Legislative Update 3/19/2023

Hello friends,
What a sad week in Frankfort, for people all across Kentucky, and for democracy.   The Marc Murphy cartoon above sums it all up pretty well.

In what the Fairness Campaign’s Chris Hartman accurately called “an 11th hour cheap trick,” the Kentucky legislature presented and passed a last-minute amended version of Senate Bill 150. The original SB150 was arguably the least horrible of a series of horrible anti-LGBTQ+ bills proposed this session.  The version the legislature passed on Thursday, however, is now a Frankenstein’s monster of a bill that is an anti-trans, anti-education, anti-mental health, anti-medical science, and anti-economic development bill all rolled into one.

In the dirtiest of dirty tricks, the revised bill was voted on in a last-minute unscheduled meeting of the House Education Committee.  Fellow Democratic members of that committee and I received no notice of the meeting, and found out about it accidentally and indirectly, making it clear that we – and all the people we represent – were meant to be excluded.  (I was literally running to the committee room as the roll was called, and got there in time to shout “here” from just outside the committee room. A motion was made and seconded to approve the bill before the presenters said a word, and my and others’ questions to try and clarify what was in the version of the bill that we’d had no time to review were responded to dismissively.)

It’s remarkable that with the majority party holding 80% of seats in the Kentucky House, they could still only pass this wretched bill by using dishonest tactics and flouting agreed-upon norms and the rules of open government.

Senate Bill 150’s final version aligns Kentucky with states like South Dakota, Tennessee and Florida that have sought to erase trans kids entirely while undermining others in the LGBTQ+ community.  Advocates for mental health, public schools, civil liberties, healthcare, and LGBTQ+ rights have called SB 150 the “most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ bill in the country.”

The bill would ban puberty blockers and other gender-affirming care; add significant liability risks for healthcare providers; erode student confidentiality; prohibit gender-affirming care by licensed mental health professionals working in school settings; allow schools to ignore a student’s preferred pronouns; ban sex education prior to middle school; prohibit health education for every grade level that includes sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression; create an “opt-in” for sex ed at all grade levels.  And the bill includes language aligned with North Carolina’s misguided and notorious “so-called bathroom bill [that] sparked a nationwide backlash that wreaked havoc on the state, causing far-reaching political and economic damage,” according to NBC News.

While Kentucky faces a critical teacher shortage, the bill creates new challenges and uncertainty for educators.  While we face a mental health crisis, particularly for young people, this legislation interferes with mental health services in schools and exacerbates the significant mental health risks already facing our kids, especially trans kids who are already at high risk for suicide. With Kentucky at the bottom of many health rankings, and with healthcare providers in too-short supply, the bill inserts politicians into private healthcare decisions and criminalizes the practice of medicine.  While the majority party has gutted Kentucky’s most reliable revenue source by adopting discredited tax policies, this bill puts Kentucky at even greater economic risk.

Every major medical and mental health association opposes this legislation.  Teacher and education groups oppose this legislation.  Leaders in the business community oppose this legislation.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled organizations pushing this agenda as hate groups.  As I said on the House floor when we debated an earlier version of this bill (HB470), “We are making public policy that affects every Kentuckian based on the agenda of known hate groups. That’s not just wrong, it’s downright terrifying.”

While the General Assembly dedicated a massive chunk of time to the proposals in Senate Bill 150, we somehow could not find a fraction of that same energy to address Kentucky’s number one ranking in child abuse or to mitigate maternal and infant mortality rates that are among the worst in the country.

Demonstrating compassion and political courage that is all-too-rare in Frankfort, Kentucky Education Commissioner Jason Glass issued a statement on Friday: “The Kentucky legislature is following a terrifying, but sadly well-trodden path. In the long run, history does not reflect well on such regimes. And in the short-run, we should all be concerned about who will be their next target.”  Dr. Glass ended his statement on a hopeful note, announcing that the Kentucky Department of Education will host a summit in support of LGBTQIA+ people and youth later this year. “Our focus will be on resilience, connection and hope,” he said.

I take heart from his closing words.  As we continue the battle for civil rights, for reason, and for fundamental human dignity, my hope for those of us on the right side of history is that we remain resilient, build on our connections, and spread hope that, in the end, love will win.

For now, if you or someone you know is struggling, please call or text the national mental health crisis hotline at 988, or visit The Trevor Project‘s help line.  
Contact me…

As always, thank you to those who’ve contacted me throughout the legislative session.  We are on a veto recess now, and will be back to finish up this year’s brutal session on March 29 and 30.

