Rep. Josh Branscum Legislative Update

The vetoes issued by Governor Beshear last week will be among the most pressing tasks on our agenda when we return to Frankfort in February. The Governor vetoed six of the seven bills we sent to his desk, allowing only the Born Alive Infant Protection Act (SB 9) to become law without his signature.

While we will consider his stance on each of these bills, I also know that they are good long-term public policy, something that our state direly needs.

While the vetoes were expected, I am still disappointed because they will make state government more accountable, transparent, and effective in the long run. Three of the bills vetoed deal specifically with restoring the balance of government authority and are aimed at bringing statutes in line with our state constitution. They include:

HB 5 – requires the reorganization of executive branch agencies and boards to be approved by the General Assembly before they are implemented instead of after as the law now reads.

SB 1 – balances the need for Kentucky to act quickly in an emergency with ensuring that a governor does not overstep his or her authority and attempt to legislate through executive orders.

SB 2 – prevents the executive branch from effectively making laws by issuing regulations rather than going through the legislature.

Regardless of what some may say, these bills were not politically motivated, nor do they simply “strip the Governor of his authority.” In fact, they are part of a movement that is taking place across the nation. As your legislator, I take my constitutional responsibilities seriously and, frankly, many legislators across the country are concerned about how governors are using their emergency powers. This was bound to happen as laws created to address short-term emergencies are now being used to allow governors to run their states without any input from the branch of government responsible for enacting laws and setting policies. It is even happening in states like Indiana, where the legislature and governor are of the same political party. This is commonsense, really, because when all of state government works together, the policies better reflect what the people want. After all, we have a greater chance of reaching an agreement and making more thoughtful decisions.

Of course, working together means collaborating, listening to different approaches and ideas, and making the solution and not the credit for it your priority. It may not be easy, but we were not elected to do easy things and I was sent to Frankfort to do the right things for our state.

The Governor also vetoed a proposal to avoid future shutdowns and provide a more consistent approach to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. HB 1 provides a path to help businesses, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations remain safely open throughout the pandemic; gives employers some relief in making their unemployment insurance payments; and ensures visitation opportunities for those in long-term care and children in state custody.

Legislation that would make justice more accessible was also vetoed. HB 3 removes the antiquated requirement that Kentuckians file suit against the state in Franklin Circuit Court and allows these lawsuits to be sued in the plaintiff’s home county.

The Governor also struck down a bill that would give the Attorney General the authority to enforce state laws and regulations as they apply to abortion providers. This measure, HB 2, was part of another bill that he vetoed at the end of the 2020 Regular Session. I am grateful that this time we will have an opportunity to override his decision.

We will reconvene on February 2. In the meantime, I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at [email protected]

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Zac Oakes is the News and Sports Director for LakerCountry.com and Laker Country WJRS 104.9 FM.