FRANKFORT, Ky. — With only two days to go before Kentucky lawmakers have to adjourn for the year, they spent most of the day Wednesday overriding Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes of several pieces of legislation.
What You Need To Know
- Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed several bills the Republican-led legislature sent him last month
- Aside from some technical changes to the main budget bill, lawmakers voted to override the governor’s vetoes Wednesday
- The two-year budget earned final approval on Wednesday as well
The series of bills included House Bill 3, a measure restricting abortion in multiple ways, including limits on mail-order abortion drugs, more rules for minors that seek an abortion, more regulations for abortion providers, and a ban on the procedure after 15 weeks.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood protested outside the House and Senate chambers as lawmakers gave final approval to the bill.
“There are a lot of new barriers that this bill puts in place, and it puts them in place immediately, and creates an obstacle to providing care,” Planned Parenthood Kentucky state director Tamara Wieder said. “An insurmountable obstacle to providing care.”
Planned Parenthood and the ACLU plan to file a lawsuit against the legislature to challenge House Bill 3 in court.
“The Kentucky legislature was emboldened by a similar 15-week ban (in Mississippi) pending before the Supreme Court and other states passing abortion bans, including in Florida and Oklahoma, but this law and others like it remain unconstitutional,” Brigitte Amiri, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “We urge the court to block this law immediately and ensure that people in Kentucky can continue to access abortion care.”
Supporters of the measure said they want to limit abortion as much as possible.
“This is a stain upon our country. It’s our greatest sin,” Sen. Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) said. “It needs to be reversed.”
Most Democrats voted against it.
“It’s a slap in the face,” Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville) said. “It’s insulting to Kentucky women and their families.”
House Bill 1
Lawmakers voted to agree with several of the technical changes made to the main budget bill by Gov. Beshear, but decided to keep some of the more contentious things, including some measures dealing with the governor’s authority.
House Bill 7
Lawmakers approved new rules for public assistance, including a potential work requirement for Medicaid, limits on what kind of food Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can be spent on, and new penalties for people who sell benefit cards.
“This bill is a good start,” Rep. David Meade said. “Yes, it is a little bit weaker than I wanted it to be, but it is a good start, and it does cut down on fraud and it does cut down on those who are misusing this system.”
Democrats argued the bill will pull food away from people who need it the most, and will ultimately cost more to implement than it will save.
“It is shameful that as one of the poorest states, we make this worse by going after the poorest people in Kentucky,” Rep. Pamela Stevenson (D-Louisville) said.
House Bill 8
Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto of a bill cutting the state income tax by a half-percent if the state brings in a certain amount of revenue, plus a series of new taxes on a number of services, including ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft, and new taxes on electric vehicles.
Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said the bill will help bring more people to Kentucky, although opponents say it will help wealthier people most.
House Bill 9
Charter schools became legal in Kentucky in 2017, but none have gotten off the ground. House Bill 9 provides a funding mechanism for charter schools — allowing SEEK dollars to follow students to the schools — while requiring a charter school in Louisville and Northern Kentucky.
The vote was close with many Republicans joining Democrats in opposing the bill, with many from Louisville and Northern Kentucky stressing that their communities don't want the bill to pass.
“What we’re doing to public schools with this bill is atrocious,” Marzian said.
Supporters argued parents need more choices outside of the traditional public school system.
Senate Bill 1
Senate Bill 1 limits the power of SBDM councils over school hiring decisions, but lawmakers added another bill dictating how schools teach about history and racism, including a list of documents that includes a political speech by Ronald Reagan in 1964.
“We should not be afraid to include those core documents which we were founded upon and to talk about the good, talk about the bad, talk about the future, but to have those deep and honest and open discussions,” Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) said.
Opponents of the measure noted it could open teachers up to potential criminal prosecution, but Wise said that specific part of the bill will be fixed.
Opponents also said the measure will whitewash history.
Senate Bill 83
Trans girls in grades 6-12 and in college won’t be able to participate in girls sports under Senate Bill 83, a bill supporters say is designed to maintain the integrity of women’s sports.
“This is a huge win for the integrity of women’s sports and with the inevitable enactment of Senate Bill 83 into law,” Sen. Robby Mills (R-Henderson) said. “Kentucky is a leading voice for female athletes across the nation.”
University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines, who finished behind transgender swimmer Lia Thomas in an NCAA championship event last month, spoke in support of the measure after the Senate vote.
"We — and when I say we, I mean the majority of female athletes — want all people to be able to live as they choose and to be treated with respect,” she said. “But we cannot ignore the biological and anatomical differences between males and females."
Many Democrats opposed the bill, claiming Republicans want to score political points by outlawing something that isn’t an issue in Kentucky.
“It doesn’t fix a problem,” Rep. Patti Minter (D-Louisville) said. “Whether you think it’s a problem or not, it does not exist in Kentucky, but the damage you’re doing to children is real.”
Senate Bill 216
Senate Bill 216 includes several new election regulations designed to make them more secure, including a move to all paper ballots by 2024.
“This new law expands our post-election audit process; places our voting machines under video surveillance during non-voting hours of election periods; and accomplishes full transition to paper ballots during my term of office,” Secretary of State Michael Adams said in a statement thanking lawmakers for overriding the veto. “These common-sense reforms will improve not only our election process, but also public confidence in our elections.”
The measure also eases rules on campaign finance disclosure reports, something Gov. Beshear said would reduce transparency in his veto message.
“Without quarterly reports, candidates will be able to draft bills and serve on interim legislative committees while receiving donations in secret,” his veto message said.
House Bill 314
Louisville merged with several of the surrounding towns in Jefferson County to form Metro Louisville about two decades ago. House Bill 314 creates a process where residents of certain unincorporated areas can create a new city.
Republicans who supported the measure say it’ll help some of the neighborhoods get better city services, while Democrats worried it will mean less money for Louisville.
House Bill 243
Lawmakers voted to give themselves pay raises in the legislative budget similar to what state employees will receive in the executive branch budget, but Gov. Beshear said their overall compensation is much more than the average Kentuckian. The Republican majority overrode his veto.