To reach me, you can respond directly to this message, and my official Frankfort email is Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  The phone number to leave messages for me or any other legislator is 800-372-7181.
Sending love and light in challenging times,

Legislative Update 2/20/2023

Dear Friends,
Having passed the halfway mark for the 2023 legislative session, only three bills have passed both chambers and become law so far:

House Bill 1 uses temporary revenue gains from federal dollars to make permanent tax cuts that will likely be debilitating down the road by preventing adequate investment in public education, public health, public safety, and other crucial services. (I voted no.)  House Bill 2 will help build Kentucky’s fifth veterans-only nursing home in Bowling Green.  (I voted yes.)  Senate Bill 10 was a non-controversial “clean-up bill” that made technical corrections to a business-related measure regarding registration of professional employer organizations.  (I voted yes.)

While it’s still too early to know what other bills will become law this session, we have now passed the filing deadline for new bills and have a better idea of what to expect. As of the deadline, nearly 900 bills were filed in the House and Senate, and about 60 have passed one of those chambers.

Two prominent bills that passed the House this week were HB146 and HB153.

HB146 rolled back a portion of the damage enacted in last year’s draconian HB4 that severely limited unemployment insurance benefits for Kentuckians who lost work through no fault of their own.  HB146 replaced a portion of what was taken away last year, allowing those eligible to receive a maximum of 16 weeks of benefits rather than the current 12.  It’s important to note that for 80 years prior to 2022’s HB4, Kentuckians were able to receive benefits for up to 26 weeks.

Even if HB146 becomes law, many Kentuckians will still have less time than in the past to get back on their feet and less chance to find a job in their field, putting their family incomes at greater risk.  That is especially likely for those living in rural areas or who lose their jobs mid-career or closer to retirement age.  Even though HB146 doesn’t undo all the damage done last year, I voted yes because it does mitigate some of the harm.

While HB146 lessens potential harm to Kentuckian, HB153 does just the opposite.  This misguided bill calls for Kentucky to effectively opt out of any federal efforts to rein in gun violence.  Specifically, the bill would bar local and state law enforcement agencies from enforcing any federal firearms restriction that has been enacted or re-interpreted since 2021.  There are real concerns about the constitutionality of a measure like HB146, and the bill has the potential to put our police officers in a precarious position in working with or obtaining funding from federal law enforcement.  With headlines dominated by mass shootings, and gun violence plaguing our own community, I spoke against this bill on the House floor and voted no.

A preview of likely coming attractions…

Reforms to Kentucky’s juvenile-justice system.  I wrote at some length about this in last week’s update, and in case you missed it, here’s my op ed with my colleague Rep. Keturah Herron. Juvenile justice-related bills have yet to come for a vote, but that could change any time. 

 Legalizing sports betting and medical marijuana.  The House passed versions of both last year, and there’s increasing hope that the Senate will finally sign off this year.  We’re among a small minority of states that haven’t adopted either, even with polling showing that Kentuckians overwhelmingly support both.  I support both of these initiatives, along with de-criminalizing cannabis.

 “Gray games,” the name given to slots-like machines found in many small businesses such as convenience stores and bars.  Supporters say these are games of skill, that they are a form of much-needed passive revenue for many mom-and-pop businesses, and that they should be regulated and taxed. Churchill Downs, the primary operator of slot machines in casino-like businesses across the state, opposes the competition from these machines and is pressing for a ban. 

Harmful anti-LGBTQ+ bills.  These dangerous bills pose a real threat to the health and well-being of trans and non-binary kids.  Efforts to advance “don’t say gay” bills, ban library books, and criminalize gender-affirming healthcare are being used as ammunition in a culture war without regard for the lives of the people who are harmed by politically-fueled rhetoric.  Supporters are spending an inordinate amount of time attacking trans kids who are asking for nothing more than respect and the ability to live their lives with integrity.  I oppose these bills with every fiber of my being, and I’m filled with gratitude for the large number of district 35 friends and neighbors who have reached out to express their opposition to these efforts.  

To contact me
If you’d like to contact me about these or any other bills or topics, you can email me at Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov. You can also leave a message for me or any other legislator by calling 800-372-7181 during normal business hours.

In community,

Legislative Update 2/13/2023

Dear Friends,

 The General Assembly resumed the 2023 legislative session early last week after a constitutionally required recess.  The result of our four working days was both historic and relatively quiet.

On Thursday, the House voted unanimously to impeach Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronnie Goldy Jr. for prosecutorial misconduct.  This was only the fifth impeachment in Kentucky’s 231-year history. The House is the only body legally able to initiate removing this prosecutor from office, although others have acted to discipline Mr. Goldy as well.  In 2022, the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended him from practicing law law for misuse of the office, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Association dropped him as a member.  While Mr. Goldy has announced his resignation, the state Senate can still conduct a trial to keep him from holding this office again if found guilty.

