FRANKFORT, Ky. — Before the final day of session before the veto break, state lawmakers sent Gov. Andy Beshear a series of bills, including some controversial measures.
What You Need To Know
- Lawmakers have until Wednesday night to pass legislation that could survive a potential veto from Gov. Andy Beshear
- On Tuesday, both the House and Senate moved on dozens of bills, including legislation dealing with abortion, charter schools, and income taxes
- Lawmakers plan on approving a two-year spending plan on Wednesday
Among the bills approved Tuesday:
House Bill 3 includes several limits on abortion, including a prohibition on mail-order abortion-inducing drugs and tougher limits on abortions for minors. Senate Republicans also added language to the bill that mirrored Senate Bill 321, a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks modeled after Mississippi’s recent abortion law that’s up for consideration in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abortion advocates, including representatives from Planned Parenthood, disrupted the debate by chanting “Abortion is health care” and unfurling banners that read “Stop the bans” before they were escorted out of the chamber by security.
“HB 3 is solely and deliberately designed to eliminate all abortion in the state of Kentucky,” Planned Parenthood Kentucky state director Tamarra Wieder said. “This bill ignores our constitutional rights, dismisses science, and contradicts public opinion.”
The group continued chanting “Bans off our bodies” outside the Senate as they voted.
Supporters of House Bill 3 said there needs to be more safeguards in place to protect women who seek abortions.
“There are some activists who are pushing the boundaries,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester), a supporter of House Bill 3, said. “And House Bill 3 makes it completely clear that a woman must be seen by a licensed physician, in person, before any abortion procedure, including administration of abortion-inducing drugs.”
Most Senate Democrats left the chamber during the vote in protest, but many still voiced opposition to the bill.
“I am a human being,” Sen. Karen Berg (D-Louisville) said. “I have the right to efficacy over my own reproduction, and if you believe abortion is a moral sin, then do not have an abortion.”
The House later voted to concur with the changes made to House Bill 3, mostly along party lines, although a couple Democrats voted in favor of it.
“My purpose in being in this chamber is to see this atrocity stopped completely,” Rep. David Hale (R-Wellington) said.
Charter school funding
House Bill 9 provides a funding mechanism for charter schools, which were made legal in Kentucky in 2017, and requires Louisville and Northern Kentucky to have one.
Supporters of the bill say it’ll finally give entities the ability to get a charter school off the ground in the commonwealth.
“It appears that states with charter opportunities for students are educating students better than we are,” Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg) said.
After getting just enough votes in the House to pass the veto override threshold, the Senate approved it Tuesday in another close vote, with some Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against the bill.
Several lawmakers had concerns about funding schools that don’t have to follow many of the same rules as public schools.
“I don’t believe that public education is or should be a marketplace,” Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) said. “But if you believe that this is driven by competition, why is one school given a distinct and unfair advantage in law?”
Gov. Andy Beshear has also voiced opposition to the bill and if he vetoes it, every single lawmaker in the House that voted for it would need to vote for it again in order to override his veto.
Teacher’s union KY 120 United-AFT filed an ethics complaint this week against Rep. Kim Banta (R-Fort Mitchell), saying she should have recused herself instead of voting for the bill because her husband works for a company that is trying to build a potential charter school in Northern Kentucky.
Income tax cut
Kentucky lawmakers introduced a budget with more than a billion dollars in leftover revenue that wasn’t spent, and Republicans planned to use some of that to offset an income tax cut.
Multiple proposals were floated by lawmakers in both chambers, but the final product resulted in a half-percent decrease in the state income tax rate in each of the next two years, depending on if Kentucky hits certain revenue thresholds.
“Do we want hard-working Kentuckians to have more money in their pockets in two years than they have today?” Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights) said. “Do you know better how to spend your money than the government? And my answer is yes.”
The new version of House Bill 8 was unveiled about two hours before the Senate floor voted on it, angering opponents of the measure.
“I’ve heard several people say they’re proud of this bill,” McGarvey said. “Then why hide it?”
Originally, the House wanted to phase out the income tax entirely and the Senate wanted to offer $500 rebates for individual filers.
Armed officers in school
Lawmakers gave final passage to House Bill 63, which requires schools to have armed officers in every building and allows school districts to create their own police departments. Current state law already requires this, but some districts, including Jefferson County Public Schools, either didn’t have any school resource officers at all or didn’t have enough.
New cities within Jefferson County
House Bill 314 creates a system where new cities can be created within Jefferson County.
Several of the communities surrounding Louisville merged with the city to form Metro Louisville two decades ago, and several Louisville Republicans say the outlying areas aren’t getting adequate services.
“After twenty-something years, I think the people of the South End and the rest of the city can choose for themselves,” Sen. Mike Nemes (R-Shepherdsville) said.
Under the bill, there would have to be at least 6,000 people in a new proposed city and at least two-thirds of the residents within the proposed boundaries would have to approve it. The Louisville Metro Council could still approve one if fewer than two-thirds of the residents approve the new city.
The bill passed along a party-line vote with every Democrat opposing it. Some worried it could lead to less money for city services.
“I’m really concerned over the past month as to what has taken place in regards to this body and its treatment of Louisville,” Sen. Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington) said.
House Bill 314 also limits the mayor of Louisville to two terms instead of three.
Taxes on horse betting
House Bill 607 changes the taxes around bets made on horse races so all bets — whether they be online, at the track, or through simulcast wagering — is at 1.5%.
Supporters said they wanted to increase the tax on online bets so they’re the same as bets made at the track. Several Democrats wanted to see taxes on historical horse racing to increase, but a task force of lawmakers designed to study taxes around pari-mutuel wagering did not recommend it.