Highs and Lows from the KY General Assembly 2/23/2020

Lots of highs and lows this week.  Good news first:

HB 136  The medicinal marijuana bill passed the House this week with a 65-30 vote.  The debate – primarily between members of the majority party –  lasted nearly 3 hours, but the bill prevailed in the end.  This bill, if passed into law, will bring hope and relief to many Kentuckians.  Now, on to the Senate!  

(Some of you have asked me about the fiscal impact of this bill.  Because medicine is not taxed, the bill will not be a revenue generator for the state, but there’s reason to celebrate nonetheless!)

HB 12 passed unanimously out of the house this week!  This good bipartisan bill would put a $100 monthly cap on consumer costs for prescription insulin.  We are best as a legislature when we work together to protect everyday Kentuckians.  HB 12 is a great example, and I hope it sets a precedent for lots more consumer protection legislation in the future.   

Another highlight of the past week was the annual Fairness Day in Frankfort!  Thank you to all the wonderful Fairness advocates who sent cards and came by my office this week, and to the many who attended this year’s historic rally.  This year marked the first time a Republican legislator or a sitting Governor spoke at the rally.  I was honored to be able to speak at the Fairness Rally this year on behalf of HB 199, a bill to prevent licensed health providers from practicing conversion “therapy,”  and HB 296, a bill to provide age appropriate, medically accurate, and fully inclusive sexual health education in our public schools.  Fairness does a city good – imagine all the good that statewide Fairness would do for Kentucky!

  Pictured above, the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee recognized Mr. Carl Powell as this week’s Distinguished Veteran.  Mr. Powell served in the US Air Force beginning in 1972 until being discharged in 1987 for his alcohol addiction.  Since his discharge, he overcame his addiction through participation in a Volunteers of America recovery program for veterans. He became certified as a peer drug and alcohol counselor, and has devoted his entire life to helping veterans and others recover from substance use disorder.  Mr. Powell is a living testimony to second chances and redemption, and what can happen when people have access to needed resources and support.  I’m grateful to Mr. Powell for sharing his story with members of the committee, and I was deeply honor to nominate him as our Distinguished Veteran. 

On to the bad news:

Now that we have reached the halfway point of the session, we are seeing some extreme and dangerous bills moving quickly through the legislative process. 

HB 1, the very top legislative priority of the majority party’s House leadership, passed out of the Health and Family Services Committee on Thursday on a straight party-line vote.  It went on to pass out of the House on Friday, 54-32 after a more than 2-hour debate.  Although there were some changes made to HB 1 that mitigate some of the harm the bill would do, it is still a punitive bill that would take much-needed assistance away from the most vulnerable Kentuckians.  Nearly 100 health, human service, religious, and humanitarian organizations signed on to a letter to oppose HB 1, and not a single organization or individual outside the state legislature spoke in favor of HB 1.  (You can read the letter here: https://kyvoicesforhealth.org/kentucky-needs-a-safety-net-that-works-for-us-not-against-us/)  The bill would create barriers to food and cash assistance, as well as to medical, mental health, and substance use treatment for struggling Kentuckians.  It would reinstate Medicaid barriers that have already been struck down in the courts five times! The bill would also impose new administrative burdens on our overworked and underfunded Cabinet for Health and Family Services, setting up new bureaucratic layers and red tape.    

SB 2, a bill to require photo IDs to vote, passed out of the House Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee this week.  KY’s new Secretary of State presented on the bill, acknowledged that there have been zero cases of in-person voting fraud in Kentucky, and stated that the bill’s purpose was to fulfill a campaign promise.   Speaking against SB 2 were NAACP leaders, legal counsel from the ACLU, the KY League of Women Voters, and UK professor of election law Josh Douglas.  They noted that these types of laws are demonstrated to suppress voter participation, disproportionately so for the poor, the elderly, young voters, people of color, people with disabilities, and women.  Representatives from the County Clerks Association also raised numerous practical objections to the bill.  Even though the bill addresses a non-existent problem, would be expensive and cumbersome to implement, and would further disenfranchise already marginalized voters, the bill passed out of committee on a straight party-line vote, with every Republican voting in its favor.   

We saw plenty of proof this week that elections have consequences.  Unfortunately, there are more bad bills heading our way. 

Please keep up your outreach and advocacy!   
Legislative Message Line: 800-372-7181