LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: By Senator Robin L. Webb 9-19-2020

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: By Senator Robin L. Webb 9-19-2020 2

FRANKFORT — Governor Andy Beshear stated he would not be giving a recommendation on the reopening of schools beyond September 28. In August, Gov. Beshear urged schools to remain virtual until there were decreases in the infection rate. With the announcement, the administration will allow local districts and school boards to make decisions on the instruction of students. However, officials said they will closely monitor trends of local districts and will make determinations if cases increase.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Steven Stack, Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman, and education leaders offered further insight on the state of education in the commonwealth amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. Under a new order, all parents and guardians must notify the child’s school within 24 hours if their child tests positive for COVID-19. There will be an online portal created so that all schools can report data via a secure website. According to Dr. Stack, the information will be used by officials to make a week-by-week decisions in our various school districts and counties based on prevalence and what public health experts indicate is the right course. The dashboard link will be posted online closer to Sept. 28 on the kycovid19.ky.gov website.

Members of the legislature gathered recently in Frankfort for a host of Interim Joint Committee meetings.

During the Interim Joint Committee on Education meeting, officials of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) explained their COVID-19 transportation guidelines for schools that will soon begin in-person instruction. Robin Kinney, the associate commissioner for KDE, said that considering factors, such as school district size and finances, social distancing with one child per seat every other seat is ideal. For districts where it may be a challenge, other mitigating strategies can be used if bus capacity cannot be kept low. Those mitigation strategies include requiring students to wear masks, have their temperatures checked before boarding the bus, and use hand sanitizer. Assigned seating was also recommended in the event a child on a bus tests positive for COVID-19 and contact tracing is needed.

During the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue meeting, members heard from Secretary of State Michael Adams regarding expenses ahead of the 2020 General Election. Sec. Adams said his office anticipates a turnout of around 73 percent in the general election- over more than double the turnout in the primary. According to Sec. Adams, typical election year in-person voting consists of about 98 percent of ballots, with approximately two percent voting absentee. During the primary, nearly 75 percent of the ballots cast were absentee, but he testified in committee that his office cannot process that many at this time during a general election.

However, if you are worried about COVID-19, you may still request an absentee ballot online at GoVoteKY.com until the October 9 deadline. More information regarding polling locations for in-person voting will be provided at a future date. So it’s best to make a plan now. Be a voter!

As we progress toward Election Day on November 3 and through the Interim Session, I will do my best to keep you informed on the happenings in Frankfort. Stay engaged, remain vigilant, and remember to mask up, Kentucky! We are all in this together. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, I remain accessible by email at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV.

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