With the legislature on a break heading towards the end of this year’s session, Gov. Matt Bevin has signed many bills into law this week, including legislation opening Kentucky up to charter schools, defunding Planned Parenthood and requiring state colleges and universities to compete for funding.
Bevin has signed 107 bills into law so far this year. He has 10 days after a bill passes to sign the legislation, veto it or ignore it — in which case the proposal becomes law.
The General Assembly will return on Wednesday and Thursday next week for the two final working days of this year’s legislative session.
They’ll have the opportunity to override any vetoes Bevin makes with a supermajority of votes in each chamber, though Bevin hasn’t vetoed any legislation so far.
In the two concluding days of the legislative session, lawmakers are expected to consider bills dealing with public education reform, criminal re-entry and whether to strip powers of the attorney general, before the General Assembly officially ends at midnight Friday.
Here’s a list of (some of) what Bevin signed into law this week:
Bevin signed House Bill 520 into law on Tuesday, making Kentucky the 44th state to allow charter schools.
Charter schools are like traditional public schools but they’re not required to meet most state regulations — a feature which supporters say will allow teachers to educate students in more innovative ways.
Local school districts and the mayors of Lexington and Louisville will have the power to approve charter applications. Denied applications could be appealed to the Kentucky Board of Education.
There will be no cap on how many or where charters can be approved in the state.
Charters will receive state funding based on student attendance, much like traditional public schools. But charters won’t receive funds for buildings or transportation. They will also have to pay a fee that would go back to local school districts and the state board of education.
Starting in 2019, Kentuckians will have to upgrade their drivers’ licenses or bring additional identification to board commercial air flights, under House Bill 410. The legislation is in response to the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which requires all states to upgrade the security of their identification card systems.
Though Kentuckians will still get their driver’s licenses at circuit court clerks’ offices, the cards will be distributed by the state Transportation Cabinet.
Licenses would also have to be renewed every eight years, instead of four, and the enhanced ID’s will cost $48, instead of $20. Standard driver’s licenses will cost $43.
Those who opt out of the new license will need additional ID like a passport to board domestic air flights and enter military bases.
Bevin vetoed the bill last year in response to conservative opposition to it.
State universities and community colleges will compete for state dollars under Senate Bill 153, the new performance funding policy.
After a phase-in period, 35 percent of funding will be based on graduation rates, with extra weight going to the award of science, technology, engineering and math degrees. Another 35 percent will be awarded based on the number of degree hours awarded, and 30 percent going to operational needs.
Schools in the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges system would compete separately from the state’s flagship and regional universities. The provision also gives the state the option to “minimize impact on smaller campuses.”
No-Jail Jailers Accountability
Kentucky has 41 counties that have jailers but no longer have county jails. Under Senate Bill 39, jailers in no-jail counties have to submit quarterly reports documenting their office’s work. County fiscal courts will also have to outline their jailers’ responsibilities every year.
The bill was spurred by a 2015 investigation by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, which revealed that jailers without jails were being paid salaries ranging from $20,000 to nearly $70,000.
The investigation showed salaries of no-jail jailers and those of their deputies, which sometimes included families, cost nearly $2 million per year.
‘Defund’ Planned Parenthood
Bevin signed Senate Bill 8, which puts Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for family planning funding given to Kentucky by the federal government.
The bill comes in response to undercover videos allegedly showing Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of fetal organs — allegations denied by Planned Parenthood and later debunked.
Planned Parenthood already opted out of the funding for its two Kentucky locations in late 2015 — about $330,000.
Neither of Kentucky’s Planned Parenthood locations provide abortions.
Coverage for Tobacco Cessation Treatment
Insurance plans will be prevented from charging out-of-pocket costs for smoking cessation medication and therapy under Senate Bill 89, which Bevin signed earlier this week.
Kentucky has one of the highest rates of smoking in the country, with an estimated cost of $1.9 billion a year to the health care system.
Insurance companies would be barred from charging co-pays or deductibles and limiting the duration of smoking cessation treatment.
More on the 2017 session can be found here.