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Home Politics LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Submitted by Senator Robin L. Webb 2-5-2021

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: Submitted by Senator Robin L. Webb 2-5-2021

FRANKFORT ⎯ The General Assembly hit the ground running as lawmakers made the trip to Frankfort for Part II of the 30-day 2021 Regular Session. Members are continuing to take precautions, wearing masks and remaining socially distant on the Senate floor. As we continue the battle with COVID-19, there are many things we must deal with in the remaining 19 days.

In Kentucky, all that is needed is a simple majority vote to override a veto. On the first day of Part II, the supermajorities in both the House and Senate quickly chose to override the vetoes made by Governor Andy Beshear. 

Some legislation the General Assembly chose to override includes:

House Bill (HB) 1 allows restaurants, businesses, churches, local governments, and school districts to stay open throughout 2021, so long as businesses and/or public gatherings meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. 

Senate Bill (SB) 1 will limit the effective dates for orders and regulations issued under executive emergency powers to 30 days unless the General Assembly grants an extension. It also prohibits the governor from issuing new orders during an emergency unless approved by the General Assembly. 

SB 2 requires government agencies to submit evidence to the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee before declaring an emergency. The proposal also would expand the legislative review to committees beyond the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee, and limit some regulations to 30 days if they directly impact educational institutions, private businesses, nonprofits, political and social gatherings, and places of worship. 

A short time after the legislature overrode the Governor’s vetoes, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd handed down a 30-day restraining order on HB 1, SB 1, and SB 2. Judge Shepherd said the laws “could create chaos and undermine any effective enforcement of public health standards to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.” He also pressed the Governor and General Assembly to engage in negotiations to resolve their issues.

I agree with the restraining order handed down by Judge Shepherd. We are facing a deadly public health crisis, and these laws could hinder the progress Kentucky has made in the battle against COVID-19. Emergencies call for swift action, especially when there are lives at stake. We need a clear-cut solution that is not at the expense of Kentuckians’ health and one that does not cause more confusion. I will keep you updated on the outcome of these bills.

Lawmakers also voted to override vetoes on House Bills 2, 3, and 5. These bills were not included in the 30-day restraining order and contained emergency clauses, which means they will go in effect notwithstanding the Governor’s signature.

HB 2 will give the Attorney General greater authority to enforce laws concerning abortion clinics in Kentucky. The Senate voted 32-5 to override the governor’s veto.

HB 3 will allow civil actions regarding the constitutionality of a Kentucky statute, executive order, administrative regulation, or order of any cabinet to be filed outside Franklin County, which has played a longstanding role in deciding those types of cases. Non-residents of Kentucky will continue to file in Franklin County Circuit Court. The Senate voted 30-7 to override the governor’s veto. I voted no.

HB 5 will require legislative approval of any changes the governor makes to the organizational structure of the executive branch. The Senate voted 30-7 to override the governor’s veto. I voted no.

Following veto overrides, the Senate resumed its work, meeting with stakeholders, hearing bills in committee, and passing legislation on the floor. 

Bills passed on the Senate floor this week:

SB 8 provides exemptions to mandatory vaccines during an epidemic for minors, or adults who, personally or by parental consent, object based on conscientiously held beliefs. It passed the Senate overwhelmingly.

SB 11 aims to clarify current criminal mischief statutes by creating a category in the Kentucky criminal code for damages to rental property by a tenant. Under the current criminal mischief statute, there is already legislation that calls for tenants to be held criminally liable. I am afraid this will single out and target tenants, causing unintended consequences. SB 11 passed 28-8. I voted no.

SB 21 permits voluntary transport to a hospital or psychiatric facility with consent from the hospital in which they reside and the patient. It passed unanimously.

SB 38 requires the use of a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to produce surgical smoke. Due to an unforeseen global pandemic, it did not have an opportunity to move during the 2020 Session. However, it passed unanimously in the Senate when we revisited it this week. 

SB 61 requires direct-care staff who provide care for Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia within a client’s home to receive initial and ongoing training. It passed in the Senate 34-1-1. I voted yes. 

The bills passed in the Senate this week will now go to the House for further consideration. 

Recently, I spoke with CEO Kristie Whitlatch of King’s Daughters (KDHS) in Ashland regarding the latest development in the partnership with the University of Kentucky (UK). Mrs. Whitlatch has relayed to me that both the King’s Daughters Board of Directors and the executive committee of UK’s Board of Trustees endorsed the formation of a new partnership. She has also advised me the everyday operations will remain the same and the leadership will also remain in place.

We both agree the joining of the two will help expand the hospital and provide the opportunity for greater investments in KDHS facilities, staff, and patients. They anticipate the partnership will be finalized at some point in April. This is tremendous news, and I look forward to watching this come to fruition.

The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) has unveiled a new online application to assist those who want to share feedback with lawmakers at committee meetings. Previously, those who wanted to request to testify had to contact committee staff or a committee chair to make a request. Now, anyone can click their way through a more convenient process.

The new online approach allows users to choose a bill from a list of those that have been assigned to the committees. After selecting a bill, users can fill in their contact information to have the request to testify automatically submitted to the correct committee. The online application can be found at https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/committees/TestimonyRequestForm/.

As we approach the halfway point of the 2021 Session, I anticipate our workload will only increase from here. 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.

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