Beyond that momentous vote, the House did not take any action on bills last week, although two approved last month – HB 1and HB 2  – cleared the Senate on Wednesday and are now on Governor Beshear’s desk awaiting his approval or veto.

House Bill 2 budgets $16.6 million to construct a new veterans nursing home in Bowling Green, and passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. I was proud to support that legislation. 
I strongly opposed House Bill 1 because its income-tax cuts are tilted heavily toward the wealthiest Kentuckians with little to no benefit for the rest, and because of the lasting damage the tax cut will have on our state’s ability to make long-term investments in education, healthcare access, and other vital public programs and services.   And because of newly imposed sales taxes to offset a portion of the revenue loss from reducing the income tax, many Kentuckians will actually end up paying more, not less, under this upside-down tax re-structuring plan.  (In case you missed it, here’s my recent op ed on HB1.) 

Revenue losses from HB1 also ignore the fact that we still have not adequately addressed long-term challenges like teacher shortages, which was the focus of last Tuesday’s House Education Committee.  In his presentation to that committee, KY Education Commissioner Jason Glass noted that the foundation of Kentucky’s teacher shortage boils down to deficits in “pay, support, and respect.”  While the legislature has the ability to significantly improve all three during this legislative session, we are instead seeing ongoing efforts to politicize Kentucky classrooms  through “don’t say gay” bills, and legislation targeting trans kids. These and other harmful bills strongly suggest that little will be done to help the teaching profession or improve conditions and outcomes for students this year.

Children’s Advocacy Day

In more encouraging news, the annual “Children’s Advocacy Day” occurred last week in Frankfort.  I was deeply honored to be recognized by Kentucky Youth Advocates as a 2023 “Champion for Children” because of my work to “raise awareness and advance children’s mental health.”
Other Bills
I’ve filed a number of bills this session.  Here are just a few highlights of some of the work I’ve been doing in Frankfort so far this session…

House Bill 142  –  I was honored to meet with dozens of high school students from Louisville’s Mercy Academy who were in Frankfort last week to advocate for a number of bills, including HB 142, my bill to remove the sales tax from period products.  The students had done their research, and were able to speak about the importance of this bill from the perspectives of economic and gender justice, the impact on physical and mental health, and school/work absenteeism.  At its core, HB 142 is a bill about fundamental fairness. 

The students’ visit to Frankfort and our work together on the bill was highlighted in several news stories:  

     The Kentucky Lantern

(In a recent WKYT survey, 92% of respondents supported this initiative, with only 8% opposing!)

HB161  – Speaking of students, it has been a real privilege to work with the Kentucky Student Voice Team to craft legislation that would add student representation to every Kentucky public school board.  The bipartisan bill was featured in a recent Courier-Journal article about a trio of bills designed to elevate and amplify student voice.  

HB66 – This bipartisan bill would limit the times and conditions when public utility companies can shut off gas and electricity, providing guardrails to keep struggling or medically fragile Kentuckians in their homes.  I’m grateful to Louisville Metro Council Member Jecorey Arthur and the other members of metro Council for their support of a resolution to support our bill.  HB 66 is also endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers Kentucky Chapter (NASW-KY), and every other social work organization across the state.  You can read or listen to more about it here, from Louisville Public Media.  

To contact me
If you’d like to contact me about these or any other bills or topics, you can email me at Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov. You can also leave a message for me or any other legislator by calling 800-372-7181 during normal business hours.

In community,

Legislative Update, 3/12/2022

Dear Friends,

There’s a disturbing national phenomenon that’s playing out in Frankfort with increasing intensity as the legislative session progresses.  It goes like this: ideologically driven “news” outlets promulgate and repeat disinformation; the disinformation creates alarm, public discord, and a demand for solutions to politically-motivated manufactured “problems;” and then policies are created and passed to “solve” difficulties that don’t exist.  Unfortunately, these propaganda-driven “solutions” often create real harms by further perpetuating dangerous disinformation, ignoring evidence of actual problems, and further marginalizing individuals and groups who are already struggling.  

Lexington’s Herald-Leader published a piece this week from public opinion writer Linda Blackford with the title, “Absolute GOP power in Frankfort leads to tsunami of bad ideas that will soon become law.”  

The headline says it all.  

Here are some examples of bad policy ideas that are grounded in false premises and that have been put on the fast track by legislative leaders from the super-majority party. 

Part 1 – bad policy ideas that have passed the House 

HB8 – tax reform to benefit the wealthy. Grounded in “trickle-down economics,” an approach that has been disproven many times over, one economic policy expert describes HB8 as the most fiscally destructive legislation in Kentucky’s history.  The bill would immediately reduce state income tax (currently making up 40% of Kentucky’s general fund), and eventually phase it out altogether.

