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February 10, 2020 1:30pm

KYGA20: Fifth Week Wrap-Up

The 2020 Session of the Kentucky General Assembly passed its one-third mark last week and when the chambers adjourned on Friday, they concluded the twenty-third legislative day of the 60-day session. After a slower pace in January, the legislature started February in a different gear with lots of bills moving through committee and longer time in chambers considering bills on the floor.  Much of that activity this week surrounded the budget, priority bills, and contested legislative proposals.

Budget

Budget Director John Hicks appeared before back-to-back hearings of the Senate and House Appropriations and Revenue Committee and gave the committees more detail on the spending and revenue proposals outlined in Gov. Beshear’s budget address. The budget and revenue proposals filed as HB 352 and HB 351, respectively are summarized HERE by the Office of the State Budget Director. Legislators raised a number of questions and House A&R Committee Chair Steven Rudy indicated that both the House and the Senate would make significant changes before the entire matter likely ends up in a Free Conference Committee. 

The week also saw numerous meetings of the House Budget Review Subcommittees as various agencies appeared before legislators on their specific budgets. This process will dominate much of the remainder of the month before the House produces its version of the budget. An overview of the process can be viewed HERE.

Legislative Activity  

SB 1, Sen. D. Carroll’s sanctuary city bill passed the Senate, largely on a party-line vote, and has been received in the House. Other Senate priority bills seeing action this week included SB 8, the school safety bill that passed the House 78-7 and SB 7 remaking school councils and dealing with principal selection passed the Senate 20-15. 

HB 1, Speaker Meade’s proposal to revise public assistance programs didn’t move in the process this week, but continued to receive scrutiny and was the subject of various meetings. The concerns are with its provisions for moving individuals off Medicaid and onto employer health insurance rolls. We expect the bill to move in the coming week, but we are also expecting a committee substitute moving away from an employer mandate to provide group coverage and towards a subsidized individual market plan. 

Contested Legislation

Perhaps the most significant activity of the week was in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. The Committee heard and favorably reported SB 30 (Sen. S. Meredith) to limit the number of Medicaid Managed Care organization (MCO) contracts to three. SB 30 is posted for passage in the Senate on Monday. The Committee also favorably reported Sen. Wise’s SB 50, the Medicaid pharmacy carve out bill. The bill passed committee  despite warnings from advocates for rural hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers that the bill will have the unintended consequence of harming access to rural healthcare by jeopardizing the 340-B pharmacy program. SB 50 has two readings and can be put before the Senate for a vote at any time.  

The sports wagering bill, HB 137 (Rep. A. Koenig) did not move in the House. The bill was favorably reported by the House committee on January 15 and posted for passage on January 17, but has not been called for a vote. Gov. Beshear and Rep. Koenig held a press conference this week in an effort to get the bill moving. Even if the bill is voted and passes the House, its prospects in the Senate are uncertain.  In published reports, Senate leaders expressed different opinions with President Robert Stivers being quoted as doubtful of its support in the Majority Caucus, while Leader Thayer and Caucus Chair Adams expressed optimism that it could also pass the Senate. The Governor’s budget proposal includes $37 million over the biennium in revenues assuming this legislation reaches final passage.

HB 136, the bill of Rep. J. Nemes and more than thirty co-sponsors to legalize medical marijuana remains in the House Judiciary Committee and, although it has not been posted for committee hearing, is rumored to be undergoing revisions and may be heard in Judiciary next week with amendments solving some questions raised by the House GOP caucus. 

Transportation Infrastructure Reform

While legislators began to hear testimony and consider changes to the Governor’s budget proposal last week, there was no activity on the Transportation Cabinet budget, HB 353, or the two-year spending plan, HB 354. The Senate remains focused on having more oversight of Transportation Cabinet processes and according to Senator Stivers last week, will not consider additional transportation revenues without passage of SB 4. Rep. Santoro is working on alternative language to the bill in an attempt to address concerns and begin conversations in order to reach some sort of agreement for additional revenue. The Budget Review Subcommittee will be meeting this afternoon and will hear from Secretary Gray and Robin Brewer on the Cabinet’s proposed budget. Public transit agencies will also be presenting on their needs specific to the loss of toll credits.

Criminal Justice Reform Update

Justice Cabinet Secretary Mary Noble testified before the Appropriations & Revenue Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice, Public Safety and Judiciary last week.  Sec. Noble said that corrections and criminal justice reform are priorities of Gov. Beshear, citing his references to these areas in his Budget Address, State of the Commonwealth Address, and at a recent press conference.  

Without providing any details of proposals, she said that reform measures are necessary to reduce the overall jail and prison populations and that there is a need to work toward early intervention and treatment for drug abuse and mental health issues.  She specifically pointed to the problem of over-incarceration of individuals being held pre-trial and Kentucky’s high rates of recidivism and parole revocations.  

The following bills were considered and favorably reported last week.

HB 284, Rep. Derrick Lewis’ bill to establish probation credits for supervised individuals on probation or conditional discharge was explained as a means of giving incentives and rewarding educational attainment, drug or evidence-based programming training or work-for-time of individuals on parole.  The bill was unanimously adopted.  

Rep. Kevin Bratcher’s HB 327 to provide for automatic expungement of acquittals and dismissals was also heard and unanimously approved with a House Committee Substitute.  GLI is leading on this initiative and testified in support of the measure.