The full might of the Kentucky General Assembly was on display this past week as lawmakers overrode two vetoes related to redistricting and advanced a landmark budget package off the House floor.
Of the hundreds of bills filed in a 60-day legislation session, few underscore the influence of the General Assembly more than the state’s biennial spending plan. And this year’s House proposal is historic for both its magnitude and momentum.
The House approved two bills Thursday that would allocate a record $110 billion to the state executive branch, including the Transportation Cabinet, over the next two years. It was the earliest vote on a House budget bill in recent memory, and the measure now heads to the Senate.
Lawmakers said preparations during last year’s interim session allowed them to accelerate the pace on budgeting this year.
Highlights include increased funding for education, money for public pensions and raises for state police and social workers, among others. The House is also proposing money for clean water projects, capital investments in higher education and expansion of the senior meals program.
Thursday’s budget vote is sure to be one of the most watched moves of the session. However, lawmakers also returned this week to another headline issue facing the General Assembly—redistricting.
Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed two of the legislature’s redistricting bills on Wednesday; one would redraw the U.S. Congressional districts in Kentucky, the other focuses on the state’s 100 House districts. But majority lawmakers in both chambers quickly overrode the vetoes Thursday afternoon.
The third week of the 2022 legislative session also brought action on several bills related to education, criminal justice and health care. Lawmakers did not convene on Monday in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but bills began moving again on Tuesday.
That’s when the House approved House Bill 44, a measure that would allow excused absences in public schools for student mental health. The bipartisan legislation cleared the House floor by a unanimous vote.
The next day, the Senate advanced Senate Bill 9, known as the Read to Succeed Act. It would amend the existing Read to Achieve Act from 2005, creating a comprehensive system of supports, interventions and evidence-based learning to enhance early literacy outcomes in public schools.
The legislation would also establish the Read to Succeed Fund. If money is appropriated for the fund, it could be used to train educators on strategies to improve K-3 reading skills and provide statewide professional learning academies in reading. It could also be used to create a literacy training program.
Another measure trekking through the legislature, Senate Bill 38, relates to incest. The bill would amend state law to designate those convicted of incest as a “violent offender.” That would require offenders to serve 85 percent of their criminal sentence rather than 15 percent under the current law. It advanced out of committee this week.
The Senate also passed legislation on the floor on Friday to ensure patients in long-term care facilities and mental hospitals can receive visits from essential care visitors, which could include family members, friends or volunteers, among others. The measure, Senate Bill 100, now heads to the House.
Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Frankfort on Monday, January 24th for the 14th day of the session.
Kentuckians have many ways to keep in touch with the legislative process, including the Legislative Record webpage, which allows uses to review and track a bill’s progression through the chambers.
Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.