As we know from the experience of other states, this is a move that benefits the wealthy, widens the wealth gap, and guts opportunities for public investment in services and structures that benefit the common good.  You can find more of my public comments opposing HB8 in the Herald-Leader.  

HB 3 – new restrictions on reproductive rights.  This dangerous bill includes no exceptions for when the life of the mother is at risk, or for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest – provisions favored by a broad majority of Kentuckians.   HB3 raises troubling privacy and safety concerns by mandating  extensive documentation of abortion procedures including, for minors, their  place of residence, age, race, and approximate age of the father.  A new mandate on physicians would require them to record “total number and dates of each previous pregnancy, live birth and abortion of the pregnant patient,” as well as the “probable gestational and post-fertilization ages of the unborn child,” and the “reason for the abortion, if known.”  HB3 also requires a “birth and death certificate” for an aborted fetus that includes the name of the mother and father, and the full names and addresses of the physician who performed the abortion and the referring physician.  In committee testimony opposing HB 3, an advocate noted that this provision “essentially create[es] a hit list for anti-abortion extremists.” 

The bill’s requirements are also at odds with medical and pharmacological science and practice 

With Kentucky already facing crises in maternal and infant health, this bill would make Kentucky an even more dangerous place for pregnant people and children, since evidence shows that states with more abortion restrictions score worse on health outcomes for women and children

States with more abortion restrictions also have relatively fewer policies that support health outcomes for pregnant people, infants, and families.  That is certainly the case here in Kentucky, where supportive policies such as those put forward by the House Democratic Women’s Caucus go largely unheard

HB29 – undermining enforcement of federal gun safety laws.  The KY legislature has seen proposals like this one going back at least to 2011, reinforcing the false narrative and political scare tactic that “people are coming to take away your guns.” While nobody is coming for anyone’s guns, Kentuckians are dying as a result of Kentucky lawmakers’ inaction on gun safety.  Data shows that states with lenient gun laws have three times the rate of gun deaths than states with sensible gun safety legislation.  Here in Kentucky (which Everytown for Gun Safety has labeled a “national failure,”) 2/3 of gun fatalities are suicides, and firearms are the #1 killer of Kentucky children and youth. 

HB28 – undermining public health.  The bill would prohibit state and local governments and public schools and universities from requiring or even asking about COVID vaccination status for students and employees. While I hope with all my heart that falling COVID numbers indicate the end of the COVID pandemic, this bill hamstrings the public health response in the event of future outbreaks.   

Part 2 – bad policy ideas that have passed committee 

HB23 and SB 83 – discriminating against trans youth. These bills targeting trans kids have advanced out of the House Education Committee in two separate meetings.  Twice, I’ve voiced objections and voted no on these harmful policies which are narrowly focused to discriminate against some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable young people.  These bills would prohibit trans girls from participating on their school athletic teams.  

Those promoting these harmful and mean-spirited bills claim to do so under federal Title IX protections, even though Title IX prohibits  discrimination based on gender identity.  

I noted in the committee hearing that, in addition to wrongs inflicted on individual kids, anti-LGBTQ discrimination is bad for economic development.  I’m grateful to the 150+ Kentucky businesses for their letter to legislators opposing these unfair and misguided  bills.  

Part 3 – bad policy ideas that have passed both chambers

HB4  – slashing unemployment insurance benefits  Under this punitive policy, Kentucky workers take a big hit. Starting in 2023, UI benefits will rise and fall based on the unemployment rate; and after just six weeks, applicants will have to accept any job for which they are qualified if the salary is marginally higher than their UI benefits and is within 30 miles of their home, even if the job is outside of their career, or pays significantly less than their previously held job. 
Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 150 – legislative overreach in managing the pandemic.  SJR150 would immediately declare an end to pandemic-related executive orders and state-issued regulations.  This actually undercuts the legislature’s own actions earlier this year, when the House and Senate originally set the ending date for April 14th.  One of the soon-to-be rescinded regulations makes it possible for qualified Kentucky families to receive amounts totaling $52 million extra in federal SNAP food benefits each month.  There is simply no reason for this resolution that justifies taking food off the table for families in need.  

While I expect the Governor will veto HB4 and SJR150, overriding the veto takes only a simple majority – 51 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate –  so it appears that both of these policies are well on their way to becoming law. 

Some good news! 

Even in this challenging environment, bipartisanship is still possible, and there are some good policies advancing.

HB354 will increase access to healthcare by removing some restrictions that have prevented Advanced Practice Registered Nurses from practicing to the full extent of their scope and training.  This bipartisan measure passed the House this week and advances to the Senate.  

