The just-completed session of the General Assembly had hundreds of bills introduced, and over 400 put into law. There were some good ones, some neutral ones, and some bad ones.
And yet, there were some that stood out as being not only bad, but terrible, destructive, short-sighted, or downright mean. Here are the 14 bills that earn the dubious honor of Worst Bills of the 2022 Session.
The redistricting bills – HB 2 and SB 3
Early on, we got a taste of how bad things might be in Frankfort, when the Repub majority released their newly-drawn redistricting maps. Not only did they draw these maps in secret, ignoring the requests of the League of Women Voters and others to make this a transparent process; they drew maps that were so egregious that defending them became a source of jokes and humor. The person representing the furtherest western part of the state actually lives in Frankfort? The fact that Democratic woman after Democratic woman was drawn out of her district was just a “coincidence”? Unfortunately, in addition to being laughable, the maps are also designed to further entrench Republicans. Which is the last thing this state needs.
The “blow a hole in the state budget” bill – HB 8
For years, Repubs across the country and in our state have called for moving to a “consumption-based” funding of state government and the services it provides. In other words, do away with the income tax altogether and fund everything through the sales tax. Obviously, this benefits the rich, the very rich, and the absolutely filthy rich – in other words, the Repubs’ donors. It also does two other things: it punishes the middle class and everyone below them financially, and it eventually blows a hole in the state’s budget, forcing cuts to services – again, something Republicans like. This is one of the worst, most impactful bills to ever come out of Frankfort, and once the current surplus runs out, it will be Katy-bar-the-door for things the state provides ... like schools.
The attack on women and abortion – HB 3
This bill started out dealing mainly with mail-order abortifacients, and with minors seeking abortions. It wound up with some sort of faux-medical reasoning to outlaw ALL abortions after 15 weeks, and put so many regulations and reporting requirements in place immediately (even though CHFS has said it will take months to set the systems up that are called for) that all abortion providers were forced to suspend providing abortions – which, of course, was the point. Kentucky now has the dubious distinction of being the first state in the nation to go completely dark when it comes to abortions.
The attacks on the safety net, including unemployment benefits – HB 4 and HB 7
As one Democratic legislator said, “I don’t know why we spend so much time around here attacking the poor.” The Repubs in Frankfort did exactly that, cutting unemployment benefits and making it harder for people to get food stamps and other safety net benefits. It seems obvious, when comparing these two bills to HB 8, which people in our state the Republican Party wants to be sure it takes care of.
Funding charter schools and their wealthy supporters – HB 9
You can call them “public charter schools” all you want; we know where the money will wind up going. The fact that a for-profit charter school management company spent tens of thousands of dollars lobbying for this bill is not lost on anyone with their eyes open. “I know – let’s blow a hole in the budget AND give a giant tax break to our wealthy buddies AND give more state money to some people to run charter schools!” Definitely the way to move our state forward. Not.
More attacks on public schools – SB 1
Consider this set of dominos: (1) Repubs run for school boards in droves. (2) School boards hire the superintendents. (3) With this bill in place, superintendents choose the principal, instead of the site-based decision-making council doing it. (4) Schools now under control of Republicans.
Oh, and while we’re taking power away from the parents, let’s take it away from the teachers as well, by telling them exactly what they can and cannot teach. The anti-CRT bills were just too ... you know ... racist ... so we tried a “softer” approach. Teachers are leaving the profession because of our attacks? More room for low-paid folks at our charter schools, I guess.
Attack on trans children as a campaign slogan – SB 83
This bill is the reason I included the word “mean” in my earlier list of adjectives for these bills. This bill is just mean. Here you’ve got a very, very small number of children who are dealing with gender issues ... with an even smaller number who are going through trans-gender therapy ... with an even smaller number of those who want to play sports. And, KHSAA already has a pretty fair and detailed list of rules that must be observed if one wants to play sports as a trans, including hormone therapy sufficient to minimize any potential competitive advantage.
But instead of leaving the issue to KHSAA, and perhaps showing a little bit of compassion for children and teens dealing with such a life-changing situation, those Repub men decided to throw their testosterone around and outlaw trans youth from playing sports in their gender.
And of course, two of the loudest proponents of the bill just happen to be considering running for governor next year. Hell of a thing, guys, to get your campaign started on the backs of children and teenagers.
The give-up-$500-million-because-we-hate-the-gov bill – SJR 150
This is so stupid. The federal government was giving states money to deal with numerous COVID issues – but only as long as the state had a COVID state of emergency in place. But the Repubs, in all their righteous indignation at the governor actually doing something about COVID, decided to show the gov just who is boss and terminate the state of emergency early. They were told, repeatedly, that this would mean losing $500 million of fed money. They did it anyway.
Attack on public libraries – SB 167
This bill came about because of a pissing contest between one county judge-executive and the library board in that county. So, because this one elected official got told No, we now have our libraries being run by partisan elected officials instead of non-partisan library boards.
It’s possible in the end that the elected officials will see their public libraries as the valuable public resource they are, and will take care to keep the boards both non-partisan and effective. It’s also possible that they will load up the boards with their cronies, and proceed to ban books and eliminate programs.
And don’t forget, the bill says that these new boards can use public library funds to build facilities that are not for the library, but are for “educational purposes.” Charter schools, anyone?
Attack on Louisville – HB 314
Again, this bill is so stupid in its potential damage. The bill lets new small cities be formed within Jefferson County, thus limiting the tax base of Louisville’s government and making a bad situation (a ridiculous number of small cites already) even worse. But here’s the kicker: this bill is going to cost the city in federal funds, it’s going to make the local services even more disjointed and inequitable – and worst of all, it’s going to make it harder to attract new businesses.
Why? Well, suppose you want to get a deal to locate your new plant here. You go looking at sites, then meet with the Louisville econ dev group. You mention a site, and the groups says “Well, part of that site is actually in a new small city, and part is in Louisville, so you’ll have to get a deal from both of us.” Any CEO who hears this is going to say “Wait, I thought you had consolidated government here. You mean I have to deal with multiple cities for one site? Yeah, we’re outta here.”
Once again, the Republicans want to show those Louisville Democrats who’s boss. And once again, they have cut off their nose to spite their face.
The “nyah, nyah, we own the purse strings” bills – HB 248 and HB 388
Two more bills in the long list of taking power away from the governor because he’s a Democrat and because we can. These bills say that the governor can’t use state funds to either challenge the constitutionality of a bill, or to challenge decisions about contracts. Basically, the Repubs said “we control the money, so suck it.”
It’s possible that both of these will be struck down in court. But they still are an example of the “let’s get Andy” impetus behind many of the bills this session.
Now, if you are as depressed about this list as I am, you may be wondering “can anything good come out of
Nazareth Frankfort?” And the answer is, believe it or not, Yes. Tomorrow I'll post a list of good bills that passed. I don't think the good of those bills will outweigh the bad of these ... but you can be the judge. Until then, be thankful that the session is over, so they can't pass any more bills like these.
Forward Kentucky Newsletter
Sign up for free to get the weekly update right in your inbox.