This week’s 30-day Regular Session activity ended with dozens of bills going to the Governor. Being done with 28 legislative days, legislators raced to pass bills until the final minute last Tuesday. That was the last day lawmakers could pass bills and still have time to override any vetoes before the last day of session. The governor has ten days to sign a bill, let it become law without his signature, or veto it.
We approved the second half of the state’s 24-month spending plan this week after uncertainties from covid cut budget talks short about a year ago.
We are taking a careful and conservative approach as we continue to deal with the uncertainty of the pandemic. The state has been sent a lot of one-time dollars from the federal government stimulus packages. Because of this, the economic outlook and our state revenue might be artificially inflated. There is no sure way of knowing what state revenues or the economy will look like when there is no federal money propping things up. It would be a bad idea for the state to use one-time dollars to put taxpayers on the hook for future expenses when we will not be able to lean on federal money.
An important part of the budget keeps legislative authority on the spending of funds, as our state constitution says. The bill says that the General Assembly must approve the use of federal money. $37 million of federal dollars will go to helping with the pandemic. $10 million is going to help fix the damage done to schools from recent flooding.
A big part of the economic growth is people being able to get internet services. Reliable broadband is important to businesses. With the reliance on virtual learning for our students this past year, we have seen how poor internet services only made Kentucky students’ struggles worse. As covid forced us to rely on more internet services, we have seen growth in telehealth services. Bringing internet access to the areas currently without it can help our economy, education and even help health outcomes.
With this in mind, the legislature passed House Bill (HB) 320, putting $250 million of federal money to expand broadband connectivity. However, the bills stipulate that no more than $50 million can be spent before April of next year to make sure everything goes well. This first $50 million will get the ball rolling.
We passed a law to help Kentuckians struggling with diabetes by capping the cost of out-of-pocket insulin at $30 for a 30 day supply. It applies to certain state-regulated plans and the Kentucky employee health plan. It does not apply to Medicare, Medicaid, or self-funded health plans.
For too long, insulin prices have forced people to have to ration their supply, causing loss of life. Others have had to make hard financial decisions to keep their access to insulin. The rate of diabetes is high in Kentucky. It is also a costly disease. This bill will help.
Senate Bill (SB) 8 provides for opting out of mandatory vaccinations for people with religious or strongly held beliefs. The bill keeps employer immunization policies for employees of schools, universities, and health care places.
House Joint Resolution 77 extends certain COVID-19 and regulations an additional 60 days. This joint resolution, which can carry the force of law, will only be in effect if the court rules one the side of the legislature/. The governor is challenging some of the laws we passed. If the laws are upheld, it will give the legislature a seat at the table for big decisions like have been made since Covid arrived. It is worth saying that Kentucky is the exception to the rule for executive authority during a state of emergency. The bills being challenged by the governor would just bring Kentucky more in line with other states for oversight of executive authority during times like these.
A bill was passed to re-establish regulation of roadside billboards. A federal court ruled last April that Kentucky’s laws on billboard regulation were unconstitutional. After that ruling, our roadways became a “Wild West” environment where companies have been putting up signs that violated state law. This bill will meet federal law and make sure signs are only in regulated places.
If you have any questions about any of these public policy issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have. You can reach my office toll-free by calling, (502) 564-8100, or by emailing me at, firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless.