The Kentucky House and Senate returned for part two of the 2021 Legislative Session. There was no shortage of activity, and my colleagues and I have been busy working for the people of the Commonwealth. One of the first tasks before us this week overriding the Governor’s vetoes of six pieces of legislation we passed in January. The legislation vetoed included bills that protect the unborn, better defined legislative and executive branch powers, and help Kentuckians deal with the COVID pandemic.
As a co-equal branch of government, we are constitutionally tasked with making laws and passing a budget. I am committed to enacting good long-term public policy that benefits all Kentuckians. The bills vetoed are the result of months of careful consideration and input from stakeholders. While the Governor has the authority to veto them, the legislature is ultimately responsible for making law. We decided to exercise that authority.
While this process may seem like a political move, it is a common legislative practice and has happened several times in just the past decade. You may remember that the Republican-controlled House and Senate overrode several vetoes from former Republican Governor Matt Bevin during his term. Disagreement over policy decisions is an essential part of governing. Kentuckians do not always see eye-to-eye, so how can we expect our government to do so? Ultimately what matters is that we work together when we can, and respect each other when working together is not possible.
The House and Senate delivered the bills to the Secretary of State. Most are now law because they all contained emergency clauses making them effective immediately. However, the Governor filed suit challenging three of the bills within minutes of our vote to override the veto. HB 1, SB 1, and SB 2 are tied up in court. I am not surprised but disappointed.
HB 1 provides direction to help businesses, schools, nonprofits, and other organizations remain safely open throughout the rest of this pandemic. It gives employers some relief in making their unemployment insurance payments. The measure also includes a provision that ensures visitation opportunities for those in long-term care and children in state custody. SB 1 balances the need for Kentucky to act quickly in an emergency by ensuring that a governor does not overstep his or her authority and attempt to legislate through executive orders. SB 2 prevents the executive branch – including unelected appointees – from using the regulatory process to make laws.
As Chair of the House Education Committee, we were not able to meet this week due to our meeting was scheduled at 8:00 a.m., on the Tuesday we returned.
Since we didn’t gavel in for Part II of the 2021 Kentucky General Assembly until 2:00 p.m., we weren’t able to conduct business since we weren’t in session during the morning.
We will be meeting this Tuesday 2/9, at 8:00 to hear legislation. Our education session will be lean this year, and our focus will be to get our students back in school. I have two bills that I will be presenting to the Education Committee during the aforementioned meeting which should be of assistance to our school systems and their efforts to return to full time in person classes.
Also, this week in State Government, Representatives heard testimony regarding the retirement-related bill, HB 258, which also passed the full House on Thursday by a vote of 67-28. This bill would change the retirement benefit option available to new hires as of 2022. It creates a hybrid plan that includes a traditionally defined benefit plan, called the foundational benefit, a smaller savings account, the supplemental benefit, a stabilization fund, and continues the inviolable contract. After a great deal of careful consideration, I voted for this measure because I know how much is at stake. I appreciate the work that the bill’s sponsor and other legislators did in crafting it. Over the summer and fall, they met with various education stakeholders, including the KEA, KSBA, JCTA, and TRS, to discuss funding issues facing TRS and the Commonwealth. Those discussions resulted in HB 258. This hybrid plan for new hires helps stabilize costs in the future while allowing them to have a reliable income replacement at retirement. It also stops the bleed of our current teachers and retirees pension. I also want to point out that this measure was endorsed by the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, the Kentucky Association of School Administration, public universities, and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
It is also important to note that not a single education organization opposed it when we voted. Given that every single suggestion from the KEA was included in the bill, the KAPE surveys, including students entering the profession, were favorable for the measure, and my own analysis of all information, I felt supporting this effort had merit. I am, and will also be a legislator that listens to stakeholders. I read each and every bill and stand ready to defend my every vote.
I take this position seriously and am grateful for the privilege of serving our district. I hope you will not hesitate to reach out to me to share your thoughts on the issues coming before us in Frankfort, or if I can be of assistance in any capacity. I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach me on my personal cell phone number, 606-524-0227. I also have a presence on Facebook and Twitter.