2020 Regular Session Legislative Update

Withstanding the
circumstances, the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly has
adjourned sine die.

With a reduced staff and
no visitors, efforts to promote social distancing left the marble corridors of
the Capitol much quieter than usual for the final days of a budget session.
However, the legislature continued to  work tirelessly to complete the people’s
business in a timely, but healthy manner, meeting only 53 legislative
days—seven days less per the Kentucky Constitution.

The 2020 Regular Session
came to a close late Wednesday following several hours of final legislative
business in the chamber. The House and Senate spent most of the last 24 hours
of the session taking turns recessing to wait for the other chamber to catch up
on pending business. The tedious process of concurrence and veto overrides
almost resembles a game of chess, but nonetheless is essential to ensuring the
integrity of the Commonwealth’s legislative process.

Despite the unprecedented
affects that COVID-19 has had on our daily lives, we can be grateful that the
Constitution of Kentucky has assured stability in regards to the operation of
the three branches of government here in the Bluegrass. Just as the governor
would argue he is fulfilling his responsibility as the state's chief executive,
the legislature also fulfilled ours.  The
Constitution of Kentucky grants the legislative branch with the responsibility
of making policy. It also grants the governor the ability to provide input in
that process, and one of those is his authority to veto legislation that is
passed. However, the legislature is granted the authority to override the
governor’s veto. We exercised that authority in the final week of the 2020
Regular Session.

One of the vetoes
overridden by the legislature in the final week of session was Senate Bill 2.
It was unfortunate that the governor chose to veto this bill, because it is
supported by the vast majority of Kentuckians, and according to the
National Association of State Legislators, we now join 36 other states that have voter ID requirements.

It is essential that we
maintain the credibility of our elections. In recent years, we have had many
races determined by single digit vote totals, therefore, we should do what we
can to ensure that our voter registration logs are up to date and voters are
who they say they are. This bill helps solidify these concerns and helps
maintain the integrity of Kentucky’s election process.

Under Senate Bill 2, voters
have the option to provide any ID with their photo on it such as a student ID
or employee ID. Voters can also provide their social security, food stamp, SNAP
benefit and more. Not only does Senate Bill 2 include provisions for a free ID
for those who do not have one, but also maintains the ability for a poll worker
to verify they know a voter and offers the option of voters who do not have an
ID to sign an affidavit and submit a provisional ballot.

It is also important to
note that Senate Bill 2 will not become state law until ninety days after the
end of the legislative session, so it will not be pertinent to the primary
election currently scheduled in June giving Kentucky voters enough time to
obtain a photo ID should they not already have one. I was happy to support this
legislation and see its final passage upon the veto override.

Other vetoes overridden
this week include line-item vetoes within budget measures: House Bills 351,
352, 353 and 354.

Bill 387, amended to assist with coronavirus relief, allows the governor to declare it a
“necessary government expense” to purchase protective gear for health workers
and first responders. The bill also includes a provision to  permit the governor from using unrestricted
state funds, such as the rainy day fund, to pay for them.

COVID-19 relief measure, contained in Senate Bill 150, loosens requirements for
unemployment benefits and extends help to self-employed workers and others who
would otherwise not be eligible.

will also expand telemedicine options by allowing out-of-state providers to
accept Kentucky patients, provide immunity for health care workers who render
care or treatment in good faith during the current state of emergency, extend
the state’s income tax filing deadline to July 15, address open meeting laws by
allowing meetings to take place utilizing live audio or live video
teleconferencing, and require the governor to declare in writing the date that
the state of emergency ends.

bills that the General Assembly approved include measures on the following

  • Addiction treatment:
    Senate Bill 191 addresses certification and educational requirements for alcohol
    and drug counselors. The bill also directs Kentucky to establish guidelines
    employers can use to develop programs to help more individuals struggling with
    substance use disorders while maintaining employment.
  • Taxes: Senate
    Bill 5 will require library boards, and other so-called special-purpose
    governmental entities, to get approval from a county fiscal court or city
    council before increasing taxes.
  • Marsy’s Law:
    Senate Bill 15 would enshrine certain rights for crime victims in the state
    constitution. Those would include the right to be notified of all court
    proceedings, reasonable protection from the accused, timely notice of a release
    or escape, and the right to full restitution. Senate Bill 15 is tied to a
    national movement to pass statutes that have been collectively known as Marsy’s
    law in honor of Marsy Nicholas, a 21-year-old California college student who
    was stalked and killed by an ex-boyfriend. A similar proposed constitutional
    amendment passed the General Assembly in 2018 and was subsequently approved by
    voters, but the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the law was invalid due to
    unconstitutional ballot language.
  • Terms of constitutional offices: House Bill 405 proposes a constitutional amendment that
    would increase the term of office for commonwealth's attorneys from six years
    to eight years beginning in 2030 and increase the term of office for district
    judges from four years to eight years beginning in 2022. It would also increase
    the experience requirement to be a district judge from two years to eight

proposal is seen as a way to align terms of service among elected judicial
officials so judicial redistricting could be more easily achieved in future
sessions. And redistricting is seen as a way to balance uneven caseloads among courts
without creating expensive new judgeships.

voters will decide on the proposed constitutional amendments this November.

week, the Senate said farewell to a few retiring members, including Senator
Ernie Harris (R-Oldham) and Senator Stan Humphries (R-Cadiz). They have served
Kentucky and their constituents well and we wish them health and happiness in
their future endeavors.

2020 Regular Session was certainly unique. I will be sending a more detailed
wrap-up of legislation passed in the coming weeks. Thank you for your support,
criticisms, questions, and comments throughout this session. Your involvement
is truly appreciated.

It’s great to be home, reunited with
family. I hope to see you out and about in the coming year.  Take care and God bless.

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

# # #

Note:  Senator Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) represents the 17th Senate District, which includes southern Kenton County, as well as all of Grant and Scott Counties.  He is Senate Majority Floor Leader.  Senator Thayer serves as a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee; the Committee on Committees; the Legislative Research Commission; the Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations Committee; the Rules Committee; the State and Local Government Committee, and the Public Pension Working Group. For a high-resolution JPEG file of Senator Thayer, please visit https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate117.jpg