Editor’s Note: Joanie Prentice has done yeoman’s work on this article, working her way through all the bills filed so far to come up with the best ones. So that her work isn't in vain, we have split the article into three parts. Links to the other two sections are just above the closing.
In this era of extreme partisanship, will the Republican supermajority in the KY23GA work for the good of Kentuckians, or will they punish Democratic legislators and not move forward any of their proposed bills?
They almost certainly won’t promote any legislation suggested by Governor Beshear because they want to have a trifecta in state politics and elect a Republican governor in this year’s general election. As a rule lately, for a Democratic legislator to get a bill heard in committee, a Republican co-sponsor is needed.
So, what can regular folks do to make it known we WANT measures that improve the lives of Kentuckians no matter who proposes the bill? To begin with, we can contact our representatives to let them know we want them to vote FOR the bills below.
Ways to contact your electeds in the General Assembly
• Use the LRC comment line at (800) 372-7181. Takes about two minutes. Just tell them the bill number, your position on it, and who you want to get your message.
• Use the contact form on your elected’s page at the LRC site.
• Email your elected directly. All Kentucky government email addresses are [first].[last]@ky.gov.
Some of the good bills this session
Below are general groupings of many of the “Good Bills.” All of the bill numbers are linked to the LRC website where you can open them up and read the language in the “bill document” tab. (The proposed changes to KY statutes are in bold and underlined/crossed out.) The Bill Summary is helpful but sometimes misleading and makes a bill “look pretty.” The Short Title is not always a truthful descriptor of what the bill is actually going to do (think Parents’ Rights).
What makes a bill good? I’m going to list my top 5 that, in my opinion, have the potential of doing a lot of good for the most people. The full descriptions/links are further down in the article. What are your top 5? Please leave me a comment. Are there bills you are interested in that aren’t listed?
My Top Five
HB 59 – Allow citizens to create ballot initiatives. Check out the link below about what Michigan was able to achieve with its ballot initiative!
HB 98 – Treat addiction/abuse, versus incarcerating people.
HB 35/HB 88 – I cheated by putting these 2 together, but Josie Raymond has been the long-time champion for universal pre-K and full-day Kindergarten! Governor Beshear’s bill has more components for other educational pieces including the much-needed teacher raises.
HB 54/HB 129 – OK, I cheated again! Would love to see both of these bills pass to improve access to quality obstetrical care. So many of our counties in KY don’t have easy access to OB care.
HB 106 – Sports wagering. It’s time for this to pass – Kentuckians are spending their money in other states.
Government for the People and By the People
HB 34 – Local Regulatory Actions: allow cities to set some of their own rules on firearm restrictions, forcible entry or detainer, prevailing wages, unions and project labor. That party of “local control” doesn’t want Louisville to have any local control. It will probably not get assigned to committee. Sponsored by Josie Raymond (D).
HB 48 – Constitutional amendment to legalize recreational cannabis. Let the voters decide if they want this! It will probably not get assigned to a committee. Sponsored by Nima Kulkarni (D).
HB 59 – A Ky Constitutional Amendment that would establish the initiative power of the people to propose laws and enact or reject proposed initiatives at an election. (Here’s what Michigan was able to accomplish by having a ballot initiative). Unfortunately, Republican legislators don’t want Kentuckians to have that much control (they got embarrassed by voters rejecting Amendment 2). It will probably not get assigned to a committee. Sponsored by Josie Raymond (D).
Voting Rights/Judicial Reform
HB 47 – Decriminalize personal use cannabis, expungement of some cannabis related convictions. Has not been assigned to a committee. Sponsored by Nima Kulkarni (D).
HB 53 – Convictions of certain crimes (fetal homicide, kidnapping, etc) can give lifetime order of protection. Has not been assigned to committee. Sponsored by Kim Banta (R).
HB 78 – Expands familial relationships in cases of incests, enhances penalties, establishes any nonconsenting person is a victim. Has not been assigned to a committee. Sponsored by Kim Banta (R).
HB 97 – A Constitutional amendment for automatic voting rights restoration five years after completion of imprisonment, parole, or probation. Has not been assigned to a committee. Sponsored by Keturah Herron (D).
HB 98 – Establish Harm Reduction Centers, refer for treatment, pretrial release, decriminalize penalties for possession of controlled substances and supplies used to test, store, or consume them. Has not been referred to a committee. The Health Services Committee (Joint House & Senate) just held an Overview of the Opioid Abatement Initiatives and HRCs and decriminalization were key topics with bipartisan support! This is such a good bill! Has not been referred to a committee yet. Sponsored by Keturah Herron (D).
SB 45 – Abolish the death penalty and replace with life imprisonment without parole for inmates currently sentenced to death. Prohibit life imprisonment without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of capital offense. Assigned to Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection. Bipartisan sponsorship by Stephen Meredith (R), Gerald Neal (D), Julie Raque Adams (R).
SB 59 – Removes fentanyl test strips from the category of illegal drug paraphernalia, decriminalizes possession, allows health departments to distribute, and allows for retail sale of test strips. Has not been assigned to a committee. Seems to be strong bipartisan support for this action. Sponsored by David Yates (D).
SCR 31 – Creates a work group to study and recommend policy to promptly address serious safety issues in the Department of Juvenile Justice. Adopted by the Senate, sent to House C on C. Sponsored by David Givens (R).
(Part 2 of this series is here; part 3 is here.)
The coming weeks will reveal a lot about how the supermajority is going to move to advance their agenda. It is rumored there will NOT be lots of new legislation, but there will still be lots of political posturing to score points with base groups.
If there are bills you want to see move forward, contact your legislators and the Republican leadership. Send an email letting them know why you think this legislation is important and include a personal story about how a bill impacts your life. A legislator who has since moved on to Washington said it is the personal stories that make a bigger impression.
I would love to see comments about what YOU think the legislative priorities should include during this session. Add them below!