FRANKFORT ⎯ The General Assembly is ZOOMing through the 2021 Regular Session, literally and figuratively. The legislature continues to hold virtual and in-person committee meetings, and bills are beginning to fly out of the House and Senate. We are now past the halfway point of the short 30-day session, and while it may be icy across Kentucky, things are certainly heating up at the Capitol in Frankfort.
Up until January, pari-mutuel wagering, also known as Historical Horse Racing (HHR), was legal in Kentucky. In January, the Kentucky Supreme Court handed down a decision that halted all pari-mutuel wagering in the state. The slot-like HHR machines at horse tracks allow patrons to place bets on past horse races at random. It has been signature industry in Kentucky, and in turn, the state and industry have generated large amounts of revenue. Many lawmakers feared the court’s ruling would ultimately impact many of the horse racing facilities across the Commonwealth, including losses in jobs and revenue.
As legislators, we were tasked with making a statutory change to keep pari-mutuel wagering in the state. Senate Bill (SB) 120 seeks to make technical changes that allow for the continued use of pari-mutuel wagering. Prior to the Court’s decision, it had already been offered for over a decade in Kentucky. I am glad we were able to get this done quickly, and with bipartisan support. It passed 22-15. I voted yes.
Alongside SB 120, we passed numerous other proposals off the Senate floor this week, which will all go to the House for further consideration.
Bills passed in the Senate this week:
SB 84 strengthens protections for individuals who are pregnant while incarcerated. The proposal bans solitary confinement, extends postpartum care, and grants an option to meet with a social worker and arrange plans for childcare, reunification, and substance-use treatment. I am glad we were able to work across the aisle on this bill. It will allow these individuals to deliver a child with dignity and give them more time to bond, which is critical in early childhood development. It passed the Senate unanimously.
SB 12 prohibits a person from selling or purchasing human organs or tissue and for-profit entities from procuring any eye, cornea, eye tissue, or corneal tissue. It passed the Senate 34-1-1. I voted yes.
SB 29 provides that the Finance and Administration Cabinet must reimburse the Attorney General, a Commonwealth’s Attorney, or a County Attorney for any fees or judgments as a result of being sued for an act of omission in the course of his or her duties. It passed with unanimous consent.
SB 36 removes the automatic requirement that certain juvenile offense cases involving a firearm must be transferred to the circuit court and the juvenile be tried as an adult. It also grants additional factors for the District Court to consider when contemplating a transfer, including whether a firearm was used in the commission of the offense and if the child had a serious intellectual disability. It passed 26-3. I voted yes.
SB 74 renames the Office on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders to the Office of Dementia Services. It passed the Senate unanimously.
SB 77 requires greater minority representation on a superintendent screening committee in a school district with a minority student population of 50% or greater. The bill passed 28-1. I voted yes.
SB 80 expands the grounds for the revocation of a police certification if the officer engages in an act of “professional wrongdoing.” The acts include: excessive force; deadly force; engagement in a sexual relationship with a defendant, informant, witness, or victim; and interference of the fair administration of justice. I do feel we have a long way to go in regard to police reform. However, this bill is a step in the right direction. It passed 28-0.
Due to the inclement weather, the bill filing deadline has been extended to Tuesday, February 16. Lawmakers will continue closely examining many proposals on issues that could have longstanding effects on the Commonwealth. Also, due to COVID-19 cutting the 2020 Session short, the legislature still must craft and enact a 1-year budget for the Fiscal Year 2021-22, and it must pass before we adjourn sine die in late March.
As we break the halfway point of the 2021 Session next week, the legislative process is really beginning to take root. For more information on the 2021 Session, including bills, committee calendars, or legislative news, visit www.legislature.ky.gov. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, I remain accessible by email at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV. You can also leave a message for me on the Legislative Message Line at (800) 372-7181. Citizens with hearing impairments can use the Kentucky Relay Service at 711.