Week 7 of the 2023 Legislative Session
The veto period is upon us, and numerous bills are now on the Governor's desk awaiting his action. The Governor has 10 days to consider whether he will sign them, allow them to become law without his signature, or veto them. In this short session, the General Assembly has worked hard to deliver meaningful legislation to the Governor protected by the veto override period. Any vetoed bill will qualify for a legislative override when we return to Frankfort on March 29. Any additional bills fully passed during the final two days of the session will not be eligible for a legislative override.
By midnight last Thursday, more than 120 bills had received final passage and were sent to the Governor.
I want to start with one of the two issues I have heard the most about, whether I'm at the grocery store, movie theater, gym and restaurants.
Medical cannabis legislation was approved in the Senate for the first time, and I cast a 'yes' vote to move the bill to the state House of Representatives for consideration. The bill is narrowly tailored to provide residents with acute pain and other serious medical conditions access to non-smokable forms.
If enacted, medical marijuana legislation, Senate Bill 47, would take effect on January 1, 2025. This time frame will allow the studies at the University of Kentucky to be completed. Before accessing cannabis, patients must register and receive approval for a special identification card. Patients under 18 years old would not be allowed to possess, purchase, or acquire medicinal cannabis without the assistance of a designated caregiver. Senate Bill 47 would also create separate licenses for cultivators, dispensers and producers. It would also give the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services great oversight and latitude in developing regulations.
Several medical conditions could qualify someone to use the product, including cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill is now with the House for consideration. A similar measure to Senate Bill 47 was passed in the House last year but did not have enough support at that time to pass in the Senate. Our chamber has six new members this year, resulting in enough support among the Republican caucus to pass the measure. If the House approves the measure in the last two legislative days, it will be delivered to the Governor's desk for consideration.
I'm please to say House Bill 594, which bans 'gray' gaming machines, was signed into law. Gray machines are gaming machines with cash payouts operating in a gray area of state law. Kentucky had companies like Pace-O-Matic take it upon themselves to come into Kentucky and start setting up these gray machines, swindling Kentucky small business owners into operating illegal gaming machines. Only after they had set up their gaming black market did they come to the legislature asking for permission to operate. Kentucky has the lottery, charitable gaming and pari-mutual wagering, which is part of our rich horse racing history. These legal forms contribute to the benefit of our residents and the signature industry. The original gray machines bill included an emergency clause, which would have made the legislation take effect as soon as it became law. However, House Bill 594 was amended to remove the clause and allow ample time for all to comply.
Significant Senate bills receiving final passage and delivered to the Governor include:
- Senate Bill 4 is a measure to stand by Kentuckians facing high energy costs due to the federal regulations that have decimated Kentucky's coal industry. It prohibits the Kentucky Public Service Commission from authorizing the retirement of fossil fuel-fired power plants unless the utility can demonstrate it will replace the retired plant with a new electricity generating capacity that maintains or improves the grid's reliability.
- Senate Bill 5 ensures parental engagement in decision-making regarding a student's access to sexually explicit materials that may be inappropriate or harmful to minors by providing parents with a complaint resolution process.
- Senate Bill 7 prohibits the collection of public union political contributions and union dues by public payroll systems and prohibits public employers from assisting with such collections. The bill excludes from the prohibition labor organizations primarily representing hazardous duty public employees working in law enforcement, jail and corrections officers, and fire service. It also requires a public employee labor organization to transmit financial records detailing its quarterly expenses to its members on an annual basis.
- Senate Bill 150 notably provides parents with the information they deserve to know regarding their child's mental health and services offered in school. It also protects minors from the irreparable harm of sterilizing and 'gender-affirming' surgery.
More notable efforts were made on the Department of Juvenile Justice front, as the House gave final passage to Senate Bills 158 and 162, which provide for a full independent audit of the Department of Juvenile Justice and comprehensively reform DJJ, respectively. Kudos to my colleague, Senator Danny Carroll, who was a true champion on this front, serving as co-chair of the DJJ work group and pulling comprehensive reforms and funding together. He carried the following bill in the Senate on behalf of Rep. Kevin Bratcher, the bill's primary sponsor.
House Bill 3 provides $13.4 million to DJJ for the Jefferson County Youth Detention Center renovation, plus $2 million for operation costs if certain conditions are met. It also strengthens parental engagement and cooperation in their child's diversion program. Starting one year after the bill's enactment, it mandates that a child taken into custody for violent felony offenses be detained 48 hours before a detention hearing and examined by a qualified mental health professional. Senate modifications to House Bill 3 include allowing community organizers to connect with young people once they are detained and strengthening child abuse and neglect prevention efforts by allowing the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to be referred cases where there are signs of it.
Another notable House bill included House Bill 249, or Kimber's Law. The bill would make the intentional killing of a child under 12 an aggravating circumstance. The measure is named after 3-year-old Kentuckian Kimber Collins, who was beaten to death in 2019. With the way statutes are currently written, the man who killed Kimber was not eligible to be sentenced to life without parole in Kentucky. Instead, the man received a 45-year sentence and will be eligible for parole after 20 years. I'm happy we can right this wrong in state statute.
You can find a listing of all bills reaching the Governor's desk by visiting: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/23rs/enrollment_actions.html.