HB136 would add Kentucky to the list of states authorizing medicinal cannabis.  The bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday and should be before a receptive House this week.  With a longtime Senate opponent now supportive of the bill, there’s a good chance this will become law.  Although I wish the bill were broader, HB 136 is a positive step. 

HB31, the C.R.O.W.N. Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) passed out of committee this week.  If enacted, it would end hair-based discrimination. Kudos to my friend and colleague Rep. Attica Scott for her persistent work on this bill, and to the student groups who’ve repeatedly come to Frankfort to support it.

In the news…

My Herald-Leader op ed, along with Senate Morgan McGarvey and Child USAdvocacy director Kathryn Robb, on the importance of lifting the statute of limitations in cases of child sexual abuse and assault.  It is simply not acceptable for Kentucky to be the most dangerous place in the country to be a kid. 


There are of course many other issues moving through the legislative process, including the state budget, and the session days are long and getting longer as we move into the last weeks of the session.   

As always, I’m grateful to the many District 35 voters who’ve reached out to advocate on issues mentioned in this update, along with many other important issues before the General Assembly.  

You can email me by responding to this message, or at my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  You can also call my Frankfort office at 502-564-8100, and the message line for legislators remains active throughout the legislative session: 800-372-7181. 

Be well,

Legislative Update, 2/20/22

Dear Friends,
This week, we reached the halfway point of the 2022 legislative session. This is a good moment to take a broad look at the session so far, reviewing what’s happened, and considering what may be still to come.  

Reaching the halfway point on the calendar doesn’t mean the legislature is halfway through passing bills. Fewer than 10 bills have become law so far, but dozens of others will certainly follow suit as the pace continues to pick up, and as the House and Senate begin hearing more of one another’s bills.
The legislature’s biggest issues – adopting a two-year budget for state government and redistricting – are both still in holding patterns, although for different reasons.

The Budget

The Kentucky House voted for its version of the Executive Branch budget on the session’s 12th day, weeks earlier than in past budget sessions.  Meanwhile, the spending plans for the Legislative and Judicial branches and the state Road Fund still await committee hearings.  
Republican House leaders say they expedited the executive branch budget this year so they could focus on tax reform.  This is worrisome for (at least) two reasons. Under the Republican majority, tax reform has meant “trickle-down” approaches that benefit corporations and the wealthy, while increasing the tax burden on everyday working Kentuckians.  

And transparency is another very real concern.
In 2018, the last time the legislature voted for major changes to the tax code, the majority party’s plan was made public and then approved by the General Assembly on the same day.  – a breathtaking and brazen move for such consequential policy change. 


The fate of redistricting rests currently in the courts, with arguments to be held early next month.  This week, Judge Wingate declined to issue a stay on the redistricting plan, but also declined to dismiss the case altogether.  The case centers on the new state House map – which I believe unfairly minimizes urban areas’ legislative voice – and the Congressional map.  The proposed Congressional map features what may be one of the country’s most oddly drawn districts, beginning at the Mississippi River and stretching along much of the Tennessee border before snaking up to include our state capital.             

New Laws

Among this session’s new laws, one sets aside $200 million for communities affected by December’s deadly tornadoes, while two others are pandemic related. Of these, one recognizes the essential caregiving roles of family or close friends for patients in long-term care, and guarantees these caregivers the ability to spend time inside facilities while pandemic rules are still in place.  The other increases some flexibility for schools to provide remote instruction during the pandemic.    

House Bills on the Move

The House has passed several positive bills and referred them to the Senate. I’ve highlighted several of these in past updates.  The latest to join this category is House Bill 174, which would extend Medicaid’s postpartum coverage for new mothers for up to a year. HB174 is part of the Kentucky House Democratic Women’s Caucus’s Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project, a slate of proposals designed to improve Kentucky’s abysmal outcomes for infants, children, and pregnant people.  While the US ranks last among wealthy nations in these areas, Kentucky’s outcomes are at or near the bottom nationally on multiple dimensions.  Lengthening Medicaid coverage for many new mothers is an important part of what needs to be a multi-pronged solution.  HB174 passed the House unanimously. 

House Bill 222 would add Kentucky to the list of 30 or so states with anti-SLAPP (“strategic lawsuit against public protection”) laws.  SLAPP occurs when a powerful person or organization frivolously uses the courts to silence critics.  Congratulations to Rep. Nima Kulkarni for her work on this legislation since 2019, and on its unanimous passage in the House! 

This week, the House also voted overwhelmingly for House Bill 250, providing $23 million for Kentucky State University – Kentucky’s only public Historically Black College and University –  to finish the fiscal year, and establishing a plan to put the university on stronger financial footing.

