FRANKFORT ⎯ In the lyrics of Jon Bon Jovi’s hit 1986 song, Livin’ on a Prayer, “we’re halfway there.” Well, we are slightly over the halfway point following a postponement in legislative business the previous week due to inclement weather throughout the Commonwealth. However, amid the craziness, the lawmakers arrived back in Frankfort for day 15 of the 2021 Regular Session to the sight of sunny skies and melting snow.
The delay caused the bill filing deadline to be extended through day 16, which is now behind us. All legislation has been drafted, finalized, and submitted. Committees will continue reviewing and deliberating policy proposals delegated to standing committees based on the subject matter.
This week, we passed numerous bills on the Senate floor. A majority passed with overwhelming support, while a few made it through on partisan lines.
Legislation passed on the floor Senate this week:
Senate Bill (SB) 4 prohibits law enforcement officers from entering a property without giving notice of their presence when issuing a warrant in some cases. However, if the court is presented factual circumstances which would endanger the life or safety of any person, or result in the loss or destruction of evidence, a no-knock warrant may still be issued. In light of the Breonna Taylor case, there were calls to review this sort of practice by police. It passed 33-0.
SB 67 allows for continued take-out alcoholic beverages beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. At its inception, Governor Andy Beshear signed an executive order permitting to-go beverages to relieve economic plight and encourage individuals to avoid social gatherings. SB 67 extends the measure so long as the to-go beverages are limited and purchased with a meal. It still must be transported in an area that is not considered in the “passenger area.” It passed 28-7. I voted yes.
SB 10 establishes a Commission on Race and Access to Opportunity. The bipartisan commission would consist of 13 members including the executive director of the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, eight legislators, and four members from the private and nonprofit sectors with expertise in areas being studied. The commission will review policies concerning the racial impacts and report findings back to the General Assembly. After the calls for social and racial justice in 2020, I am glad to see the legislature beginning to take note of systemic issues in our society. Although this bill is only a start, it moves us in the right direction. The bill passed 35-1. I proudly voted yes.
SB 52 addresses sexual offenses committed by police officers while on duty. It would amend third-degree rape, third-degree sodomy, and second-degree sexual abuse statutes so law enforcement officers can be charged with those crimes if they engage in sexual acts with a person under investigation, in custody, or under arrest. A loophole in the current statute excludes law enforcement officials, according to testimony from a committee hearing on the bill earlier this month. SB 52 was amended on the floor to clarify that it would relate to the conduct of officers in their official capacity. It passed the Senate unanimously.
SB 51 prohibits insurers from requiring or using certain utilization reviews, such as prior authorization, for certain prescription drugs used to treat alcohol and/or opioid use disorders. We know Kentucky has long struggled in these two areas, and even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic. This removes another barrier for those who are in or seeking recovery. It passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
SB 148 simplifies the planning and zoning process for families seeking regulated home-based family child care to offer up to six unrelated children so long as it meets state health and safety standards. The measure seeks to address accessible child care options for parents with nontraditional work hours and strengthens the local child care infrastructure by encouraging new providers in areas where they are limited. It passed the Senate 34-1. I voted yes.
SB 66 creates employment and background check standards for staff members working or volunteering at a youth camps. It passed unanimously.
Bills that passed will now go to the House for further consideration. For a comprehensive overview of bills as they move through the process, visit legislature.ky.gov for more information.
Before closing, I would like to extend my appreciation to several groups who assisted with the powers outages across the district last week: Kentucky Power, Grayson Rural Electric, AT&T, Windstream, and others. I also want to recognize the County Judges, Mayors, emergency management staff, county employees, faith community, all volunteers and businesses who set up warming stations for those without power, and everyone who pitched in to help during the snow and ice storm. On behalf of all District 18, THANK YOU!
We are closing in on the two-thirds mark of the session. As I review all of the legislation filed, I suspect our workload to substantially increase over the coming weeks. What we thought was going to be a session focused on a budget, COVID-19 relief, and priority legislation, has turned into unexpectedly busy period, addressing a number of issues. Even on a Friday, which is typically a quick day for wrapping up legislative business so members can return to their districts, the Senate engaged in a four hour session. Many of the proposals filed may not be heard, however, we are hearing many more than any of us expected in a short, unconventional, 30-day budget session.
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.