Kentucky Association of Counties

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The Kentucky Association of Counties

2021 General Assembly Week 6 update

By Shellie Hampton, Director of Government Affairs
Five working days remain in the 2021 regular legislative session and we need your help to get many county priority bills across the finish line.

Week 6 (Legislative Days 25-26) March 8-12

Contact your legislators today, and ask for their support. You can also leave a “green slip” for your legislators on the Legislative Message Line: 1-800-372-7181. 

State budget update

Televised discussions on the state budget took place between the House and Senate leaders Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. It’s widely expected to be voted on by both chambers today (March 12). We continue to be told continuation line item amounts from FY2021 budgets are widely expected. We will have a full review of the budgets as soon as possible after the veto period. 

Road funding 

HB 561, sponsored by Rep. Sal Santoro (R-Boone) includes: 

  • 10 cent increase in motor fuels tax 
  • $150 annual fee for electric vehicles
  • City/county formula change after $825 million in motor fuels tax revenue is reached
  • County clerk fee increases
  • Bill generation of millions of dollars for county road aid (Our estimate says at least $40 million.)  
  • A set excise tax with an initial base rate of 34.6 cents per gallon.
    • Adjusts excise tax annually
    • On or before June 2022, and every June adjusts rate based on National Highway Construction Cost Index. 
    • Caps the change at 10 percent plus or minus the previous year (floor of 34.6 cents)
  • County clerk collections (at annual registration):
    • Electric vehicle highway user fee (for Non-hybrid electric vehicles) 
      • Base floor of $150
      • Fee adjusted annually
      • If excise tax increases by 2/10 of one cent = $1 increase
      • If excise tax decreases by 2/10 of one cent = $1 decrease (can’t drop below base fee)
    • Highway preservation fee (annual)
      • Owners of noncommercial motor vehicles 
      • Fuel efficiency rating 30-39 mpg = $35 fee
      • Rating of 40 mpg+ = $40 fee
    • Note: All electric vehicle highway usage fees and preservation fees (new) transferred to road fund

STATUS: Issue is being discussed among both chambers. The language will most likely be added to a different bill that is further along in the process. Keep in touch with your legislators every day through Tuesday to ensure their continued support of the bill that must include a  10 cent motor fuels tax increase. 

$250 million broadband fund

HB 320, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Reed (R- Green, LaRue, Marion) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Petrie (R- Logan, Todd, Warren (part)), allocates $250 million to provide unserved and underserved areas critical broadband access. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, as counties, schools and businesses transitioned to a virtual format, a lack of access to broadband service became even more detrimental. This bill allocates the general fund dollars on the following schedule to the Broadband Deployment Fund:

  • $30 million during the second quarter of fiscal year 2021-22;
  • $70 million during the third quarter of fiscal year 2021-22;
  • $150 million during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021-22.

HB 320 also includes language allowing rural electric cooperatives to set up a subsidiary to provide broadband to unserved and underserved areas. 

STATUS: Passed the House. Received first of three required readings in the Senate. 

COVID-19 liability protection-SB 5

SB 5, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers (R- Clay, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Whitley, Wolfe), provides COVID-19 liability protection to the state, local governments, private persons, volunteers, professional engineers and architects, and persons providing essential services during an emergency. 

This legislation is critical to prevent local governments from facing frivolous COVID-19 lawsuits. Click here to read more about SB5.

STATUS: Passed the Senate, awaiting a committee hearing in the House. 


HB 574, sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker (R-Shelby), is an omnibus election bill incorporating some of the COVID-19-related voting changes from last year’s elections.

  • Modified early voting means polls would be open from the Thursday to the Saturday before Election Day for anyone to vote.
  • It does not require counties to have more than one voting center location.
  • It would allow voting centers for any voter to cast a ballot, regardless of where he or she lives.
  • It does not provide for universal mail-in ballots but does continue the web portal for ease in applying for absentee ballots.

STATUS: Passed the House, posted for a hearing in the Senate State and Local Government committee. It has received two of the three required readings. 

$20 million Rural Hospital Operations and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund

HB 556, sponsored by Rep. Danny Bentley (R- Boyd (part), Greenup) and co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Petrie (R- Logan, Todd, Warren (part)), allocates $20 million to the Rural Hospital Operations and Facilities Revolving Loan Fund, which was created last year under HB 387 but not funded.

  • It would be available to rural hospitals in financial distress and could be used for upgrading facilities, maintaining or increasing staff levels and providing healthcare services not currently available. 
  • For this bill, a rural hospital is defined as a hospital in a county with a population of fewer than 50,000. 

STATUS: Passed the House unanimously last week and awaits action in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue committee. 

Jail safety

SB 140 sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills (R-Caldwell, Crittenden, Henderson, Livingston, Union, Webster) helps reduce contraband mailed into county jails by requiring U.S. mail to be converted to an electronic format and a means for prisoners to receive correspondence from the court, attorneys or a public official via email. The bill also requires jails to provide non-contact visitation areas and unmonitored phone lines. 

