Week 8 of the 2022 Legislative Session
With each passing day of session, you can feel legislative efforts intensifying as lawmakers seek to enact bills important to them and beneficial to their constituents. Budget review continues in the state Senate, and in week eight of session we introduced and passed significant bills to help people across the Commonwealth.
First I want to inform you about a tax relief measure the Senate has proposed. Senate Bill 194, a tax rebate plan, is in response to inflation hitting a 40-year high and imposing financial challenges on state residents. Under this bill, each working Kentucky taxpayer will receive up to $500 and each household up to $1,000. This tax rebate is possible because of the conservative budget of the Commonwealth; unexpected and exceptional revenue growth is expected to yield over $1.94 billion in excess funds that rightly belong to Kentucky taxpayers. This plan will keep more money in working taxpayers' pockets and empower them with the tools to make appropriate choices for their families.
Senate Joint Resolution 150 cleared the Senate this week eight. It aims to end the COVID-19 state of emergency declared by Governor Andy Beshear on March 6, 2020.
Before the legislature's involvement in COVID-related decision-making, the Governor imposed widespread damaging mandates across the state. They ceased elective medical procedures, imposed statewide mask mandates and closed access to student in-person learning. Mandates even restricted travel, closed businesses and even targeted churchgoers. Since the onset of the pandemic, overdose deaths, suicides and child abuse rates have skyrocketed. We have reached the point where we need to leave this state of emergency behind us. Terminating the state of emergency on March 7 strikes a fair balance.
We want to provide the executive branch a window of opportunity to engage with the legislature on any efforts they think may be needed before the state of emergency ends. Secondly, if lawmakers do not terminate this current state of emergency by March 7, it will expire on April 15. The issue there is the legislative session ends on April 14, and the governor will have the ability to put in place administrative regulations without any oversight from the legislative branch. Lawmakers have spent most of the state of emergency on the sidelines, unable to take action despite constituents requesting it. We will make sure any potential executive measures receive the oversight they need.
With COVID-19 here to stay but tools and knowledge are available to all of us to stay safe, it is finally time for Kentucky to return to normal and declare an end to the two-year-long state of emergency. SJR 150 signals to all Kentuckians that their representatives recognize this reality.
I detailed Senate Bill 138, also known as the 'Teaching America's Principles Act,' in last week’s legislative update. It passed the full Senate in week eight, receiving hours of debate on the Senate floor. Interestingly, few of the concerns stated by those in opposition to the bill could cite specific parts of the bill they disagreed with. The bill is a positive approach to heated debate in the education sphere. It takes a positive approach to addressing all stakeholders concerns by expanding elementary school standards to middle and high school, setting up reasonable parameters in student instruction on controversial topics and establishes a baseline required study of 24 core American primary source documents.
The bill preserves the alignment of middle and high school instruction with American principles of equality, freedom and individual liberty. It expands the existing elementary school standards to middle and high school. It requires education or instructional materials on current, controversial topics related to public policy or social affairs to be within the range of knowledge, understanding, age and maturity of the students, and be relevant, objective, nondiscriminatory and respectful to the differing perspectives. The act guides students to learn how to think rather than what to think.
Additionally, the 'Teaching America's Principles Act' establishes a baseline required study of 24 core American documents recommended by various social studies scholars plus a subset from the Ashbrook Center. The Ashbrook introduces young people to the real story of America—good and bad—through primary documents and serious conversation. Flexibility exists to include additional materials. Teachings are not limited to these documents. It serves as a positive approach to addressing the concerns of parents and all educational stakeholders. It avoids making a list of 'do-nots' and instead takes a positive more unifying approach. The bill is a product of a careful review of our nation's issues, local testimony, countless conversations and reflection. I was proud to support the bill.
In closing, I want to make you aware that the Senate passed a joint resolution on Friday, February 18 that would require the governor and the Finance Cabinet to reopen the route between the state capitol and legislative offices. I was vehemently opposed to closure of the road because it is something tourists and native Kentuckians alike enjoy. It made our Capitol open to the public and unique compared to many others. Since being elected, the Governor has closed people out of the State Capitol, erected a $300,000+ fence around his mansion and has most recently closed the roadway so many have enjoyed. I want to see this corrected, and the road reopened.