Other bills to clear the House in the last seven weeks include HB44 to add mental health as a valid reason for an excused absence in schools; HB56, which would provide $80,000 in-the-line-of-duty death benefits to families of first responders who die from COVID; HB317, which would make it easier for charitable organizations to help Kentuckians who cannot pay premiums or other payments to their health insurers; and HB127 to help break the cycle of homelessness to incarceration to involuntary hospitalization for more Kentuckians with severe mental illness.   

Some more problematic bills on the move include HB4, which would slash unemployment insurance payments, and HB63 that calls on all schools to have armed school resource officers by this summer or as soon as possible.  This one-size-fits-all bill undercuts local decision-making and puts a sizable unfunded mandate on school districts for an approach that is not supported by evidence to make schools safer, and increases the risk for Black students to become involved with the criminal justice system over school discipline issues. 

Several especially problematic bills have moved through the House Education Committee, including two that passed out of that committee this week.  HB23 cruelly and unjustifiably bars trans female students from participating on sports teams offered by their schools, and targets middle school students in particular. Another, HB51, would keep school districts from enforcing mask mandates – at a time when 112 out of 120 Kentucky counties are still in the red zone for COVID, and when schools are struggling to remain open due to COVID-related teacher and staff absences.  Ironically, HB51 passed out of the House Education less than six months after the General Assembly voted in special session to give school districts the authority to make decisions about mask requirements.


I’m incredibly grateful to the many District 35 voters who have reached out to advocate or thank me for a NO vote in committee on HB51 and HB23, and for your advocacy on so many other important issues before the General Assembly.  It’s still impossible to predict what will become law and what will have to wait another year in the handful of weeks the General Assembly has left, but what I know for sure is that your input is critical to the process.  

You can email me by responding to this message, or at my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  You can also call my Frankfort office at 502-564-8100, and the message line for legislators remains active throughout the legislative session: 800-372-7181. 

Be well,

Legislative Update, 2/13/2022

Dear Friends,

In my profession’s code of ethics, our first ethical principle is that “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm.”  I wish the ethics code for Kentucky legislators included those same guidelines.  

Unfortunately, as the pace of the 2022 legislative session picks up, so does the appearance of  harmful bills.  

Harm to Kentucky workers

House Bill 4, one of the House majority’s top priorities for the 2022 session, would harm Kentucky workers by making significant changes to unemployment benefits for Kentuckians who’ve lost their jobs through no fault of their own.  Having spent a good portion of my time throughout much of 2020 and 2021 working with desperate constituents to try and assist them with unemployment insurance (UI) claims, as well as fighting for the re-opening of regional unemployment offices, this senseless attack on Kentucky’s fragile UI system hurts my heart and boggles my mind.   
Under HB4, there would be new barriers for accessing and keeping UI benefits, weeks of eligibility could be cut in half, and laid-off workers could be forced to accept lower-paying jobs including those outside their career areas. Additionally, the new rules would put federal UI dollars at risk.  HB4 lands particularly hard on women and non-white workers, as well as on people with disabilities and those who live in rural areas.  

I joined all of my Democratic colleagues and several rural Republican legislators in voting NO on this bill that is harmful to Kentucky’s working families.  After three hours of debate in which many of us implored our legislative colleagues to reject this terrible bill, the bill passed 57-37 and is now headed to the Senate.  
For more about HB4, check out this excellent analysis from the KY Center for Economic Policy


…more harmful bills are on the move.  HB23, a bill that discriminates against transgender female students, and HB51, a bill to ban mask requirements in public schools, are both posted to the House Education Committee, and could be voted on in committee as early as Tuesday.   

In better news…

Last year, I wrote to you about the House Democratic Women’s Caucus, which I am honored to chair, and our Kentucky Maternal and Infant Health Project. The project includes a slate of bills and resolutions to improve our state’s dismal maternal mortality and health statistics, address racial disparities, and improve outcomes for pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period.  The Democratic women of the KY House have reintroduced a similar package of bills this year, and this week, HB174 passed unanimously out of the House Health and Family Services Committee. HB174 would extend Medicaid coverage to new mothers for up to a year postpartum for those at or below 185% of the federal poverty level.  This is an important victory for the health of mothers and infants.  I hope to be able to report soon that the bill has passed the House.  

New bills

HB464 – I was honored to work with one of my constituents who is an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse, along with my predecessor – the Honorable Jim Wayne –  and Senator Morgan McGarvey to craft legislation that would remove the statute of limitations for civil claims in cases of childhood sexual assault or abuse.  The impact of childhood sexual abuse is lifelong, and the average age for adults abused as children to come forward about their abuse is 52.  Removing the statute of limitations is an important tool for survivors to be able to seek redress for the grave harms inflicted on them.  

