By JIMMY HIGDON
14th District State Senate
Friday, April 1, 2022 — The session has now entered the veto suspension period with the conclusion of Week 13 of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly. Lawmakers worked late to ensure critical legislation was sent to the governor before the veto period. The House and Senate passed more than 100 bills this week.
The veto suspension period allows the Governor to review and review legislation passed by the General Assembly. My colleagues and I in the State Senate and House of Representatives will return to Frankfurt for the final two days of this session, Wednesday, April 13 and Thursday, April 14. Meanwhile, we have reserved the ability to override one of the governor’s vetoes on bills passed by the General Assembly. We will still have the opportunity to pass additional bills, but their veto cannot be overridden.
The highlight of week 13 was the final passage of budget bills, including those that fund the operations of our three branches of state government: the executive branch (Internal Bill 1), legislative power (House Bill 243) and the judiciary (House Bill 244). Additionally, we passed the State Transportation Budget and Highway Plan, which funds new and improved highways, roads, and bridges.
I had the honor of leading the efforts of the Senate on the development of the state highway plan. I think it’s one that we can all be proud of and that makes the most of the funds available to keep our roads and bridges in good condition. There is also a lot of hope for some big projects in the future that will help Kentucky grow economically. These projects include the much-discussed Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky.
The Senate has played an important role in all budget-related bills. I’m excited for what each of them means for the future of our state and district. The state budget bill passed the Senate without a single opposition vote. This speaks to the diligent and careful planning of the bill over the past few weeks. Hundreds of hours were invested in crafting the state’s spending plan, with the best interests of Kentuckians in mind. The investment of the time and energy of Kentucky taxpayers has made possible the funding opportunities outlined in these budget bills.
Despite the many challenges thrown at us over the past two years, the spending plan for the next two years has taken advantage of the unique funding opportunities available while remaining fiscally responsible and prudent with our taxpayers’ money. We are tackling the issues of COVID-19 and natural disasters head-on and investing in our state employees like never before with significant salary increases. We are making historic new investments in education, once again paying well in excess of the required amount in state teacher pensions and providing school districts with financial relief by helping with transportation costs and funding kindergarten all day. The final budget will help create a safer, brighter Kentucky home for our families and children.
Even though week 13 only had two legislative days, it was arguably the most productive of the session in terms of the number of bills making their way through the process. I have been happy to second several bills that have come to the Governor with the Senate stamp on them.
House Bill 3 is a pro-life measure called the Humanity in Healthcare Act. It addresses several aspects of abortion, including access to abortion drugs. After a policy change in December 2021 by the Food and Drug Administration, these drugs are now readily available on online websites with limited oversight and liability. This bill corrects that troubling problem. I am also happy to say that the Senate added an amendment to the bill prohibiting abortions when the baby’s gestational age exceeds 15 weeks.
House Bill 8 is a tax modernization measure that reduces income tax for Kentuckians. He is doing it responsibly and will not blow up state revenue. Income tax rates will be reduced by half a percent if specific criteria are met. The reduction of income taxes is made possible by the extension of service taxes to specific services.
House Bill 9 is the charter school legislation. It establishes the first two publicly funded pilot project schools. The bill also sets the parameters for districts’ ability to accept or refuse to have charter schools and how enrollment will be determined. House Bill 9 further strengthens local control and gives local districts and voters a voice in improving the educational opportunities of the students served. No school district with less than 7,500 students will be eligible for charter schools unless approved by the local school board.
House Bill 607 standardizes the excise tax on every pari-mutuel bet placed in Kentucky, taxing all such bets at 1.5%, eliminating the 15 cent per person admission tax that our race tracks currently face, and more. The bill further strengthens Kentucky’s signature industries while raising more money for the state’s general fund to go toward valued areas funded by the government in this year’s state budget.
House Bill 315 further illustrates the General Assembly’s commitment to improving broadband access for our rural communities. HB 315 requires that $182,769,000 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) Coronavirus-Related Capital Projects Fund and $67,231,000 from the ARPA State Fiscal Stimulus Fund be set aside for the Broadband Deployment Fund. This crucial legislation will establish the Broadband Development Office and specify how the office is to administer and implement the Broadband Deployment Fund. In addition, the bill allocates $20 million in new funds from the state Fiscal Stimulus Fund to create the Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund to replace utility poles for the construction of broadband networks.
I am also pleased to inform you that the legislation of which I was the main sponsor has also been delivered to the Governor. Senate Bill 119 establishes procedures required by the Transportation Cabinet to place signage on state highways and bridges related to the honorific. As Chair of the Senate on Transportation, I know that honoring influential and respected people means a lot to many. These can include heroic first responders, dedicated public servants, notable Kentucky celebrities, and more. The bill will also give schools the ability to ask the cabinet for honorary designations. I expect the bill to be signed into law or allowed to become law without a signature.
I look forward to seeing the implementation of the previously mentioned bills and others into law, as I am confident they will continue to move our state forward in a positive way. I will keep you informed of the many bills awaiting a decision by the Governor and, ultimately, of those that may require further action by the legislature.
I have enjoyed working with my colleagues at State House this session, who are working hard to represent their respective counties in the 14th District. They include Nelson County Rep. Chad McCoy, Washington County Rep. Kim King, Marion County Rep. Michael “Sarge” Pollock, LaRue County Rep. Brandon Reed, and Spencer County Rep. James Allen Tipton . You have excellent representation at the State House.
Please feel free to contact me at (502) 564-8100 (work), (270) 692-6945 (home), or email [email protected] if you have any questions or concerns. You can share your opinion on the legislation by contacting the Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.