Final Days of the Session: What Passed, What Didn’t

Every hour of the final two days of the Kentucky legislative session is eventful. One minute, you’re cursing state leadership. The next, you’re pleasantly surprised that something passed or relieved that it got dropped. It can be hard to keep track of what made it through and what didn’t. Here’s a lil’ rundown on what you may have missed:

Overridden Vetoes

Much of the first day was actually devoted to overriding Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes of legislation already delivered out of the Capitol by Kentucky’s Republican supermajority. Out of 24 bills and one joint resolution that Beshear vetoed, only three were spared from Republican wrath. 

There was speculation that Kentucky’s school choice bill wouldn’t be overridden, but it happened with the minimum number of votes needed: 51. Now, a bill that Republicans have been reworking for several sessions has finally passed: It will devote state funds to tax credits for people donating to scholarships for some private schools. In addition, it will move funds with students if they choose to attend a school outside of their district, diverting resources from others. 

What Passed

No-knock Warrants: Senate Bill 4, Senate President Robert Stivers’ bill limiting the use of no-knock warrants in Kentucky passed with a couple new amendments. The legislation will restrict the issuance of such warrants to situations involving a suspected violent crime. The bill also required no-knock warrants to be carried out by special response teams wearing body cameras. But, an amendment added by Rep. John Blanton, R-Salyersville, would strike that requirement for counties with populations under 90,000 if special response teams aren’t available quickly. Smaller counties would also be able to use other types of recording devices, including audio-only devices. Finally, the amendment included a requirement that a paramedic or EMT to be on stand-by during the execution of the warrant.

West End TIF: House Bill 321, establishing a tax-increment finance district in West Louisville, or a TIF, passed last-minute in the legislature. A TIF is supposed to stir economic development. It sets a base tax rate for businesses in the area. As property values rise, the money collected by the government above the base tax rate goes back to economic development projects in the TIF district. To kick off the TIF, the legislature also approved $30 million for projects in the area. This particular TIF also contains a provision meant to prevent gentrification by freezing property taxes for homeowners. Activists still harbor concerns that rents will be raised on residents. 

Pandemic Funds: The legislature figured out where to send some of that $2.6 billion that Kentucky received from the federal government as part of the American Rescue Act. With three bills, they allocated $1.1 billion total, with $140 million for one year of full-day kindergarten, $127 million for investments in school buildings, $50 million for broadband expansion, $250 million for clean drinking water and wastewater projects and $575 million going toward paying off the federal unemployment loan given to Kentucky in 2020. 

Anti-abortion: Republicans have found yet a new way to ban abortion without actually banning it. House Bill 91 proposes an amendment to the state constitution that, if approved, would say that there is no right to an abortion in Kentucky. It won’t actually outlaw abortion in Kentucky because of Roe v. Wade, but it sets up the possibility in the event that the Supreme Court ruling is overturned. Gov. Andy Beshear can’t veto the bill, because it’s a constitutional amendment proposal, so the issue will be on the ballot in 2022. 

Open Records: Senate Bill 48 would allow police, judges, prosecutors and their families dodge having certain records about them released. These government employees could shield their addresses, birth dates, email addresses, phone numbers and more from records request.

COVID liability: Senate Bill 5 could protect “essential” businesses from being sued in coronavirus-related lawsuits as long as they “reasonably” tried to follow Kentucky’s coronavirus regulations. 

What Failed

Louisville’s civilian review board of Louisville police will not have subpoena power — a key aspect of making it more effective than the former Citizens Commission on Police Accountability. House Bill 309 would have allowed the civilian review board to ask the council’s Metro Government Oversight and Audit Committee for subpoenas. After facing backlash from some Metro Council members for not granting direct subpoena power, it failed. 

The much-maligned Senate Bill 211, which would, among other things, have made it illegal to taunt a police officer, did not get a vote in the House after passing the Senate.