With Kentucky ranked first in the nation for childhood sexual abuse, HB464 has already received bipartisan co-sponsorship, and is supported by the Kentucky Justice Association, the Kentucky Association of Sexual Assault Programs, and several child advocacy groups. Thanks to WLKY news  for bringing public awareness to this important issue that affects far too many Kentucky children and adults.  

HB478 – Last week’s winter storms were an important reminder of the hardships that can face any of us during weather emergencies, and the particular challenges to financially insecure Kentuckians during times of extreme weather conditions.  This week, I filed HB478 to prevent utility shut-offs during periods of extreme cold or heat, and to require extended and written notice of utility shut-offs.   The bill was prompted by the direct experiences and needs of far too many vulnerable Kentuckians.  

To read and learn more about these and other bills, you can visit the Kentucky Legislative Record online.

Frankfort visitors

It was a treat to meet with several visitors to the People’s House this week, including fellow members of the Kentucky Psychological Association, gun safety advocates from Whitney/Strong and Sandy Hook Promise, the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention – KY Chapter, and members of the Kentucky Association for Psychology in the Schools (KAPS).  All of these groups were on-hand to advocate for legislation that would promote the safety and mental health of Kentuckians across the state.  I was deeply honored to be presented the Friend of KAPS Award for my legislative work to improve student mental health.


As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns. Thanks to the many constituents and friends who’ve reached out to me this session.  You can email me by responding to this message, or at my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  You can also call my Frankfort office at 502-564-8100, and the message line for legislators remains active throughout the legislative session: 800-372-7181. 

Be well,

Legislative Update, 2/6/22

Snow Day 

The General Assembly had a shortened week, with a cancellation on Friday due to predicted snow and ice storms across the state.  I’m grateful that the storms here in Louisville weren’t as severe as predicted, and I hope that all of you were able to stay warm and safe. 

Bipartisan Bills

Nearly all of the bills that passed the House this week had broad bipartisan support.  HB317, for example, is a good bill to remove existing barriers for charitable organizations to assist Kentuckians with health insurance premiums.  It passed without opposition. 

HB56 and HB69, two pandemic-related bills, also passed with near-unanimous support.  HB56 would grant in-the-line-of-duty death benefits to families of first responder who died due to COVID. HB69 would extend a 2020 governor’s executive order that presumes COVID infections to be work-related for some frontline and essential workers. I support these bills, but neither goes far enough since both exclude teachers and other school workers.  As we continue to face a crisis point with school worker shortages, we should be doing all in our power to support and protect teachers, school workers, and their families.  

Controversial Legislation – Government Overreach? 

While little controversial legislation was taken up in the past week, there was one exception.  HB121, a bill to require a 15-minute public comment period at every school board meeting, faced objections and “no” votes from legislators on both sides of the political aisle, but ultimately passed the House.  

In light of widely-reported threats of violence and death against school board members related to COVID safety protocols and curriculum content, and with recent recommendations from Louisville Metro Police to temporarily suspend public comments at Jefferson County school board meetings for security concerns, I proposed an amendment to allow the comment period to be suspended when public safety is at risk. (I briefly explain my amendment in this video.)  Inexplicably, this commonsense amendment was deemed “unfriendly” by the bill’s sponsor, and was defeated along straight party lines.   

The bill itself had objectors on both sides of the aisle, from legislators who believe it is government overreach for state officials to dictate to locally elected school boards, and from those who thought the bill should grant flexibility when public safety is at risk.   

I find it troublingly ironic that the House passed this bill, yet legislative committee chairs routinely exclude or severely limit public comments in our own legislative committee meetings.  I filed HB376 to require the same public comment period in legislative committees that the House would now require of schools boards.  So far, HB376 has not been assigned to a committee.  

Mental Health Funding 

The House also voted unanimously for HB339 which would appropriate funds to cover inpatient psychiatric services in Eastern Kentucky.  Mental health services have been chronically underfunded for quite some time, and I supported the bill.  Meanwhile, I’m continuing to advocate for desperately-needed school mental health funding in the state budget, and I’m working with Western Kentucky legislators and executive branch officials to ensure that funding set aside for WKY tornado relief efforts includes funding for emerging mental health needs in that region.             

Quick Progress Report  

I’ve written previously about three bills I’ve worked on that have passed the House unanimously: HB44, a bill to allow excused absences for school mental health days; HB237 to support psychology internships and improve training for psychologists; and HB127 to remove treatment barriers for individuals with severe mental illness.  All three have now been posted to Senate Committees, making it to the next step toward passage through the legislative process.

To read these and other bills, you can visit the Kentucky Legislative Record online. 


