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September 10, 2021 10:05am

GLI’s Advocacy Efforts During Kentucky’s Special Session

After three busy and chaotic days, the General Assembly completed their work and adjourned late Thursday night for the 2021 Special Legislative Session. Kentucky lawmakers sent four bills to Governor Beshear, two of which he vetoed and two that he signed. The General Assembly quickly voted to override those vetoes and all four became law.

While only a small amount of legislation made it across the finish line during the special session, we are pleased that the General Assembly prioritized the well-being of the business community. Specifically, reinstating the state of emergency to provide important liability protections and upholding employers rights to enact requirements to protect their workforce, will give businesses the discretion to assess their own risks and make decisions that are best for their operations

Below are the following bills that have become law:

Emergency Orders: House Joint Resolution 1 was the most important piece of legislation produced during the special session and extends many of the Governor’s COVID executive orders through January 15, 2022, when lawmakers will be convened for their regular session in Frankfort. Crucially, this bill extends the liability protections for employers, passed during the 2021 regular session as SB5. GLI was active in advocating for the extension of these liability protections, which protect employers from the threat of frivolous and costly litigation related to the pandemic.

EDUCATION: Senate Bill 1 removed authority from the Kentucky Department of Education to mandate masks in schools and shifts the power to locally-elected school boards. The bill also provides flexibility to school districts through temporary remote instruction days. The legislation also granted districts more than 20 remote learning days to move individual schools or classes to virtual instruction due to COVID-related absences.

Health Care:  After intense debate, Senate Bill 2 related to masking and providing assistance to healthcare organizations for testing and treating COVID passed. There were several proposed floor amendments that would have reduced employer rights to enact corporate mandates. GLI quickly joined with Chambers across Kentucky to prevent the adoption of these amendments and protect employer rights to use all available tools to ensure the health and safety of their workplaces. Ultimately, the Senate bill passed without amendments.

Appropriations: Senate Bill 3 appropriates $69 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to address struggles in healthcare, long-term care, and education systems while also providing funding for more COVID testing, monoclonal antibody treatment, and “test and stay” COVID testing for schools

Economic Development: Senate Bill 5 appropriates $410 million from budget reserve trust fund to finance KEDFA forgivable loans and training grants for companies that invest more than $2 billion in Kentucky. This bill allows Kentucky to provide incentives on the front end and compete with states that are able to provide cash incentives. As the regional champion for economic development, GLI knows the importance of competitive incentives to attract projects that will strengthen our local economies and we were supportive of this legislation.