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Sen. Danny Carroll's Legislative Update
By Kentucky State Sen. Danny Carroll
PADUCAH - The Kentucky General Assembly has wrapped up proceedings for the 2021 Regular Session and has adjourned sine die. Our final legislative days consisted of overriding gubernatorial vetoes, finishing the state budget, and approving several other measures that will impact the Commonwealth. 

To adjourn "sine die" means without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing or to close official business for an indefinite period. For Kentucky lawmakers, the phrase means the current legislative session has ended. 

Some could argue that "sine die" day resembles the last day of school, as members socialize with their colleagues before routinely taking their seats in the chamber. The day begins with the normal ritual of prayer followed by the Pledge of Allegiance before diving into official business, and it ends by adjourning the annual legislative session sine die. 

After a busy but productive 30 days in Frankfort, there was anticipation for the final strike of the gavel. Nonetheless, we remained diligent, as there was crucial business to complete on behalf of our constituents before heading home to our respective districts.

Our constitutionally mandated veto recess was brief, but concluded with over 20 bills receiving vetoes from the Governor. These bills and other remaining business resulted in a packed agenda for both chambers. 

Again, the legislature exercised its constitutional right to override vetoes. Bills that did not withstand the Governor's veto address a variety of issues including child care, public protection, elections, delinquent child support payments, local government regulations, and much more. Several of these measures will go into effect 90 days after adjournment, except for those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that makes them take effect the instant they become law.

Notably, lawmakers voted to override the governor's veto on all or parts of House Bill 320, House Bill 192, and House Bill 195, all which are related to the state budget.

Many of our final days in Frankfort were spent passing a series of measures to spend a little more than half of the $2.63 billion that the state received directly from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, known as ARPA.

The largest appropriation of ARPA money was $575 million to pay back a federal loan the state took out to cover a surge of unemployment benefit claims made during the height of the pandemic.

Without the appropriation, Kentucky businesses faced an increase in unemployment insurance taxes to cover the interest and principal on the federal loan. Small businesses and some nonprofits are in no financial position to pay increased unemployment insurance taxes. The money was contained in language added to House Bill 382.

The second largest appropriation was $300 million for broadband expansion contained in the language added to HB 382 and House Bill 320. The pandemic highlighted the need for broadband service in rural Kentucky, and I am pleased that this money will go toward helping these communities stay connected. 

The third largest appropriation was $250 million for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure improvements. This addresses the lack of clean drinking water in some rural communities. In addition, it provides some relief from costly federal consent decrees concerning wastewater. This money was contained in language added to Senate Bill 36.

The fourth appropriation was $127 million to renovate or replace old school buildings. It is evident that too many schools, some of which date to the 1930s, are in dire need of repair. This money was contained in language added to House Bill 556.

Also included in HB 556, $37 million was allocated to mitigate the spread of COVID–19 in congregate or vulnerable population settings. The Justice and Public Safety Cabinet will distribute the money by awarding grants. 

On top of spending ARPA money, the General Assembly appropriated state tax dollars in addition to what was included in the roughly $12 billion executive branch budget (House Bill 192) passed earlier in the session.

The additional appropriations included $140 million for full-day kindergarten. State government currently provides funding for only half-day kindergarten although most districts use local taxpayer money to offer a full-day option. Expanding kindergarten funding would free up local tax dollars for other much-needed school programs. The money was contained in language added to HB 382.

There was also $75 million for renovating vocational education centers, $30 million in tax incentives for local jails to provide treatment and training programs, $20 million for a rural hospital revolving loan program, $14.7 million for technology to offer virtual court hearings, and $10 million for a tax increment financing (TIF) district in west Louisville. TIFs are widely used across the country as economic development tools. All of these appropriations were contained in HB 556.

HB 382, SB 36, and HB 556 were delivered to the governor who has 10 days, excluding Sundays, to sign, veto, or allow them to become law without his signature.  

The bills were among nearly 200, including two proposed constitutional amendments passed during the 30-day session. Many of the bills were similar to measures that were introduced last year but didn't have a chance to make it through the legislative process after COVID-19 cut the session short. 

Several other notable bills received final passage this week, including: 

Senate Bill 4 limits and sets guidelines for the use of no-knock warrants, which allow officers to enter premises without notice. Under this legislation, such warrants would be allowed in limited instances if someone was in immediate danger or in other cases, such as those involving violent crimes or terrorism. These warrants would have to be executed by a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team or a team with special training. The bill also specifies in statute that it would be perjury if an officer made a false statement in an application for a no-knock warrant. Finally, there are concessions granted under critical circumstances to rural law enforcement personnel who may not have access to a SWAT team or the required recording equipment.

Senate Bill 48 is a bill I sponsored which defines "Public Officer" (police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officers, social workers, etc.) and exempts open records act disclosure for certain personally identifiable information of the public officer and certain immediate family members, if the public officer notifies in writing the agency responsible for the record that he or she does not want the information disclosed. Approved requests are valid for three years. The officer must also provide a letter from his or her employer verifying past or present employment.

Senate Bill 51 prohibits health benefit plans and Medicaid from requiring or conducting a prospective or concurrent utilization review for a prescription drug that is used to treat alcohol or substance use disorder and contains methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone.

House Bill 91 will allow Kentucky voters to decide next year whether to add the following words to the state constitution: "To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion." 

House Bill 125 requires the Transportation Cabinet to establish a restriction category on motorcycle operator's licenses which limits the operator to the operation of a 3-wheeled motorcycle only.

House Bill 309 allows a consolidated local government to create a Civilian and Accountability Review Board, establish membership and duties of the board, and authorize the board to request subpoenas from the Government Audit and Oversight Committee.

House Bill 310 requires notice and hearings prior to parole of persons convicted of a Class D felony classified as a sex crime.

We concluded the 30-day session shortly before midnight on Tuesday, March 30. However, work in Frankfort will continue throughout the year. To provide continuity of study and action between sessions, interim joint committees are formed to discuss issues in-depth for the 2022 Regular Session. More information on these committees will be available at a later date. 

Thank you for all of your questions, comments, and support. I will be sending a full recap of this session's events in the coming weeks. 

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me Danny.Carroll@LRC.ky.gov. Or, you can review the legislatures work online at www.Legislature.ky.gov.

Views, opinions, positions or strategies expressed by the authors are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, positions or strategies of West Kentucky Star.com, Bristol Broadcasting or any employee thereof. Bristol Broadcasting makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information in this article and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use.

Published 10:36 AM, Tuesday Apr. 06, 2021
Updated 10:38 AM, Tuesday Apr. 06, 2021

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