2017 General Assembly

Charter Schools, Bible Literacy Among New Laws in Kentucky

Jun 29, 2017
Kentucky LRC

New laws are taking effect in Kentucky that allow charter schools, regulate Bible literacy classes in public schools and limit the supply of prescription painkillers.

Most of the laws passed in this year's legislative session by the state's new Republican majority take effect Thursday. Kentucky's Constitution says new laws take effect 90 days after the state legislature adjourns. The exceptions are bills that have a special effective date, an "emergency" clause or appropriate money.

Bevin: Special Session Will Happen After Aug. 15

Jun 6, 2017
Alix Mattingly

Kentucky's Republican governor says a special session of the state legislature will happen after Aug. 15.

The state legislature adjourned for the year in April. But Gov. Matt Bevin has said he will call them back for a special session to overhaul the state's tax code and public pension system.

Tuesday, Bevin sent a letter to all 138 members of the General Assembly and told them he does not plan to call a special session before Aug. 15 "out of respect to our families and summer schedules."

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On the last day of the legislative session, Gov. Matt Bevin walked up to the state Senate and thanked lawmakers for their work — which was for the most part, in lock-step with his agenda.

“This has been a transformative session,” Bevin said. “Kentucky is better for it. We’ve put seeds in the ground that are going to germinate over time. And as we get older and our kids and grandkids grow up, we’ll be able to look back on the 2017 session and be amazed at the things you’ve set in motion.”

Lawmakers transformed the legal landscape of Kentucky during this year’s General Assembly.

Kentucky's New Abortion Law Faces First Legal Test

Mar 23, 2017
J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky's new law requiring doctors to perform an ultrasound exam before an abortion faces its first legal challenge Thursday in a federal courtroom.

A judge will hear arguments on whether to order a temporary halt to the law passed by the state's Republican-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Matt Bevin in January.

The law requires abortion providers to display and describe ultrasound images to pregnant women, though women can avert their eyes. The procedure also seeks to detect the fetal heartbeat, but women can ask that the volume of the heartbeat be reduced or turned off.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the charter schools bill into law, allowing the alternative institutions to open up this fall after an application process.

Kentucky is the 44th state in the country to allow charter schools, which will receive public funding and be exempt from most state regulations in an effort to provide innovative education.

Bevin tweeted to mark the occasion:

The legislation was a major priority for Republicans in Kentucky, who had control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in state history this year.

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Gov. Matt Bevin has signed the so-called “blue lives matter” bill into law. The legislation gives hate crimes protections to emergency responders and police officers.

The controversial policy drew protests throughout its journey through the legislature this year.

Chanelle Helm, an organizer with Louisville’s Black Lives Matter chapter, said she was disgusted that Bevin signed the bill into law.

“You know what, they hate us,” Helm said. “They hate us so much that they need hate crime protection. So underneath this law now, they get hate crime protection as if anybody’s out here targeting them.”

J. Tyler Franklin

With the General Assembly on break for a 10-day “veto period,” Gov. Matt Bevin has begun signing a flurry of bills into law.

Among new laws that will take effect July 1 are a requirement that malpractice claims be evaluated by a “medical review panel” before they head to court; legislation clarifying that religious expression is allowed in public schools; and a measure allowing veterans who meet certain criteria to obtain teaching certificates without taking a test.

Bevin has signed 24 bills into law so far this year, 11 of which were approved Thursday.

Here are some of the new laws:

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

As the dust settles on the main part of the legislative session, the Republican-led General Assembly has passed most of its priorities.

A handful of bills approved in early January have already been signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin. Those include a “right-to-work” law, a repeal of the prevailing wage on public works projects, and anti-abortion legislation.

But a flood of bills — including the authorization of charter schools in Kentucky and REAL ID legislation — passed at the end of session still await the governor’s signature.

Bevin now has a 10-day period to review legislation and either veto bills, sign them into law or ignore them — another way to make them law. The legislature will return on March 29 and 30 for two final working days, during which they will likely give approval to even more bills that haven’t passed yet.

