Politics

The priority bills of the Kentucky state Senate’s Republican majority include several familiar policies: right-to-work, repealing the prevailing wage and enacting medical review panels.

Senate Republican leaders announced on Wednesday the bills they’ll focus on passing during the 2016 legislative session, which began Tuesday. Their top goal is passage of a bill that would reform the state’s education standards.

The caucus also introduced several bills in response to events that turned conservative heads over the past year. The Republican Senate will push one bill that would prohibit non-Medicaid state tax dollars from funding Planned Parenthood, another that would prohibit the sale of fetal tissue, and another that remove county clerks’ signatures from marriage licenses.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown, said the issues are in line with the campaign platform put forth by Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican elected in November.

“Some issues are new because of the changing political dynamics that have come out of the Supreme Court on marriage, some have come out of the news about Planned Parenthood and the abhorrent, absolutely abhorrent practice of selling body parts from aborted babies,” Thayer said.

Planned Parenthood and others have disputed that characterization.

The Senate majority will have a Republican governor for the first time since Gov. Ernie Fletcher left office in 2007, giving their conservative policies a better chance of becoming law.

But Senate Republicans’ goal may still be stymied by the state House, in which Democrats have a slim 50-46 majority.

The Senate’s top priority legislation is a sweeping education reform bill that takes aim at Common Core education standards.

Sponsored by state Sen. Mike Wilson, the bill would allow local school districts to develop standards for their teachers. Standards are currently developed at the state level.

“We want results. We want our kids educated, not entering things into programs trying to report stuff. That’s what this whole quagmire has become,” Wilson said.

The bill also sets up a system to review the state’s education standards for language arts, math, science and social studies every six years. Standards would be reviewed by a series of panels and committees, one of which would be made up of state lawmakers and governor’s appointees.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill would allow teachers to focus on teaching students.

“It’s going to return the education system to educators so they can change the system that has become flawed,” Stivers said.

  • Here’s the full-list of the Senate Republican Caucus’ priorities:
  • “Education Reform” (SB1, sponsored by Wilson)  eliminates Common Core standards, move teacher accountability to the local level, establish new review structure for state standards.
  • “Pension Reorganization” (SB 2, Sen. Joe Bowen) requires transparency measures for pension systems. The bill would require the state to reveal contracts with third parties asset managers, and “ensure that the board of trustees of KRS and KTRS have the investment experience necessary to professionally guide these organizations.”
  •  “Right-to-Work” (SB 3, Stivers) forbids unionized companies from requiring employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
  • “Informed Consent”  (SB 4, Sen. Julie Raque Adams) require those seeking an abortion to meet with a physician 24 hours prior to the procedure.
  • “Marriage License Fix for County Clerks” (SB 5, Sen. Steve West) removes county clerk’s signatures from marriage licenses.
  • “Medical Review Panels” (SB 6, Sen. Ralph Alvarado) require medical malpractice cases to be reviewed by a special panel to determine whether cases are “frivolous” before they can be filed in court.
  • “De-funding Planned Parenthood” (SB 7, Sen. Max Wise) prohibits non-Medicaid state tax dollars from going to Planned Parenthood.
  • “Judicial Redistricting” (SB 8, Sen. John Schickel) requires all levels of the state’s court system to go through the redistricting process every 10 years.
  • “Repeal Prevailing Wage” (SB 9, Sen. Wil Schroder) eliminate the minimum wage set for public works contractors on school construction. Presently determined by the Labor Cabinet.
  • “Move Statewide Elections to Even-numbered Years” (SB 10, Sen. Chris McDaniel)  move elections for governor, lieutenant governor, auditor, attorney general, agriculture commissioner and treasurer to even-numbered years.
  • “Religious Freedom in Schools” (SB 15, Sen. Albert Robinson) gives protections for the expression of religious statements in school.
  • “Appeals Process for Managed Care Organizations (MCO’s)” (SB 20, Sen. Ralph Alvarado) allow medical providers to appeal MCO determinations to the Department of Medicaid Services.
  • “Prohibiting Sale of Fetal Tissue” (SB 25, Sen. Max Wise) forbids selling fetal tissue from an abortion.

(Image of Senate President Robert Stivers and Senate President Pro Tem David Givens via the Legislative Research Commission)

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.