The initial portion of the 2021 session of the General Assembly ended on January 13 with a total of seven bills passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor during the eight days we met. The legislature will reconvene on Feb. 2 with the budget being the primary focus. Other bills will of course also be considered.
Some of those bills are House Bill 1, a bill aimed at keeping organizations open during times of crisis such as the current pandemic; HB 2, a bill giving the Attorney General authority to regulate abortion; Senate Bill 1, a bill limiting Executive authority during a state of emergency; and SB 9, a bill requiring that medically appropriate treatment must not be denied to any infant who is born alive. The other three bills passed and sent to the Governor were HB 3, HB 5, and SB 2.
HB 3 expands access to the courts and ensures that Kentuckians across the state will have a voice in who decides certain lawsuits. HB 3 would allow Kentuckians who file suit against state government or a state elected official to do so in the county of their residence rather than Franklin Circuit Court in Frankfort as is now required. It also allows for virtual hearings to increase accessibility. I voted YES on HB 3.
HB 5 would expand oversight of the reorganization of Boards and Agencies. HB 5 would require executive branch reorganizations and board reorganizations to be approved by the General Assembly. This bill is long past due. The five previous governors used executive orders to reorganize cabinets agencies, or boards a total of 446 times. I voted YES on HB 5.
SB 2 would limit the use of Executive branch regulations. The Kentucky Constitution clearly states that the legislature is responsible for making laws, yet loopholes in the regulatory process have allowed Governors to effectively make laws through regulation, thereby avoiding the legislative intent of a bill and even the legislature itself. SB 2 closes those loopholes and allows for greater oversight of regulations issued during a state of emergency. I voted YES on SB 2.
The Governor has 10 days, not including Sundays, to sign a bill, let it become law without his signature, or to veto it. I fully expect all seven (7) bills to be vetoed by the Governor before we reconvene. Once we do reconvene, I am confident that all those vetoes will be overridden by both the House and Senate and become law.
Last year was the first time in modern history that the legislature did not approve a two-year budget. With so much unknown about how the pandemic and the state’s response to it would impact our economy and our needs, it was far more prudent to approve a one-year spending plan that kept spending relatively flat. Many things have changed a great deal since that spending plan was passed, but much uncertainty remains.
While state revenue remained relatively steady through the end of 2020, that can be attributed to a combination of federal aid and the resilience of our business sector. Both are subject to change as the world continues to deal with the virus and so many Kentuckians remain unemployed. There are several factors we have to consider, including the economy, our revenue picture, and how prepared we are to deal with another recession.
The Consensus Forecasting Group is a panel of economists brought together by the State to estimate revenue growth and economic health. These economists met in December and forecast a small increase in tax receipts (our money) in this fiscal year. The CFG forecast is integral to determining how our money is spent, but one (1) member of the panel cautioned us that the forecast is merely an educated guess, describing it as throwing darts at a dartboard.
The process of setting a budget is for the Governor to propose it (as he did on January 7), the House to review it for changes, and then send it to the Senate for its changes. Once each chamber has had a chance to provide input, a joint committee of the House and Senate then develops a final budget proposal to be considered individually by both chambers.
There are actually four budgets that must be passed. The executive budget, transportation budget, legislative budget, and judicial budget. All four have undergone a preliminary review by both the House and Senate and have been moved to the conference committee where the details will be fleshed out.
As always, thank you for reading my updates and thank you for contacting me with your concerns and thoughtful suggestions. It is a privilege to represent you in the Kentucky House of Representatives and your input helps me make decisions that best represent the views of the Fourth District. I may be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 800- 372- 7181, directly at 502- 564- 8100, by visiting the Kentucky Legislature Home page at legislature.ky.gov and clicking on the Legislature button and then the contact a member link, or by mail to the Capitol Annex -Frankfort, KY 40601.