STATUS: Passed unanimously in the Senate last week and awaits action in the House. 

Virtual court proceedings

HB 551, sponsored by Rep. Chris Freeland (R- Lyon, Marshall, McCracken), was heard for discussion-only last week during the House Judiciary Committee. 

  • This bill, as filed, requires that any defendant confined in any jail or detention facility in this state and who is to appear in any circuit, family or district court in this state do so remotely via two-way, audio-video communications between the court and the jail or detention facility. 
  • KACo, sheriffs, jailers, county attorneys and commonwealth attorneys worked with Calloway County Circuit Judge Jamie Jameson on this legislation to continue the current COVID-19 instituted Supreme Court rule that reduced many inmate transports.

STATUS: Passed out of House Judiciary Committee with the condition that the Administrative Office of the Courts convenes all stakeholders in the interim to help draft a Supreme Court rule to continue this practice. 

Consolidated Emergency Services District

HB 120, sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey (R-Boone), permits the creation of a “Consolidated Emergency Services District” under a new section of Chapter 75A upon the approval of the Board of a KRS Chapter 75 or 273 district, a special district whose services are subject to the licensure provisions of KRS Chapter 311A, or a rescue squad established under KRS Chapter 39F, and with the approval of the county fiscal court.

  • Provides an additional and more efficient option for merger of districts that offer fire, rescue, ambulance or eligible emergency services into a Consolidated Emergency Services District. This provision encourages efficiency, provides enhanced service, addresses minimum staffing needs and creates more appropriate district service boundaries. 
  • This consolidation option maintains continuity of current Chapter 75 provisions. 
  • It provides accountability to the voters through oversight of tax rates by the elected fiscal court while also affording resource stability to emergency services through the elimination of the current tax cap.
  • Voluntary option for consolidation that requires board approval AND county approval via ordinance prior to formation;
  • No impact to current districts who wish to remain under current governance;
  • After consultation with municipal departments and fire service representatives, municipal departments have been removed from the list of entities eligible for formation into a consolidated district via committee substitute to avoid any unintended consequences. Will work with parties in the future to amend legislation to appropriately include municipal departments.
  • Consistency with other special districts through oversight of tax rate by elected officials (fiscal court) for initial tax rate and any annual  recommended rate above compensating rate;
  • Promotes efficiency and better service through consolidation, where appropriate;
  • Governance and operation maintains consistency under current Chapter 75 except for tax setting authority;
  • Protects healthcare and pension tiers at pre-consolidation level; frozen at prior levels; and
  • Provides for more stable staffing and resource allocation for the future. 

STATUS: Passed the House and Senate. Heads to the Gov. Andy Beshear’s desk.

Constables peace officer powers 

HB 267, sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig (R- Boone (part), Kenton (part)), ensures constables exercising peace officer powers are properly trained. 

  • The bill leaves in place most of the current powers of constables. 
  • It grandfathers in the peace officer powers of any current constables who are re-elected in 2022. 
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, those constables and deputy constables who were not a constable or deputy constable in the preceding four-year term of office will be required to attain Peace Officer Professional Standards (POPS) certification to exercise peace officer powers. 
  • It requires the Department of Criminal Justice Training to admit at least one constable who meets the same qualifying requirements as sheriff deputies per basic training class. The cost of the training for constables would be covered by the KLEPF fund. 

STATUS: Passed the House last week. It has received two of three required readings in the Senate. Awaits a committee hearing. 

Stopping unauthorized capture of photos or videos by first responders

SB 222, sponsored by Sen. Jared Carpenter, would make it a crime for first responders to capture photographic or videographic images while in the line of duty for any purpose other than a job-related purpose. 

  • First responders are defined as coroners, certified deputy coroners, local emergency management directors; firefighters; emergency medical services personnel; peace officers; and rescue service personnel. 

STATUS: Passed out of the Senate unanimously last week and awaits action in the House.  

Governor’s vetoes overridden

HB 3 creates the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee:

  • information and working papers of the committee are exempt from open records;
  • allow the committee to study a matter without regard to jurisdiction of another statutory or standing committee; 
  • provide for issuance of subpoenas; 
  • allow the committee to report any matter under its study to law enforcement, the Auditor of Public Accounts, or any other state official having jurisdiction over the matter under investigation and require a report; 
  • establish a penalty not to exceed $100 per day and a maximum of $1,000 for any person who fails to comply with a subpoena issued by the committee.

SB 3 removes the Agricultural Development Board and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation from the Office of the Governor and attaches them to the Department of Agriculture.

  • Also abolishes the Kentucky Council on Agriculture and the Kentucky Tobacco Settlement Trust Corporation.

Click here for a full list of bills on which KACo has taken a position. Ask your legislators to support bills that will help counties and oppose bills that will not. 

As always, please email or with any questions or feedback from legislators. We appreciate everything you do to lead counties to a successful session. 

Kentucky Association of Counties
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