Kentucky Association of Counties

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The Kentucky Association of Counties

2021 Legislative Session Update: Week 7

By Shellie Hampton, Director of Government Affairs
It’s now a waiting game as the governor considers any vetoes he might issue through March 27.

2021 General Assembly - Regular Session Legislative Update
Week 7 (Legislative Days 27-28) March 15-19

The two days before the veto period began Wednesday were long and drawn out. 

Monday’s work lasted until almost 10 p.m. While the Senate finished its work a few hours before adjournment Tuesday, the fast and furious final hours were a race against midnight for the House as the Republican supermajority legislature worked to pass bills that were likely to be vetoed by Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear. 

Some high-profile bills such as a gas tax increase and no-knock warrants were not taken up and thus did not make the veto-proof cut of midnight Tuesday, thanks in no small part to House Democrats who successfully filibustered long enough to run out the clock on initiatives that may or may not be addressed when legislators return for the final two days of the 2021 session, March 29-30. 

Any bills passed those last two days will not allow any time remaining for legislators to override any vetoes. 

While all three branch budget bills saw final passage this week, an important budget-related bill will have to wait. The Transportation Cabinet’s budget bill that allocates money for road projects for the next year was not passed and will have to wait until the final two days. 

A top priority for KACo this session has been broadband. 

That became reality Tuesday when House Bill 320 passed both chambers and was sent to the Gov. Beshear’s desk. It allocates a stunning $250 million to the Broadband Deployment Fund, a game changer for Kentucky’s underserved and unserved areas. More details can be found by clicking here

We will continue to advocate for passage of a 10-cent gas tax increase this session. We are urging you to keep in touch with your legislators during the veto period and remind them of this top priority that must be passed by the time they adjourn sine die March 30. 

Here are some highlights from this week.  

$250 Million for Broadband- HB320 Rep. Brandon Reed (Support)

  • Federal money tapped to secure last-mile broadband in underserved and unserved areas of the state;
  • No more than $50 million of the fund can be spent from July 1, 2021 through April 1, 2022.
  • Requires a minimum 50 percent match by private means or from a local government, for a maximum $500 million  that could be invested;
  • allows rural electric co-ops to leverage up to 25 percent of assets to establish broadband service.

Latest Action: Passed both Chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Open Records- HB312 Rep. Bart Rowland (Support)

  • restricts who can request open records from public agencies to the following groups: Kentucky residents, business owners, businesses with physical locations in Kentucky, an individual who works in Kentucky, a business or individual who owns real property in Kentucky or a news-gathering organization 
  • Agencies can require that requests be made in writing
  • Extends the response time for public agencies from three days to five days
  • Requires some website posting for public agencies to include the agency’s adopted open records policies and a link to a standardized form on the attorney general’s website that may be used to request public records from a public agency

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission- HB427 Rep. Danny Bentley (Support)

  • Creates the Kentucky Opioid Abatement Advisory Commission to oversee the distribution of opioid litigation settlement funds.
  • 50 percent will be allocated by the commission for the state’s permitted uses.
  • 50 percent will be allocated to counties and cities, and will be distributed to the local governments through an agreement reached among counties and cities; if no agreement can be reached, the money will be paid to a trustee appointed jointly by KACo and Kentucky League of Cities for distribution.
  • The local government formula will be determined in the settlement documents through the trustee.
  • The bill lists a wide array of opioid-related uses for the funding, either for reimbursement for past expenditures or for future projects.

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Felony Threshold- HB126 Rep. Ed Massey (Oppose)

  • amends numerous KRS sections to increase the felony threshold for theft and fraud offenses to $1,000. 
  • creates a Class B misdemeanor level for theft and fraud offenses and amends the Class A misdemeanor level to be $500 or more but less than $1,000. It also enhances the penalty for three convictions of a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony if the convictions occur within five years and allows offenses that occur within 90 days to be aggregated into one offense.

