On Friday, lawmakers have one last opportunity to approve bills, override vetoes and — most importantly — pass a state budget before the legislative session gavels out midnight Friday night.
Gov. Matt Bevin has signed more than 100 bills into law, vetoed six and line-item vetoed parts of a seventh. If the governor vetoes a bill, lawmakers can override the decision with a majority vote in each chamber.
On Friday, lawmakers will have the opportunity to override vetoes Bevin has made so far, but once the legislature adjourns, they won’t be able to override.
Both chambers gavel in at noon on Friday. The General Assembly will end at the stroke of midnight.
Bills In Striking Distance:
Needle Exchange Regulations: Would require the department for public health to establish guidelines for disposing needles. The bill unanimously passed the House, but the Senate amended it to require exchanges to only hand out as many needles as they take in. The House is now considering the changes.
Marsy’s Law: Would establish a system to notify victims when an accused perpetrator makes bail. Passed the Senate, passed a House committee, but hasn’t been heard on the House floor yet.
Flakka Ban: Would increase penalties for synthetic drug known as flakka. Passed the House unanimously; the Senate amended the bill to increase penalties for possessing or trafficking some forms of fentanyl and appropriate $12 million for drug treatment. The House is now considering the changes.
Legislator Pension Disclosure: Would make lawmakers’ state-run retirement funds subject to open records requests. Passed the full Senate, passed a House committee but not the full House.
Road Plan: Lawmakers are still negotiating what goes into the state’s $4.8 billion road plan, which has passed both the House and Senate in different forms.
Double Campaign Contributions: Would increase the amount individuals can donate to state political candidates and campaign committees. Individuals could donate $2,000 instead of $1,000 to candidates and $5,000 instead of $2,500 to state and local political parties.
Local Option Sales Tax: Would allow local governments to add 1 percentage point onto the state’s 6 percent sales tax to fund specific local development projects. Local citizens would vote on whether to adopt the tax. Passed the House, hasn’t been heard in a Senate committee.
Felon Voting Rights: The two chambers have approved competing versions. The House passed a bill that would automatically restore voting rights to felons who finished serving time for non-violent, non-sex-related felonies. The Senate would allow Kentuckians to vote on whether to give the legislature authority to determine which felony crimes would be eligible. Each proposal has passed one chamber but hasn’t been taken up by the other.
Judicial Branch Budget: Bevin vetoed parts of the $832 million Judicial Branch budget bill, the spending plan for Kentucky’s court systems and related programs. One of the line-item vetoes eliminates a $23.5 million fund transfer that would have moved money from the Judicial Branch into the state’s General Fund.
Bevin also eliminated $2.1 million for circuit court clerk salary increases, which Chief Justice John Minton said the system couldn’t afford.
Minton said lean judicial budgets proposed by Bevin and passed by the state House and Senate would force the courts to cut back services, including shutting down drug court programs, which put addicted offenders in treatment in lieu of prison time.
In his veto, Bevin said it is “imperative that the Judicial Branch must continue seeking operational efficiencies.”
Budget writers said they came to an agreement with Minton and put more funding toward the branch. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the courts will receive an additional $34 million, allowing the system to keep many programs open.
Revenue Bill: Bevin vetoed the entire $40 million “revenue bill,” a package of tax cuts, increases and tweaks.
“Given the overall financial condition of the commonwealth and its massive unfunded pension liabilities, now is not the time to pass additional tax expenditures, however meritorious each provision may be,” Bevin wrote in his veto statement.
The package included a provision that would have sent 100 percent of coal tax revenue to coal counties instead of 50 percent and tax breaks for livestock medicine and college tuition.
Also included was $127,000 to prop up the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, gleaned from increasing lobbyist fees from $125 to $275.
Budget writers increased funding to the ethics commission and proposed sending 60 percent of coal revenue back to counties in their compromise spending plan, which still needs Bevin’s signature.
Child Support Changes: Bevin vetoed a bill proposed by Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield that would have changed the amount people pay in child support — increasing for some, exempting others.
Bevin called the bill “completely unacceptable.”
“Senate Bill 153 would provide, for the first time, an option for parents to have zero financial responsibility for the raising of their children,” he wrote.
Books for Brains: Bevin also vetoed the “Books for Brains” bill, a $50,000 per year early education initiative proposed by another Republican, Stan Humphries of Cadiz. Bevin said the bill “would create additional administrative costs on the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives and new responsibilities for individuals and departments with no funding to cover them.”
Flu Education: Bevin vetoed a bill proposed by Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado that would have required assisted living homes to educate residents about the flu vaccine. Bevin called it “an example of unnecessary government intrusion into the private sector.”
“It instills little to no confidence that there will be any measurable health benefit resulting from this increased regulation of private assisted-living facilities,” the veto stated.
Donor Time Off: Bevin vetoed a bill that would have given a tax break to companies that give their employees paid time off to donate tissue or bone marrow.
Bevin called it a “noble and well-intentioned piece of legislation” but said “now is not the time to grant additional tax credits.”
Military Licenses: Bevin vetoed a bill that would have allowed some veterans to get professional licenses from the state if they received equivalent training in the military. Also calling it “well-intentioned,” he said the bill was poorly-written and would cause confusion.