Kentucky LRC

The state legislature has again approved a bill to bring the state into compliance with stricter identification card policies required by the federal government. Gov. Matt Bevin vetoed a similar version of the REAL ID bill last year but indicated he supports it this year.

The bill would create an enhanced driver’s license issued by the state Transportation Cabinet instead of county clerks offices.

Those who opt out of the new license would need additional ID like a passport to board domestic air flights and enter military bases.

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UPDATE 9:31 p.m.: The Kentucky House has approved legislation authorizing charter schools in the state. The final vote was 53-43.

After weeks of not moving, the legislation emerged in a legislative committee Wednesday, passed out of the Senate in the afternoon and the House in the evening.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins objected to the quick pace of the debate.

“For something that is this major, for the public policy of the commonwealth of Kentucky, I think that’s bad business,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s the way we’ve done it on other major reform that has been successful here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Kentucky Lawmakers OK Bill to Reduce Coal Mine Inspections

Mar 14, 2017
flickr/Creative Commons

Kentucky lawmakers have agreed to loosen inspection requirements for underground coal mines.

The Kentucky Senate gave final approval to House Bill 384 on Tuesday. It would give the Department of Natural Resources commissioner discretion to replace up to three safety inspections with a mine safety analysis visit. It would also let the commissioner reduce the number of electrical inspections from two to one.

The bill would not affect federal mine inspections. Supporters say the bill would give the state flexibility to focus on other safety measures.

But others were reluctant to vote for a bill that would reduce inspections. Former coal miner and Democratic state Sen. Robin Webb voted against the bill, saying she worried fellow miners' blood would be on her hands if an accident occurred.

J. Tyler Franklin

State lawmakers are expected to consider a flurry of legislation over the next days as time runs out on this year’s General Assembly.

Bills dealing with charter schools, reducing criminal recidivism and new driver’s license security requirements are among the weightiest pieces of legislation scheduled to be taken up.

Legislators will also consider a measure that would base funding for state universities and technical colleges on areas such as graduation rates and numbers of degrees or credit hours earned.

Lawmakers will meet Tuesday and Wednesday before a designated 10-day break for the governor to veto legislation. Then on March 29 and 30, the legislature will have the opportunity to override vetoes or try and pass more bills.

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A controversial bill that would change the way local school districts assign students to schools is running out of time as lawmakers close in on the final four working days of the General Assembly.

The bill would give priority to students who live closest to schools — and would likely mean the end of Louisville’s anti-segregation program designed to mingle students from different races, backgrounds and parts of town in the same schools.

The measure passed the state House of Representatives two weeks ago, but it hasn’t yet had a hearing in the Senate Education Committee, which is the next step in the legislative process.

Kentucky LRC

The chair of the Senate Education Committee says he expects a revised version of the charter schools bill to be presented next week so that lawmakers have time to pass the legislation before time runs out on the General Assembly.

Lawmakers have been meeting privately with interest groups this week and several disagreements remain over whether to allow the schools to take root statewide, how many entities should be able to authorize charters and how to ensure the organizations won’t sap money from traditional public schools.

“I anticipate there probably would be agreement on the bill but again, I can’t be 100 percent on it,” says Sen. Mike Wilson, a Republican from Bowling Green. “I feel pretty confident that we will end up with a charter school bill.”

Wilson says there are issues that need to be “cleaned up” in the bill and that meetings have been taking place between members of both legislative chambers.

“Everybody has kind of different ideas and the whole idea of working together is compromise,” he says.

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Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover says a bill that would ban all tobacco products at public school campuses likely will not pass this year.

Senate Bill 78 would ban the use of all tobacco products at public schools or school-sponsored events. It passed the Senate by a vote of 25-8-2 last month. The bill's sponsor, Republican Sen. Ralph Alvarado, is a medical doctor who has been advocating for a statewide workplace smoking ban.

Hoover said there is not enough support to pass the bill among Republicans, who have a supermajority in the House. He said most members want to leave that decision to the local school boards.

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