Legislative update from Rep. Rachel Roberts Skip to content

Legislative update from Rep. Rachel Roberts

Some of the important bills that are moving in this year’s legislature.

4 min read

Our thanks to Rep. Roberts who gave us permission to share her update.

The General Assembly has sent Governor Andy Beshear more than 140 bills and resolutions for him to consider, roughly 15 percent of the more than 900 pieces of legislation that had been filed.

The potential impact of those making it to his desk vary widely – some rename roads, while others will cause serious harm to the LGBTQ community and state revenues – but these numbers help illustrate just how much ground was covered during the first 28 days of this year’s 30-day legislative session.

The governor started issuing vetos last week, most notably he vetoed SB150 the sweeping anti-LGBTQ bill.

Reviewing any vetoes will be the House and Senate’s first priority when we return to the Capitol on March 29th and 30th, and it’s worth noting that overrides only require a simple majority rather than the two-thirds threshold at the federal level.

In addition to responding to the vetoes, the legislature will also likely vote on more bills, although anything sent to Gov. Beshear next week can be vetoed without the potential for an override, and therefore would have to wait another year.

Medical MJ and sports betting

The two most prominent on that list are legalizing medicinal cannabis and sports wagering, both of which the governor supports in concept and both of which I have sponsored or cosponsored for years.

The former would be enacted under Senate Bill 47, which would be a welcome step forward but still be one of the most restrictive programs among the 37 states that have already legalized cannabis in some form.

It would only apply to a limited number of illnesses, such as cancer and PTSD, and it wouldn’t be operational until 2025.  It has cleared the Senate, which was the biggest obstacle in the past, and there is reason to believe the House will follow suit, given it has approved similar legislation twice before.

Sports wagering, which is found in House Bill 551, is still viable as well, but Senate leaders have expressed doubt about whether it has enough support under odd-year legislative session rules that require a three-fifths majority vote for any revenue-related measure.  In other words, it may be 2024 before Kentuckians can begin thinking about making a legal sports wager like they can in 33 other states.

Other bills of note

Here is a quick look at several other high-profile bills that are expected to become law, either through the governor’s signature or by veto override:

House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 162, which serve as the General Assembly’s response to serious issues facing our juvenile-justice system.  The two bills contain proposals that are promising in some ways and concerning in others.

On the positive side, there will be more mental-health protections and services for detained youth.  Significant salary increases will help reduce staff shortages, and millions of dollars will go toward opening a revamped facility in Jefferson County, which has been without one for several years, and making other security upgrades.

What’s concerning is the unsealing of juvenile records for three years for certain offenses, which violates longstanding protections for those under 18, and requiring those charged in these cases to spend up to 48 hours in detention, a move that takes away judicial discretion.

Senate Bill 4 is concerning because it adds more hurdles for utilities wanting either to shut down or convert coal-fired power plants.  This interferes with private business decisions and sets the stage for higher electric costs.

House Joint Resolution 76 will provide $66 million for additional upgrades at our state parks.  My floor amendment was adopted and added another $20,000,000 in capital construction funds for utility improvements. This is certainly needed, but last year’s budget set aside up to $150 million, pending a study on park needs.  That study more than made the case for further investment, and waiting longer will just increase costs.

Senate Bill 5, which some are referring to as a “book banning” bill for schools.  It may not technically ban books, but it creates considerable bureaucracy that will be used by some not content with local, longstanding policies already in place.

Senate Bill 126, a court-shopping measure designed to do an end-run around Franklin County circuit judges some legislative leaders don’t like when it comes to challenges to state laws or actions.

Senate Bill 7, an anti-union measure principally aimed at teachers.  This will stop most automatic payroll deductions to unions like the Kentucky Education Association.

The impeachment trial

Although the General Assembly did not meet this past week, it was an historic moment nonetheless for the legislature, since it was the first time in more than a century that the Senate formally began considering a trial following an impeachment by the House.

The case involves a now-former commonwealth’s attorney in Eastern Kentucky, whose improper conduct with a defendant led the Kentucky Supreme Court to suspend his law license and for the commonwealth’s attorney’s association to remove him from its ranks.  Although he resigned last month, a Senate conviction will ensure he can never run for elected office again.

I will provide further updates next week about the final 48 hours left in this year’s legislative session.  Although most of the work enacting new laws is done, it is never too late to let me know your thoughts or concerns. My email is Rachel.Roberts@lrc.ky.gov, and you can also leave a message for me or any other legislator by calling 800-372-7181 during normal business hours.

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The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

The Daily Wrap for Monday, 5/20

A very light news day, with most of the focus on the arrest of the golfer at the PGA last week. Of note, though, is Heather Cox Richardson’s summary of President Biden’s commencement speech at Morehouse.

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