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The Kentucky Association of Counties

2021 Regular Session: Legislative Update Week 1

By Gracie Lagadinos
Known as the short session, the legislature has up to 30 working days before the constitutional deadline of March 30 to complete its work.

Week 1 (Legislative Days 1-4) Jan. 5-8

This year lawmakers will have to reach a consensus on a one-year budget for the state, the road plan, transportation cabinet funding and the judicial branch, as well as help the state endure and begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can expect a weekly update during session, highlighting the work of the legislature and how county governments are impacted by the action that week. 

In addition to this content, you will also receive Action Alerts as needed, urging you to contact your legislators for their support of the position counties take on a particular bill. You are the best advocate for what your county needs from the legislature. 

Stay informed by following us on Twitter @KACo, on Facebook @KACo, and our legislative news website, On The Floor.

First week of an unusual legislative session 

The first week of the 30-day session (Even-year sessions last 60 days.) featured both chambers gaveling Tuesday at noon. 

The breakneck pace of this first week is reminiscent of 2017, when seven bills were passed in the first five working days. It’s widely rumored the session calendar will be altered to move some work days to include this Saturday, and at least some days will become legislative work days the week of Jan. 11. 

Typically, the short session begins with only four working days followed by a three-week break before returning in early February. It is sure to change again as the session moves on. You can access the session calendar here

The House announced some changes to the rules that guide its session, which can be found here. 

Governor’s budget recommendations

As noted earlier, the state budget is the top priority of the legislature every even-numbered year session. However, in the 2020 session, because of the unknown impact COVID-19 might have on state revenues, the General Assembly passed a one-year budget. Now the FY 2022 budget must be negotiated and passed, and that begins in the Governor’s office. 

Thursday evening Gov. Andy Beshear presented highlights of his “Better Kentucky Budget” remotely from his office, in his annual State of the State address to a joint session of the General Assembly, convened in the House chamber. We will have a full analysis of the Governor’s budget soon but his priorities included:

  • $50 million for the last-mile buildout of broadband
  • $220 million small business relief fund (He requested this be in a separate expedited bill.)
  • $48 million in unemployment benefits for those “who have waited too long to receive” their benefits
  • Using federal CARES money to repay $152 million in federal Unemployment Insurance loans 
  • $600 stipend increase for local and state law enforcement and firefighters
  • Doubling local health departments’ state general fund support for epidemiology and clinical capacity
  • Pension relief to local health departments and other quasi-governmental agencies
  • Fully funding the state retirement plans
  • Excluding military pensions from Kentucky income tax
  • $1,000 salary increase for all teachers, bus drivers, cafeteria and other school employees
  • 1 percent raise for state employees.

Legislation

Members began filing more bills this week, and when added to the pre-filed bills that had been submitted during the 2020 interim, the total already surpasses 250. The last day to file new bills is Feb. 12 in the Senate and Feb. 16 in the House. 

The House and Senate have traditionally presented their top priority bills early in the session, and this year is no exception. 

Senate Bill 1, from Sen. Matt Castlen, (R- Daviess, Hancock, McLean), amends KRS 39A to limit the effective dates of executive orders issued by the Governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly. The bill also includes the same limit on emergency orders issued by local chief executives, however, local chief executive or local legislative bodies may request an extension of the executive order. SB1 passed in the Senate 27-9-1 with Committee Substitute (1), floor amendment (1) and committee amendment (1-title).

Senate Bill 2, amends KRS 39A to alter the process of the approval of executive branch administrative regulations. SB2 was filed by Sen. Stephen West (R- Bourbon, Fleming, Harrison, Lewis, Mason, Nicholas, Robertson, Rowan), and similar to SB1, has numerous co-sponsors. SB2 passed in the Senate 31-6 with Committee Substitute (1).

Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Carroll, Henry, Jefferson (part), Shelby, Trimble) would remove the Agricultural Development Board and the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation from the Office of the Governor, and these groups would fall under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. SB3 passed in the Senate 29-8 and heads to the House. 

Senate Bill 5 provides COVID liability protection to the state, local governments, private persons, volunteers, professional engineers and architects, and persons providing essential services during an emergency. SB5 is sponsored by President Robert Stivers. 

House Bill 1 relating to “reopening the economy in the Commonwealth” covers many topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic including allowing local governments, businesses and schools to reopen as long as they develop a safety reopening plan following CDC guidelines and post the plan outside the building. HB1 also suspends interest on unpaid unemployment insurance contributions, provides guidelines for noncustodial parental visitation and provides guidelines for visitation at long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 state of emergency. HB 1 is primarily sponsored by Rep. Bart Rowland (R- Hardin (part), Hart, Metcalfe, Monroe) and has many co-sponsors. HB1 passed in the House 70-23 with Committee Substitute (1), floor amendments (1) and (3). 

House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Ed Massey (R- Boone), develops a new means for constitutional challenges to statutes, executive orders, regulations, and other cabinet or department orders to be heard by a panel of three Circuit Judges, chosen from geographic areas that divide the state into three regions, instead of the current law that requires all such legal cases to be filed in and heard by Franklin County Circuit Court. HB3 passed 69-24 in the House. 

House Bill 4 proposes to amend Sections 36 and 42 of the Kentucky Constitution to eliminate the existing dates by which the General Assembly must adjourn in any regular session. Currently, in even-numbered long sessions, the General Assembly must adjourn by April 15 and in the short session odd-number years by March 30. The bill also provides that the General Assembly may extend the length of its legislative sessions by 10 days upon the vote of 60 percent of the membership of each House. HB4 is sponsored by Speaker David Osborne and passed in the House with a vote 77-16 with Committee Substitute (1) and committee amendment (1-title).

House Bill 5, sponsored by Rep. Michael Meredith, removes provisions related to the authority of a governor to temporarily reorganize a board, commission or cabinet. HB5 will require a governor to present his/her reorganization plan to the Legislative Research Commission. The LRC or the legislative Program Review and Investigations committee may monitor the implementation of any reorganization plan and shall report its findings to the General Assembly. HB5 passed in the House 73-22.

The top KACo priority is the need for increased transportation infrastructure funding. State Rep. Sal Santoro (Boone County) has again pledged to file the bill as the primary sponsor. When it gets filed, we will have an analysis for you. 

Until then, share with your legislators your own budget numbers on road and bridge maintenance, repair and the unfunded need. Thanks to those counties who have already adopted the gas tax resolution, more than half of you have forwarded those. Let them know today that you will publicly support their yes vote for more funding. 

Click here for a list of KACo’s 2021 Legislative Priorities.

Click here for a list of legislative leadership and committee chairs.

Kentucky Association of Counties
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