about these issues. My email is Angie.email@example.com and you can leave a message for me or any legislator by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 800-372-7181.