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Legislative Update from Rep. Randy Bridges
By Representative Randy Bridges
PADUCAH - Legislature Gets to Work on COVID-19 response
By Representative Randy Bridges


“I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of State Representative of the 3rd Legislative District according to law…”

These are the first sentences of the Constitutional Oath of Office that I recited and promised to uphold when I joined other House members in Frankfort on January 5. While it is an honor to serve in the Kentucky House of Representatives, it is also a responsibility. I am committed to supporting policies that benefit the people of this district and help Kentuckians across the state move beyond this pandemic and back onto a path that reflects our values of hard work, family, and freedom.

The first week of an odd-year session is usually reserved for organizational work. However, this year we hit the ground running from the very first day. I think it says a lot that the first bill passed by the House this session is aimed at keeping businesses, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations safely open during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure went to the Governor’s desk for consideration after the House and Senate agreed on an amended version on Saturday. It provides clarity and reassurance for these entities and gives them the necessary framework to serve their customers, clients, and students. If HB 1 becomes law, any of these organizations can remain open if they adopt and follow a comprehensive operating plan. This plan could be drafted by them or provided by a variety of sources.

The measure also protects vulnerable Kentuckians. HB 1 also prohibits the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) from restricting, modifying or suspending court-ordered in-person non-custodial parental visitation for children in state care. Visitation is so important to these families. Clearly it means a great deal to the children involved, but it can also provide the motivation necessary for struggling parents to overcome the challenges they face. In addition, HB 1 also prevents CHFS from preventing in-person visitation in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Instead, it requires the cabinet to develop guidelines for facilities that choose to allow visitation if it is designated important to the mental, physical, or social well-being of the resident. Long-term care residents are among the most vulnerable to this virus, and we all recognize that we need to take additional steps to protect them. However, isolation has proven equally dangerous to both their quality of life and physical and mental conditions. 

HB 1 also includes unemployment relief for traditional employers. It waives penalties and interest on late unemployment insurance taxes to give employers more time to pay their tax. Payments will not be considered due and will not be collected by the Labor Cabinet. This measure could literally mean the difference between saving jobs and losing them.

Apparently there is some confusion about what HB 1 requires and folks have asked if HB 1 requires Kentuckians to get vaccinated. This is not the case. I have verified that with our legal staff.

We also moved SB 1, which refines the emergency powers granted to governors by previous legislatures. SB 1 balances the need for Kentucky to act quickly in an emergency with ensuring that a governor does not overstep the boundaries of executive branch authority. The measure limits to 30 days any emergency orders issued by a governor that place restrictions on the functioning of schools, colleges, private businesses or non-profits, political, religious, or social gatherings, places of worship, or imposes mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements. Also, a governor is prohibited from issuing another emergency order based upon the same or substantially similar facts and circumstances as the original order unless the legislature approves it. Additionally, the legislature, by joint resolution, may terminate a declaration of emergency at any time. SB 1 also goes to the Governor for his consideration.

While I fully expect the Governor to veto both HB 1 and SB 2, I am hopeful that he will see the wisdom of these measures and hear the outcry for them from Kentuckians. However, we stand ready to override any vetoes when we reconvene in February.

In addition to these measures, I continue to personally work on other pieces of legislation. One of those bills is House Bill 46, which has become known as ‘Ava’s Law.’ This bill, if signed into law, would increase swimming pool safety. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of five years old. I filed this bill in honor of two-year-old Ava Jenkins of Paducah. Jenkins sadly passed away in 2019 due to accidental drowning, and I want to do everything I can to prevent something like that from happening to another family.

I also filed a couple of other crucial bills. House Bill 89, otherwise known as the ‘Good Sports Bill’ would help protect sports officials by making it a crime to harass or intimidate those who are refereeing or officiating sports games. This bill passed the House in our 2020 Session but, due to the COVID pandemic, did not get to the Senate for passage.  House Bill 142 is another piece of legislation I am passionate about, which would establish the nonrefundable Kentucky affordable housing credit. I look forward to discussing these bills with my colleagues as the session continues.

Thank you for taking the time to read this week’s update. I appreciate that our paper is willing to run these columns and, of course, hope you’ll let me know if you have any comments or questions. I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Randy.Bridges@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at legislature.ky.gov and you can also follow me on Facebook @RandyBridgesKYStateRepresentative or on Twitter @RepRandyBridges.

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Published 07:52 AM, Monday Jan. 11, 2021
Updated 05:36 AM, Tuesday Jan. 12, 2021

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