Even though this year is the “short year” for the legislative session (only 30 legislative days), there have been 870 bills filed in Frankfort: 594 in the House, and 286 in the Senate. With that flood of bills, it is no wonder that you only hear about the ones that generate headlines.
Unfortunately, unless you are a General Assembly Junkie, you probably are unaware of any number of other bills that are just as important, or even more important, than the ones in headlines. So, here are eight bills that we think are worth paying attention to.
HB 146 – Adjustments to last year’s unemployment bill ✅
2022 saw the passage of HB 4, a cruel bill that cut unemployment benefits and harmed families across the Commonwealth. This year’s HB 146 undid some of the damage from last year’s bill, including increasing the weeks of benefits from 12 to 16. The bill has passed the House and crossed over to the Senate, where it appears to be on its way to passage.
HB 21 – ID cards for homeless persons ✅
Many things in our world require an ID card. And yet, for homeless people, the simple act of getting an official ID card is pretty much impossible, because the agency granting the ID card requires a permanent home address. This bill would allow a form signed by a shelter or agency to attest to residence, thus making it possible for a homeless person to get an ID. And, this bill also allows homeless minors to apply without their parent’s signature. This bill has also crossed over to the Senate, but has not been assigned to a committee.
SB 104 – Changes to membership of the KET board ❌
Republicans all across the country are going after public television, and Kentucky is no exception. This bill terminates the membership on the board of all current gubernatorial appointees, and says that all future such appointees must be confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate. This bill has passed the Senate and crossed over to the House.
SB 107 – Senate control of Commissioner of Education ❌
As noted by Jamie Lucke in this article, the leader of education for Kentucky was once a political position. The reforms of the early 1990s made it into a professional position, with a nationwide search for the most qualified person for the job. The reforms also made the Education Commissioner responsible to the state Board of Education. SB 107 reverses all of that, and makes the commissioner answer to the 38 members of the state Senate. It also limits the commissioner’s contract to 4 years. This bill has passed the Senate and crossed over to the House, where it has been assigned to Education.
SB 169 – Public/private partnerships for schools systems ❌
This bill adds “school boards” to the government entities allowed to enter into public/private partnerships, which appears to be a back-door way to fund charter schools, by setting up such an agreement with a charter school management company. This bill has passed the Senate, but not been assigned to a committee in the House yet.
HB 40 – Deficient admin regulations ❌
This bill gives legislative committees the power to declare administrative regulations put in place by the executive branch to be null and void. And note that this power is not given to either legislative chamber meeting during session; it is given to any committee meeting during the interim. This bill is about to pass the House.
HB 135 – Autonomous vehicle regulations ❌
It seems clear that “autonomous vehicles” (self-driving cars and trucks) are on their way, and it is probably good to being thinking about how best to regulate them. This bill, though, skips the “let’s study it” phase, and goes right to talking about “a regulatory framework for the operation of fully autonomous vehicles on public highways.” And if you read the bill carefully, it includes self-driving trucks in its language. The thought of driverless 18-wheelers on our interstate highways is not comforting. This bill is also about to pass the House.
HB 353 / SB 59 – Fentanyl testing strips ✅
We all know that fentanyl is a dangerous and often fatal part of the opioid plague ravaging our state. It is also a Schedule II controlled substance, so possession of it without a doctor’s supervision is illegal. Fentanyl testing strips do just what the name says: test for the presence of fentanyl. In 42 states, though, these testing strips are classified as “drug paraphenalia” and are also illegal, even though the Centers for Disease Control recommend their use to prevent accidental overdoses. The bill pair HB 353 / SB 59 make these strips legal in Kentucky. The House bill is about to pass the House and get sent to the Senate.
Obviously, there are a large number of other bills that are also important, some of which actually have a chance of passing. If you want to keep close tabs on what is going on in The Lege, then become a member of Forward Kentucky and use our Bill Trackers!