Legislative Update …

Posted January 15, 2020 at 9:19 am

First week of regular session was productive

The first week of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly has come to a close. We had a productive week in Frankfort and left with confidence in what the session has in store. It was a pleasure to begin the session on Tuesday with a visit from the 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, who performed an extraordinary rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” and our National Anthem.

As with the early stages of any session of the General Assembly, some procedural measures were in order. The Senate Majority has listened to feedback from our constituents and have prioritized several pieces of legislation that are hopeful of passing this session. Those bills, among others, were assigned to their respective committees this week. Committee hearings begin next week and provide the public an opportunity to hear about the legislation.

Crafting a budget will not be an easy task. Demands placed on state government by public pensions, criminal justice, education and other costs continue to outpace revenue growth. There has even been talk of a possible $1.1 billion budget shortfall, based on an executive branch memo received by state lawmakers last year.

If lawmakers determine that a budget shortfall is likely over the next two years, the next state budget will reflect that, but more data will need to be considered before such a determination is made. That data will come from legislative branch staff and other sources in the coming weeks, giving lawmakers a firm footing for this session’s budgetary balancing act.

The governor will give the State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, January 14. at 7 p.m. Eastern time. The governor’s budget address will follow on Tuesday, January 28 at 7 p.m. Eastern time. That’s when we should know more about the budget.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1 was filed. That’s a designation given to the legislation of priority to leadership. SB 1 relates to federal immigration cooperation.

SB 1 would prohibit law enforcement officials and other public officials from enacting, adopting or otherwise enforcing any sanctuary policy. It would also require these officials to use their best efforts – considering available resources – to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. School district would be exempt. Sections of the proposed law would be named the Federal Immigration Act of 2020.

Senate Bill 2 would require voters to present photo identification. Kentucky already has a law that requires identification to vote, but it does not require photographic identification.

Senate Bill 3 would move the election of constitutional officers – the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner and state treasurer — to even-numbered years starting in 2028. The Senate has passed similar bills in previous sessions but the legislation hasn’t become law.

Senate Bill 4 would strip the governor of his autonomy in appointing the secretary of the Transportation Cabinet, placing some control of the appointment with a nine-member citizen board that would be appointed by the governor. The board would also vet and prioritize statewide transportation projects.

Senate Bill 5 would require special-purpose governmental entities, such as a library board, sewer district or volunteer fire department, to get approval from a county fiscal court or city council before increasing taxes. The bill exempts airport boards. Supporters of this change have argued that unelected appointees who run local agencies should not be authorized to raise taxes without the oversight of officials who answer to voters, which is the present situation.

As we head into the second week of the session, input is genuinely needed. Kentuckians have numerous ways to follow legislative action throughout the session, including seeing legislative action in person in the State Capitol’s legislative chambers and committee meeting rooms in the Capitol Annex.

If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call the toll-free line at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Max.Wise@LRC.ky.gov. You can also review the Legislature’s work online at www.legislature.ky.gov.

Note: Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) represents the 16th District which encompasses Adair, Clinton, Cumberland, McCreary, Russell, Taylor, and Wayne Counties. He is the chairman of the Education Committee; as well as co-chairman of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee. Senator Wise is also a member of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee; the Health and Welfare Committee; the Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee; the Public Assistance Reform Task Force; the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, and the Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation.