The 2020 Kentucky General Assembly adjourned sine die on April 15, 2020, several minutes before midnight, as required. You may have heard that term used in the past few days. It is a Latin term meaning “without day.” If a meeting ends with no set day to get back together during that year, it is adjourned sine die. I have had several of you ask about that reference, and wanted to sharing the meaning. There is a date set for the Kentucky General Assembly to return for the 2021 Regular Session but that will be next year on January 5th.
As I left my home earlier in the week to travel to Frankfort for our last two days of the 2020 Regular Session, I reflected on just how irregular everything around us is right now. It is truly uncharted territory for all of us. I pray, and long for the day when we are able to visit, fellowship and enjoy being together once again.
In the weeks since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed, I have worked with other members of the Kentucky General Assembly to pass legislation that provides the tools our state needs at this time. Our main objective became to pass legislation to help the state address COVID-19. We did so with several different bills. SB 177 gives our schools more flexibility and support in reaching our children, helping employers and small businesses, and helping Kentuckians who have lost jobs or had their hours cut because of COVID. SB 150 expands unemployment insurance benefits for employees and prevents businesses from having their unemployment insurance rates negatively affected if they have to lay off or cut hours due to COVID. This bill also suspends gives some flexibility and cuts red tape for medical providers, the courts, and our farmers. HB 387 gave Governor Beshear the authority to use restricted funds to purchase personal protective equipment (face masks, medical gowns, gloves) for health care workers. Further, HR 135 creates a legislative task force to consider ways to improve emergency preparedness.
Working in Frankfort during this time was vastly different. We tried to have as minimal a footprint as possible as members of the Kentucky House of Representatives. However, we felt it was important to continue to be present these final days of session to do the work of the people of this great Commonwealth. That is why you sent me to Frankfort, and I was determined to meet our obligations. We are constitutionally mandated to pass a budget, and now more than ever, it was important to us that we have a day left to respond to any vetoes enacted by the Governor. We took precautions, just as we did on April 1, and voted from anywhere on the Capitol grounds. We had the opportunity to stay in our cars if we elected to do so. As long as we were on the grounds, our votes were valid. Doing business in this manner limited the number of individuals on the House Floor, while still ensuring that we could cast votes on your behalf. It was unusual to say the least, but I am grateful we were able to make these changes to do the job.
We had plenty of work to do the last two days on top of overriding many of the Governor’s budget vetoes. This state, much like the rest of the nation, is hurting. We have to have a safe and solid plan to return to some sense of “normalcy” once this crisis has abated. I put quotations around “normalcy” because we will not, as a society, be able to go back fully to the way things were before COVID-19 became a clear and present danger to America and the world. Though it unfortunately did not pass through the Senate, the House version of SB 136 was a measured, gradual way forward that takes us from focusing on what is essential to deciding what can be done safely. We have to be every bit as successful in recovery as we have been in dealing with the spread. This legislature has a proven record of building the economy and until now our state has experienced record economic growth, new jobs, and investment. We can get there again, but we need to work together to do it. I have so many concerns regarding our small businesses and encourage you to pray for our neighborhood of business owners and please give them as much business as possible during this time. The House version of SB 136 provided the beginning framework for safely putting Kentucky back in business and helping Kentuckians rebuild their lives and livelihoods. The bill would have required licensing and regulatory agencies and organizations to develop guidelines for health care facilities, occupations, and businesses to open and operate safely once Kentucky is past what public health officials consider the critical point of the COVID spread. It allowed for chiropractic care to be considered essential and increased much needed mental health services for Kentucky schoolchildren. And it exempted those who come to Kentucky to assist with COVID-19 and other emergencies and disasters from the state income tax. We were proud of these measures, but unfortunately we were not able to pass it through the full legislature on these last days. It is frustrating to me that the Senate didn’t make this a priority.
Further business we addressed included more veto overrides. I proudly voted to override the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 2, which is the first step in Secretary of State Michael Adams’s plan to make it “easier to vote and harder to cheat” this bill would require that voters present a state-issued photo identification card in order to cast their ballot. At a time when you have to present some form of identification for a good deal of what we do in society, there is simply no reason not have an identification you can present to vote. When you have to present identification to be tested for COVID-19, I think most reasonable people could infer that the same should apply for our constitutional right of voting. All Americans and all Kentuckians have the right to have their voices heard. But they have the right to have their voices heard once every election. There are voter rolls in some precincts in this state that have more voters registered than residents. Something seems a bit off about that to me, and after hearing from many of you, it appears it does to you as well.
These are such strange times, indeed. It is unnerving to have State Police snipers assigned by the Governor to be on the Capitol property. However, as in all hard times, we must all pray for the best and remember all of our hope truly is in our Heavenly Father.
As your representative, I am troubled by each one of your concerns. This job weighs heavily on me, and I want to do all within my power to assist each of your concerns and needs during this time. I understand your worries and part of being in Frankfort was the hope of giving you some idea of a path going forward, and a light at the end of this tunnel.
Although I was pleased that we did get some helpful legislation passed, some of our earlier work took a backseat. Due to the time constraints, and addressing COVID-19 being paramount, some of the bills that I filed for education, passed in one bill. The issues I am speaking of was aligning our education language with the federal language in order to receive federal funding, omitting the charter training requirements from Kentucky School Boards of Education, removing the testing performance requirement for future graduating Seniors, which was put in place by the former commissioner. These were all important issues for our education community, and I was instrumental in seeing that we did get passage in a combination bill the last day. It was more important that those issues be combined, since we didn’t have time to get individual bills through. It doesn’t matter who’s name is on it, as long as we were able to get it passed. A bill I filed which addressed home and hospital language in education did have time to pass. This was much needed to ensure effective ways to deliver long term education during injuries or illness. I was also instrumental in securing funding for our districts to have the opportunity to purchase buses with the state paying half of the cost of each bus. Further, I was able to work to ensure that the third nickel was funded, giving those that have passed those taxes to receive a state match. Also, as always, I spoke to the pensions and was pleased that we funded those again this session above the ARC, and ensured that retired teachers insurance was included in our one year budget. Given the time constraints, I was extremely pleased that my top priorities passed into law. I have a couple of issues that, if re-elected, I will be prefiling to be addressed when the Kentucky General Assembly convenes next year.
Although the General Assembly is no longer in session, I will continue to help each of you and Kentucky move forward through this crisis. I can be reached through the toll-free message line. If you have any comments or questions, please call 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I want to provide my personal cellphone number 606-524-0227. Please leave a message and I will return your call. Also, please visit the Legislative Home Page at legislature.ky.gov. to keep up with my every legislative action on your behalf.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. It is a privilege. God Bless each of you.