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As Beshear mulls vetoes, here’s where major bills stand during Ky.’s legislative session

Kentucky Public Radio
Ryland Barton
The Kentucky state Capitol in Frankfort.

Last week lawmakers finished the business-end of this year’s session—28 out of the 30 constitutionally required working days have passed—and now Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear is considering vetoing or signing bills. Here’s a look at where we are at this point during the legislative session.

When lawmakers returned to Frankfort for this year’s legislative session in January, it looked like the big issues would be cutting the income tax and maybe adding exceptions to the state’s near-total ban on abortion.

But this year will not be known as the tax cut session. It will be known as the anti-trans session.

Debate over several anti-LGBTQ and so-called “parents’ rights” bills dominated time and attention during the annual lawmaking process.

Leaders of the Republican-led legislature openly squabbled over how far to go with measures that would minimize LGBTQ identity and restrict expression. But in the end, the hyper-conservative faction in the legislature won out and lawmakers passed a sweeping anti-trans bill that bans gender-affirming medical care, requires schools to create trans bathroom policies and mandates doctors to set timelines to “detransition” trans minors already taking puberty blockers or undergoing hormone therapy.

Last week lawmakers finished the business end of this year’s session—28 out of the 30 constitutionally required working days have elapsed—and now Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has 10 days to consider vetoing or signing any bills.

The Republican-dominated legislature is firmly in the driver’s seat of the process. Even if Beshear vetoes bills, lawmakers can easily override the move with a majority of votes in each chamber, as they have done each time they’ve had the opportunity to.

During the final two days of the session, March 29 and 30,lawmakers will get one last chance to pass bills. But any of those last-minute bills wouldn’t be veto-proof.

Here’s where some of the big bills stand:

Anti-trans bill (passed legislature, awaiting Beshear)

Senate Bill 150 passed out of the legislature and now awaits Gov. Beshear’s veto or signature. One of the most drastic anti-trans measures in the nation, it would:

· Ban gender-affirming medical care for minors. Kids who are already taking puberty blockers or hormones would have to come up with a “de-transition” plan with their doctors;

· Require schools to create bathroom policies that ban trans students from using bathroom that corresponds with their identity;

· Allow teachers to misgender trans kids by prohibiting schools from recommending educators use trans students’ preferred pronouns;

· Allow trans kids to sue doctors for providing gender-affirming surgery or medication, until they turn age 30;

· Require schools to notify parents when human sexuality will come up in lessons;

· And ban lessons that include gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation.

Medical cannabis (passed Senate, awaiting House)

For the first time, the state Senate passed a bill allowing people with certain ailments to get prescriptions for cannabis use. Senate Bill 47 is one of the most restrictive cannabis policies in the nation, only allowing people with serious conditions like cancer, PTSD and seizure disorders to use the drug. It also doesn’t allow people to smoke cannabis. The House has signed off on similar measures in the past and is expected to approve this year’s version. Gov. Beshear has also signaled support for it.

Sports betting (passed House, awaiting Senate)

A bill legalizing sports betting needs to clear one more hurdle before it can pass out of the legislature and reach Gov. Beshear’s desk. House Bill 551 would allow Kentucky’s horse racing tracks to become licensed sports facilities, permitting anyone 18 or older to bet on professional and collegiate sports. The House has already approved the measure, the Senate is now considering it.

Book banning (passed legislature, awaiting Beshear)

Senate Bill 5 would create a process for parents to report school books as “obscene,” and allow principals to remove instructional materials. The measure has already passed the legislatureand Gov. Beshear is considering signing or vetoing it.

Juvenile justice (passed legislature, awaiting Beshear)

After a series of assaults, escapes and riots at Kentucky’s youth detention centers, lawmakers passed a measure to improve security and boost staffing in the facilities, while also making the system more punitive for youth offenders. House Bill 3 would unseal criminal records of youth convicted of some violent crimes for three years. It would also require young people charged with violent crimes to be held in jail for up to 48 hours before their cases are heard. The bill has passed out of the legislature and awaits Beshear’s signature or veto.

CROWN act (pretty much dead)

The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair act would have banned discrimination based on natural hairstyles in schools and workplaces. Sponsored by Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield of Fruit Hill, Senate Bill 63 had bipartisan support but never moved in the state Senate.

Bourbon barrel tax repeal (passed House, awaiting Senate)

House Bill 5 would phase out Kentucky’s tax on aging bourbon barrels, which bourbon companies say keeps the booming industry from growing. Bourbon has boomed in recent years despite the tax and local government officials worry that cutting the tax will diminish local tax receipts, and hobble local services like fire protection, roads and water. The bill has passed out of the House and awaits consideration in the Senate.

Rural housing (passed legislature, awaits Beshear)

House Bill 360 would set aside $20 million to create a rural housing trust fund to support projects in areas affected by last year’s flooding in eastern Kentucky and tornadoes in western Kentucky the year before.

Conversion therapy ban (pretty much dead)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has repeatedly proposed a ban on “conversion therapy,” the discredited practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. But this year leaders of the Republican-led legislature once again declined to let it advance.

Abortion exceptions (pretty much dead)

Several Republican leaders in the legislature have said Kentucky needs to add exceptions to the state’s near-total ban on abortion, especially after voters rejected an anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution last fall. But after the state Supreme Court ruled that the ban will remain in place while a legal challenge makes its way through the court system, the bill creating exceptions never moved.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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