As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns. Thanks to the many constituents and friends who’ve reached out to me this session.  You can email me by responding to this message, or at my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  You can also call my Frankfort office at 502-564-8100, and the message line for legislators remains active throughout the legislative session: 800-372-7181. 

Be well,

Legislative Update, 1/29/22

Dear Friends,

My update this week is different than usual, focusing less on specific activities of the past week, and instead providing a broader overview of bills filed this session.  

Holocaust Day of Remembrance

On Thursday of this week, the Kentucky House of Representatives commemorated International Holocaust Day of Remembrance with a bipartisan, unanimously-supported House Resolution.  As stated in the Resolution, the occasion “offers an opportunity to reflect on the moral responsibility of individuals, societies, and governments.”  

In her remarks on the House floor, my friend and colleague Representative Nima Kulkarni described the gradual bureaucratic establishment of laws and policies that ultimately led to the death of 6 million Jewish people, and the persecution and death of millions more human beings based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and expression, political beliefs, physical and intellectual disabilities, mental illness, and economic status.  Rep. Kulkarni reminded us that the Holocaust was “an atrocity that did not happen overnight,  but over the course of . . . years.“ 

She went on: “The ties that bind us together as human beings are easily broken.  But they are rarely broken collectively or all at once.  They are broken person by person, little by little, day by day…. As soon as we allow ourselves to think of [one another] as…OTHER than us, atrocities become possible.” 

These are powerful words, and I’ve been reflecting on them ever since.  I’ve been thinking of long-standing policies and practices in our country and in our state that inflict harm; that explicitly or implicitly contribute to the disenfranchisement, marginalization, or “othering” of our fellow humans; and that sustain a caste system that is rarely acknowledged or discussed.
Currently, there are proposals pending before the legislature that would marginalize and inflict harm on some among us, and others that have the potential to mitigate past and current harms. 

2022 Bills that Marginalize and Exclude

Commonly referred to as the “anti-CRT” bills, HB18 would censor classroom teachers from discussions of history, literature, the arts, etc., that address race, and HB14 would punish schools for allowing teachers to discuss race. 

HB63 would mandate armed police officers with full powers of arrest inside every Kentucky public school.

HB231 would prohibit local governments and school districts from adopting “sanctuary” policies meant to provide comfort and safety to our immigrant neighbors without regard to their immigration status. 

SB44 would criminalize insulting a police officer at a protest, and is laden with troubling implications.

HB324 would add new and onerous barriers to already-burdensome restrictions on full reproductive healthcare for pregnant young people, that will have a disproportionate impact on poor kids, and minors who are the victims of incest and sexual assault.  

HB23HB247, and SB83 are anti-trans bills that would ban participation on girls’ school sports teams for some transgender students, contributing to shame and marginalization of some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable young people.

HB253 and SB84 would prevent trans youth from receiving gender-affirming healthcare, and ban  healthcare professionals from providing gender-affirming care. This is in sharp contrast to current and evidence-based clinical recommendations, and could have dire consequences for some young people. 

HB305 and SB50 would re-direct public dollars to pay for private school tuition, even though private schools are not held to the same nondiscrimination standards as our public schools.

2022 Bills to Mitigate Past and Current Harms

HB67 would require a teaching of the history of racism, and HB88 would add a requirement to include the history of African American and indigenous people in public school curricula.

HB11 would extend civil rights protections in the areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations to ALL Kentuckians, without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

HB12 would prevent licensed health providers from engaging in the dangerous and too-often deadly practice of so-called “conversion therapy.” 

HB13 would require comprehensive, age appropriate, medically accurate, and inclusive sex and healthy relationship education in our public schools, associated with reductions in bullying, assault, and sexual violence.  

HB293 would “ban the box” from employment applications.

HB235 would expand hate crime laws.

HB37 would address current racial disparities in maternal health and birth outcomes.  

HB47 would abolish the death penalty.

HB201 would require wealthy corporations to pay their fair share in taxes, and reform the current “upside-down” tax code that places the greatest tax burden on low- and middle-income Kentuckians. HB201 would also generate new revenue that would allow meaningful and long-term investments in education, public health, good jobs, a cleaner environment, and strong infrastructure to benefit ALL Kentuckians.   (NOTE: HB201 is an updated version of a bill I’ve filed in prior sessions.  Read more here.  

Please note that neither of the lists I’ve provided here is comprehensive, and that new bills – both harmful and helpful – are continuing to be filed.  You can access specific House Bill and  Senate Bill language, and track new bills as they’re filed.


As always, I appreciate hearing your thoughts and concerns. Thanks to the many constituents and friends who’ve already reached out to me this session.  You can email me by responding to this message, or at my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.  The toll-free message line for legislators is 1-800-372-7181. 

Be well,