Legislative update: General Assembly closes session, will return for veto

By JIMMY HIGDON
14th District State Senate

Friday, April 1, 2022 — The session has now entered veto break with the conclusion of the 13th week of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly. Lawmakers worked late into the night to ensure important legislation was sent to the governor before the veto deadline. The House and Senate passed over 100 bills this week.

Sen. JIMMY HIGDON

The veto pause allows the governor to review and scrutinize legislation passed by the General Assembly. My colleagues and I in the state Senate and House of Representatives will return to Frankfurt for the last two days of this session on Wednesday 13 April and Thursday 14 April. During this time, we have reserved the opportunity to override one of the sessions to override the Governor’s vetoes on bills passed by the General Assembly. We still have the opportunity to pass additional bills, but their vetoes cannot be overridden.

The culmination of week 13 was the final passage of budget legislation, including those funding the operations of our three branches of state government: the executive branch (house bill 1), the legislature (House bill 243) and the judiciary (house bill 244). In addition, we approved the State Transportation Budget and Road Plan, which funds new and improved state highways, roads and bridges.

I have had the honor of leading the Senate effort to develop the state road plan. I think it’s one we can all be proud of, making the most of the resources available to keep our roads and bridges in good condition. Also for the future there is a lot of hope for some big projects that will make Kentucky grow economically. These projects include the much-discussed Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky.

The Senate played a significant role in all budget-related bills. I’m excited about what each of them means for the future of our state and our county. The state budget bill passed the Senate without a single dissenting vote. This is a testament to the conscientious and careful planning of the bill over the last few weeks. Hundreds of hours have gone into crafting the state’s spending plan with careful consideration of the best interests of Kentucky residents. The investment of time and energy by Kentucky taxpayers made possible the funding opportunities described in these budget statements.

Despite the many challenges we have faced over the past two years, the spending plan for the next two years capitalized on the unique funding opportunities available, while at the same time being fiscally responsible and conservative with our taxpayer dollars. We are tackling the issues of COVID-19 and natural disasters head-on, investing in our government employees like never before with significant pay increases. We’re making further historic investments in education, again paying well above the required amount into state teachers’ pensions, and relieving school districts of financial burdens by subsidizing travel expenses and funding all-day kindergartens. The final budget will help create a safer and brighter home in Kentucky for our families and children.

Although the 13th week consisted of only two legislative sessions, it was undoubtedly the most productive of the session in terms of the number of bills that went through the process. I was happy to support several bills that reached the governor with the Senate fingerprint.

house bill 3 is a pro-life measure known as the Humanity in Healthcare Act. It addresses several aspects of abortion, including access to abortion-promoting drugs. Following a December 2021 Food and Drug Administration policy change, these drugs are now readily available through online websites with limited oversight and accountability. This bill addresses that troubling issue. I’m also pleased to say that the Senate added an amendment to the bill that would ban abortion if the baby’s gestational age is over 15 weeks.

House bill 8 is a tax modernization measure that reduces the income tax of Kentucky residents. It is doing this responsibly and will not tear a hole in government revenue. Income tax rates are reduced by half a percent if certain criteria are met. Income tax cuts are made possible by extending service taxes to certain services.

house bill 9 is charter school law. It establishes the first two publicly funded pilot project schools. The bill also establishes the parameters for districts’ ability to opt-in or opt-out of charter schools and how enrollment will be determined. House Bill 9 further strengthens local control and gives local districts and voters a voice to improve educational opportunities for the students it serves. No school district with fewer than 7,500 students is eligible for charter schools unless approved by the local board of education.

House bill 607 unifies the excise tax on every pari-mutuel bet placed in Kentucky, taxes all those bets from a top of 1.5 percent, eliminates the 15 cent per person entry tax our circuits currently face, and more. The bill further strengthens Kentucky’s signature industries while raising more money for the state’s general fund to flow into valuable areas of federally funded resources in this year’s state budget.

House bill 315 further underscores the General Assembly’s commitment to improving broadband access for our rural communities. HB 315 mandates $182,769,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund and $67,231,000 from the ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Fund to be reserved for the Broadband Deployment Fund. This crucial legislation will establish the Office for Broadband Development and will clarify how the Office will administer and implement the Broadband Deployment Fund. In addition, the bill allocates $20 million in new funding from the state Fiscal Recovery Fund to establish the Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund to replace utility poles for broadband construction.

I am also pleased to report that legislation that I have been a major sponsor of has also been turned over to the governor. Senate bill 119 establishes the procedures to be followed by the Department of Transportation when posting signage on state highways and bridges in connection with honorary naming. As Chair of the Senate Department for Transportation, I know that honoring influential and respected people means a lot to many. This can include heroic first responders, dedicated public officials, notable Kentucky celebrities and more. The bill also gives schools the ability to petition cabinet for honor nomination. I expect the law to be signed or allowed to become law without a signature.

I look forward to the implementation of the aforementioned bills and other legislation as I trust they will continue to positively advance our state. I will keep you updated on the numerous bills awaiting a governor’s decision and ultimately those that may require further action by the legislature.

I enjoyed collaborating in this session with my State House colleagues who are working hard to represent their respective districts in the 14th District. They include Rep. Chad McCoy of Nelson County, Rep. Kim King of Washington County, Rep. Michael “Sarge” Pollock of Marion County, Rep. Brandon Reed of LaRue County, and Rep. James Allen Tipton of Spencer County. They are excellently represented in the State House.

Don’t hesitate to contact me at (502) 564-8100 (office), (270) 692-6945 (home), or email [email protected] with any questions or concerns to have. You can share your thoughts on legislation by contacting the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.

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