A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

General Assembly wrap-up: bills that became law, bills that didn’t, bills awaiting Governor’s signature

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

The General Assembly wrapped up on March 28 sending 10 bills to Gov. Matt Bevin, who still has about a week to decide if he will sign, veto or allow them to become law without his signature.

Among the bills already signed into law are four pro-life measures.

- Senate Bill 50 mandates that any time an abortion-inducing drug is dispensed, a report must be made to the Vital Statistics Bureau of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The bill was changed in the House to include a requirement that any physician who prescribes an abortion-inducing drug also provide information on how the drug can be reversed. 

- House Bill 148 provides that if the U.S. Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, or an amendment is adopted to the U.S. Constitution that restores state authority to prohibit abortions, abortions would automatically become illegal in Kentucky. 

Two other pro-life bills are on hold, pending the outcome of lawsuits filed against them shortly after they were signed into law.

- House Bill 5 would prohibit an abortion based on an unborn child’s sex, race, color, national origin or disability, except in the case of a medical emergency or lethal fetal anomaly, where the child could not live after being delivered.

- Senate Bill 9 would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur as soon as six weeks after conception, according to testimony when the legislation was being heard in committee.

Those last two bills both contained emergency clauses, meaning they would become law as soon as they were signed by the governor.

However, a U.S. District Court judge in Louisville has issued temporary restraining orders on both bills until he hears arguments on the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of EMW Women’s Surgical Center in Louisville, the only place where abortions are performed in Kentucky.

One of the highest priorities for lawmakers was enactment of school safety legislation. Senate Bill 1, which has been signed by the governor, was the product of a specially formed committee that traveled the state last year to discuss school safety and collect feedback.

The measure will create a state security marshal to conduct onsite visits to ensure schools were compliant with all provisions of the omnibus bill.

The goal is to improve student safety by boosting safety and prevention training, promoting the assignment of a school resource officer to every school, increasing awareness of suicide prevention efforts, encouraging collaboration with law enforcement and hiring more counselors in school districts.

No appropriation accompanied the bill, which was signed by the governor, but legislative leaders said funding the provisions of the bill are expected to be a priority when lawmakers put together the state’s two-year budget next year.

Speaking of schools, HB 11 would ban the use of tobacco, e-cigarettes and vaping devices on public school campuses, in school vehicles and at school activities beginning with the 2020-21 school year. School districts would have up to three years to opt out of the ban should they choose. The individual districts not opting out will also be able to set the penalties for violating the ban.  It has not yet been acted upon by the Governor.

SB 150 will make Kentucky the 16th state to allow concealed firearms to be carried without a concealed carry permit. The measure will allow Kentuckians age 21 and older who are legally eligible to possess a firearm, to carry a concealed weapon without a license in the same location as people with valid state-issued licenses. Permitless carry will not be allowed where prohibited by federal law or otherwise prohibited.  Bevin has signed the measure into law, and it will take effect in July.

HB 358 will give regional state universities, community colleges and quasi-governmental agencies such as health departments and mental health boards, a chance to leave the Kentucky Employees Retirement System on June 30, 2020, by paying their unfunded liability to the system in a lump sum or installments. Postsecondary quasi-agenciesnd quasi agencies that decide to stay in KERS will have to pay the full retirement contribution rate to the system starting in July 2020. The rate was frozen for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The governor has not yet signed or vetoed the bill.

House Bill 354 will provide $105 million per year tax relief to banks and nonprofits in addition to strengthening Kentucky’s ability to collect sales tax on online purchases. The measure changes taxation of Kentucky-chartered banks from a franchise tax to state corporate income tax to try and curb the takeover of community banks by banks from states with lower tax rates.

Another section of HB 354 will provide relief to nonprofits by exempting those groups from collecting and remitting sales tax on admissions to charity events in addition to making it clear in statute that sales from one-time fundraising events are not subject to the sales tax. Thirdly, HB 354 will increase tax revenue by requiring online marketplace providers to collect and remit sales tax for sales made using their platform.  The bill has been signed into law. 

HB 2, dubbed the kinship care bill, will create a caregiver assistance program for relatives and “fictive kin,” usually close family friends, of abused, neglected or dependent children. The measure will do this by offering different options to the caregivers based on the level of care they provide. It is designed to address a growth in out-of-home placement of Kentucky children amid the state’s current opioid crisis.

HB 158, “the foster child bill of rights,” grants 16 rights for children in out-of-home placement in Kentucky, including rights to adequate food, clothing and shelter; a safe, secure, and stable family and freedom from physical, sexual, or emotional injury or exploitation.  It will also reduce the time for a parent or guardian to consent to voluntarily placing a child for adoption from 20 days to 72 hours.

SB 31 will ensure children in out-of-home care have visitation rights with their siblings. The measure will do this by requiring the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, in the case of siblings removed from their home and not jointly placed, to provide for frequent visitation or other ongoing interaction between the siblings.

All three measures have been signed into law.

SB 57 means more Kentuckians will be eligible to have low-level felonies removed from their criminal records, by expanding discretionary expungement to all Class D felonies with some exceptions for crimes such as stealing in office, abusing children and sex abuse. It includes a five-year waiting period to apply for expungement, a $250 application fee and provisions for prosecutors to object and judges to reject the applications. It has been signed by Bevin.

The governor has also signed SB 6, which will make those who lobby the executive branch of government subject to the same ethics laws as those lobbyists who deal with the General Assembly.

Some of the high-profile bills that did get enacted include:

HB 136, which would have established a medical marijuana program in Kentucky. passed a House committee, but never came up for a floor vote in that chamber, despite having 53 House co-sponsors.

SB 80, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use was introduced in the Senate, but never even had a committee hearing.

HB 175, that would have legalized sports gambling in Kentucky, as well as fantasy sports and online poker, passed a House committee, but after being placed on the orders of the day in the full House on Feb. 25, a vote was never taken.

Bills opposed by teachers, who descended upon the Capitol by the hundreds on more than a half-dozen days, forcing 10 districts to close due to teachers calling in sick, did not pass this year.  Among them was a HB 205, a measure to offer tax credits for contributions to scholarship programs at private schools; and one that would reduce the number of seats controlled by the Kentucky Education Association on the Teachers Retirement System Board.

All in all, lawmakers passed more than 200 measures, sending them on to the governor. Two were vetoed, but the General Assembly voted to override the vetoes. The governor will have the final word on the 10 bills passed on the last day of the 2019 session, since the General Assembly has adjourned.

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