The legislative session is now complete for 2022. We passed 226 Bills which are now law. Some of those change a few words, while others are pages long. We also passed resolutions which don’t change the law, but do take legal action, such as ending the 2020 state of emergency, and allocating funds to the tornado relief areas.
Our work in April is limited to just two days, which we convene following the ten-day opportunity for the governor to veto our bills. We had several veto overrides the first of these two days, then passed a few more bills the last day. One of the rare things that happens in a legislative process is a bill improving over time instead of getting watered down to be agreeable. SB 83 was our Women’s Sports bill, but the Senate only included KHSAA high school sports in our version. The House added college, and the time ripened well to override the veto just days after the lady swimmer Riley was denied her trophy. Riley was in attendance for our final vote, and I appreciate her courage in speaking out.
As a whole, this session had few large ticket items to advertise. Redistricting happened the first week and we are now in new districts for State Legislators, Congressmen, and Supreme/Appeals Court Judges. Toward the end, we also passed a reallocation of judges in our local circuits who are overburdened or underworked due to population shifts over the decades. HB 314 helped many documented problem districts so far, which includes one I sponsored last year. I am pleased that after only one year I have seen victory on an issue that was years in a stalemate prior to my arrival.
The budget vetoes are always interesting and informative. We overrode several but left some in place. The vetoes that I appreciated most, but got overridden, were the 8% raises given to both the governor and constitutional officers and legislators. The 8% was intended for our classified employees who have not had a raise in years. Elected officials get a cost of living adjustment already. To give us a raise of 8% really dilutes the entire purpose of the 8%. All of this really is the prime example of what most people see is wrong with our government.
SB 1 was a mixed bag by the end, but the original core item is worth mentioning. The school superintendents and principal selection will now have a chain of command instead of the two-headed monster we have dealt with for decades. Another item we saw added to SB 1 was crediting back teacher sick time when some were forced to use vacation days for quarantines and others were not.
A few other new laws we passed provide for starting a police training academy in Western Kentucky (HB 565), outlaw private funding of elections like we saw nearly half of our counties take in 2020 (HB 301), and set up funding for county clerks to get many records scanned and searchable online (SB 135). My new district includes Jefferson County, and many people do not know that most of their laws have to be passed through the General Assembly, so we changed their mayor’s term limit in HB 314, allowed for new small city creations, among other things including a study for more changes.
Many of our accomplishments are not measured in what we pass, but in what we don’t pass. I successfully got HB 297 amended, which was advertised as a pension housekeeping bill, yet limited medical evidence allowed in workers compensation hearings. We got that provision removed and passed with pension bill without it.
Unfortunately, our failures are ultimately accounted for by the things that did not pass. We passed no protection against vaccine mandates for anyone, and I keep receiving complaints about mask mandates when the entire world has decided to move on. I sponsored several bills that were on the cusp of passage at various times, including SB 93 and SB 336. I could spend multiple articles outlining all the issues relating to elections once again, but was focused on just a few items this year including matching the voter count and the vote count as a start. My SB 62 would have included the local option to use paper only without the machines susceptible to network connections, as well as a requirement to count ballots to be sure they match the vote totals before certification.
A bill I opposed that many have asked about is HB 239, which limits peace officer powers of elected constables and requires them to attend the same academy as our other certified police officers statewide. Obviously constables are the people’s prerogative, as they are elected like sheriffs, which likewise have never had prerequisites to do the full job they have. At a time when police recruitment is at a record low, but the population continues to climb, we need to keep as many people as possible in duty. Constables currently elected or running are grandfathered in, but with turnover, our elected constables will eventually not be able to serve us in many policing capacities. However, somehow school boards will now have authority to set up their own appointed police departments under HB 63.
A good bill we passed at the end was HB 290, which sets up a due process for students who face disciplinary actions at our universities. Currently they could be suspended or expelled with no refund and hardly know about it or the reasons why. They will now be required to receive written notice and an opportunity for hearing. Another late-hour bill was HB 222, which helps shortcut retaliatory lawsuits against someone using their first amendment rights. A case in Louisville recently decided by our Kentucky Supreme Court highlighted this problem when citizens go to hearings to make their voices heard, then get hit with lawsuits later for doing exactly what is their right to do. Fortunately the Supreme Court set things straight for those constituents, and this bill will help others facing similar issues.
If you want to dig deeply into every single thing we considered and passed this session, all of the bills and actions are on our website at legislature.ky.gov. I have enjoyed being a bonus Senator to both of my districts this session. The new senators will be elected this year and take their positions officially in January 2023. Feel free to continue reaching out to me as you need things during this time of transition.
Legislative Research Commission
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