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov, Beshear’s desk

 

Budget Bills

Executive Branch Budget- HB192 Rep. Jason Petrie

  • Mostly continuation budget from FY20-21 budget
  • Contains language prohibiting governor from allocating American Rescue Plan Act dollars without approval from the General Assembly 

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Revenue Bill- HB249 Rep. Jason Petrie

  • Annual bill that is passed as a companion bill to the state budget;
  • Establishes an Emergency Disaster Relief account in the road fund, appropriated by the General Assembly from the road fund to be expended only on projects specifically designated by the General Assembly;
  • Resolves PVA funding issue for Boone, Fayette and Jefferson counties from 2020 revenue bill;
  • Re-establishes and further regulates the film tax credit that was abolished in the 2018 session;
  • Authorizes those counties, whose occupational tax fee was a ballot measure approved by voters, to increase or decrease the rate or any maximum salary limit on which the rate is based, with fiscal court approval. (Kenton and Campbell counties). These counties may choose to credit the fee increase or decrease by agreement with a city. 
  • Establishes a property tax exemption for veteran service organizations that are “wholly dedicated to advocating on behalf of military veterans and providing charitable programs in honor and on behalf of military veterans” i.e. VFW, American Legion, AMVets. Statewide annual impact: $300,000.

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Judicial Branch Budget- HB195 Rep. Jason Petrie

  • Continuation budget from FY20-21 budget

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Jail Safety SB140 Sen. Robby Mills

  • 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.

Latest Action: Passed both chambers, heads to Gov. Beshear’s desk

 

Bills that haven’t made it across the finish line yet

Transportation Budget- HB193 Rep. Jason Petrie

  • Continuation budget from FY20-21 budget

Latest Action: Free conference committee report was not adopted by the House because it ran out of time Tuesday night. 

 

Elections- HB574 Rep. Jennifer Decker

  • Modifies early voting: polls would be open from the Thursday-Saturday before Election Day for anyone to vote.
  • Grandfathers in all current voting machines but requires future machines purchased to have a paper ballot trail
  • Counting of ballots must conclude on Election Day.
  • Does not require counties to have more than one voting center location;
  • Allows for continuation of voting centers for any voter to cast a ballot, regardless of where he or she lives;
  • enhances the ability of state election officials to remove nonresident voters from the voter rolls;
  • transitions toward universal paper ballots statewide; 
  • will prohibit and penalize ballot harvesting (practice in which absentee ballots are collected from voters' homes and dropped off at a polling place or election office.)
  • retain the signature cure process, so absentee voters whose signatures have changed over time have a chance to prove identity and have their ballots counted;
  • Does not provide for universal mail-in ballots but does continue the web portal for ease in applying for absentee ballots; it will be open 45 days before Election Day and close 14 days before. 

Latest Action: Passed in Senate and awaits a concurrence vote by the House. This bill was introduced on the House Floor Thursday, however, legislators withdrew the motion. We are unsure why at this time. 

COVID-19 Liability Protection- SB5 President Robert Stivers

  • provides COVID-19 liability protection to the state, local governments, private persons, volunteers, professional engineers and architects, and persons providing essential services 

Latest Action: Passed House Judiciary Committee March 16, awaits a vote on the House Floor

No-Knock Warrants- SB4 President Robert Stivers

  • Creates procedures and requirements for issuance of warrants authorizing entry without notice

Latest Action: Voted out of the Senate but was not taken up on the House floor because they ran out of time Tuesday night. 

 

Extension of Specific Gubernatorial Emergency Executive Orders - House Joint Resolution 77 Speaker David Osborne

  • Details which executive orders the legislature would extend beyond 30 days and will take effect if a judge should rule in the General Assembly’s favor on three bills currently being litigated between the two branches: House Bill 1, Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2
  • All three bills restrict the governor’s executive powers, specifically the ability to issue orders prompted by the pandemic. They also prohibit the orders from extending beyond 30 days without General Assembly approval. 
  • All three are awaiting action from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd and, as a result, are temporarily suspended from taking effect, keeping all current executive orders in place. 

 

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 shellie.hampton@kaco.org or gracie.lagadinos@kaco.org 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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