Senator Steve West’s Legislative Update
With the conclusion of week 13 of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly, the session has now entered the veto recess period. Lawmakers worked late into the night to ensure critical legislation was sent to the governor ahead of the veto period. The House and Senate passed more than 100 bills this week.
The veto recess period allows the governor an opportunity to review and consider the legislation the General Assembly has passed. My colleagues and I in the state Senate and state House of Representatives will return to Frankfort for the final two days of this session on Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, where we have reserved the opportunity to override any vetoes the governor issues on the bills passed by the General Assembly. We will still have the opportunity to pass additional bills, but if those bills are vetoed, they will not be overridden.
The highlight of week 13 was the final passage of the budget bills, including those funding the operations of our three branches of state government: the executive branch (House Bill 1), the legislative branch (House Bill 243), and the judicial branch (House Bill 244). Additionally, we passed the state Transportation Budget and Road Plan, which funds new and improved state highways, roads, and bridges. The Senate played a significant role in the passage of each of these critical bills. I am pleased with what each of them mean for the future of our state and our district.
The state budget bill cleared the Senate without a single vote in opposition. This is a testament to the diligent and careful planning put into the bill over the past several weeks. Hundreds of hours have been invested into crafting the state’s spending plan, with careful consideration of the best interest of Kentuckians in mind. The investment of Kentucky taxpayers’ time and energy made the funding opportunities outlined in these budget bills possible.
Despite the many challenges thrown our way these past two years, the spending plan for the next two years took advantage of the unique funding opportunities available while remaining fiscally responsible and conservative with our precious tax dollars. We are addressing the issues from COVID-19 and natural disasters head on; investing in our state employees like never before with significant pay raises; making further historical investments in education with charter schools, curriculum updates, and paying into the state teacher pensions; and creating a safer and brighter Kentucky home for our families and children.
Even though week 13 consisted of only two legislative days, it was without a doubt the most productive of the session in terms of the number of bills making their way through the process. There were a number of bills that reached the governor with the Senate’s fingerprint on them, which I was happy to support.
- House Bill 3 is a pro-life measure referred to as the Humanity in Healthcare Act. It addresses several aspects of abortion, including access to abortion-inducing drugs. After a December 2021 policy shift by the Food and Drug Administration, these types of drugs are now readily available through online websites with limited oversight and accountability; this bill corrects this troubling problem. I am also happy to say the Senate added an amendment to the bill banning abortions when the gestational age of the baby is beyond 15 weeks.
- House Bill 8 is a tax modernization measure lowering Kentuckians’ personal income tax. It does so in a way that is responsible and will not blow a hole in state revenues. Income tax rates would be lowered by a half percent if certain criteria are met. The lowering of income taxes is made possible by broadening service taxes to certain services.
- House Bill 9 is the Charter School Bill. It establishes the first two publically funded pilot project schools, one in the west end of Jefferson County and the other in Northern Kentucky. The bill also sets the parameters for districts’ ability to opt-in or opt-out of having charter schools, as well as how enrollment will be determined.
- House Bill 607 standardizes the excise tax on every pari-mutuel wager placed in Kentucky, taxing all such wagers off the top at 1.5 percent, eliminating the 15-cent per person admission tax our race tracks currently face, and more. The bill further strengthens Kentucky’s signature industries while raising more money for the state’s general fund to go toward the valued areas of government funded in this year’s state budget.
- House Bill 315 was sent to the governor’s desk on Wednesday and is another example of the important steps being taken by the Kentucky General Assembly, showcasing its commitment to improving broadband access for our rural communities. HB 315 mandates that $182,769,000 from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and $67,231,000 from the ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Fund are to be set aside for the Broadband Deployment Fund. This crucial legislation will establish the Office of Broadband Development and clarify how the office is to administer and implement the Broadband Deployment Fund. Additionally, the bill allocates $20 million in new funding from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund to create the Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund to replace utility poles for the construction of broadband networks.
I am also happy to inform you that legislation in which I was the primary sponsor has been delivered to the governor. SB 4 changes how a governor files an executive order; first, he must file it with the secretary of state, then the Legislative Research Commission before passing it onto the House and Senate for review. With SB 4, executive orders automatically expire 90 days after a governor leaves office. SB 65 is another bill designed because of the sweeping COVID-19 restrictions and mandates residents were subjected to and will nullify the governor’s administrative regulations recently found deficient by the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee.