Finishing up the first week of the 2021 session Saturday, the legislature gave final passage to top priority bills and sent them to the governor for his consideration.
House Bills 1, 2, and 5 and Senate Bills 1, 2, and 9 have to do with a number of topics including allowing businesses and schools to stay open, flexibility for businesses to pay increased unemployment insurance taxes, giving some of the governor’s authorities on abortion issues to the attorney general, changing authorities on certain boards, and more.
Many of the bills passed Saturday will likely be vetoed, but the General Assembly expects to have the opportunity to override those vetoes.
The bills that passed Saturday are as follows:
House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. Bart Rowland, has five sections that would: allow businesses to continue operating and stay open as long as they have a comprehensive operating plan to ensure safety, waive penalties and interest on unemployment insurance tax bills to give businesses the flexibility to pay increased rates, reverses the executive order dealing with the parental visitation of biological parents of Kentucky foster children, and allowing visitations at long-term care facilities.
It passed through the House with a committee amendment and two-floor amendments that removed religious organizations to ensure the policies did not limit their ability to operate because of previous court cases and added non-family members to the list of those who can do long-term care facility visitations.
The bill passed through the Senate committee Friday but was then recommitted to the Senate State and Local Government Committee Saturday morning to add an amendment that legislators had worked on Friday evening and early Saturday. The Senate committee substitute added notwithstanding to the first area of the bill to be inclusive of more forms of executive orders and also clarified the definition of “open and operational” for businesses.
House Bill 1 passed the Senate 28-7 and was concurred in the House.
Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Matt Castlen, would limit the effective dates of executive orders issued by the governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly and prohibit the governor from issuing a new executive order relating to the same emergency without legislative approval. This would be accomplished by amending section 39A of the state constitution.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Joseph Fischer, would transfer some powers dealing with abortion laws to the Kentucky Attorney General from the governor. It received final passage in the Senate with a 30-5 vote making it the first bill to finally pass in the 2020 session.
House Bill 5, dealing with the reorganization of boards and commissions by the executive branch, passed through the Senate Saturday with a 29-7 vote. Rep. Michael Meredith, the sponsor of the bill, says the state has seen more than 450 reorganizations of boards and commissions under the last five governors, and many of those instances have been used as a way to further political agendas. He stated the bill would ensure the separation of powers between the branches of government by striking and repealing language in a statute dealing with temporary reorganization powers and giving the legislature more oversight with these actions.
Senate Bill 2, sponsored by Sen. Steve West, would require some administrative regulations to last no longer than 30 days if, for example, they imposed restrictions on gatherings or mandatory quarantines. It saw final passage following a 74-21 vote in the House.
Senate Bill 9, sponsored by Sen. Whitney Westerfield, would require that an infant born alive to be given the appropriate medical care to preserve life with harsh penalties for providers that violate the policy. Senate Bill 9 now goes to the governor after an X-X vote in the House.
The House also moved two more of their bills forward after passage on the floor that will go to the Senate for consideration next week. The General Assembly is currently planning to stay in session until Wednesday, January 13th before taking their normally scheduled January break.