With a long agenda and just 60 days to work through it, my legislative colleagues and I returned to Frankfort on January 7 to begin the 2020 session.
Since this is an even-numbered year, our biggest task will be to enact a two-year state budget. That process formally kicks off later this month when Gov. Andy Beshear presents his proposal. Without new revenue, and with economic experts predicting low grown over the next two years, the budget process will be challenging as the state continues to struggle to meet its mounting obligations. More on this issue in future updates.
In this first week, legislators introduced bills, and we approved some new rules for the House of Representatives. The most significant and positive rule change, from my perspective, is the elimination of the Consent Calendar. The Consent Calendar allows the legislative body to vote on multiple bills at once, and has resulted too-often in bills being passed without thorough consideration or vetting. Elimination of the Consent Calendar ought to have the effect of slowing down the process and allowing more time for legislators to consider bills and to receive input from constituents.
In other news, the Senate majority leadership revealed on Day One that its top priority is to rile up the far-right political base in order to turn out voters in a Presidential election year. Senate Bill 1 addresses the fictitious “problem” of illegal immigration in Kentucky by prohibiting sanctuary cities (there are none in Kentucky) and requiring public employees to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in deportation efforts. Senate Bill 2 will decrease voting access by imposing new and unnecessary voter ID requirements.
We have real challenges and real work to do on education, healthcare access, economic opportunity, the environment, infrastructure and more. Instead of tackling those issues, the Senate is focusing on national level, highly partisan wedge issues. If this is not the direction you want to see our state moving, be sure to contact your legislators to let them know!
To sum up my own activity in Week 1, I introduced the Youth Mental Health Protection Act to ban the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy (House Bill 199), and have already picked up a number of legislative co-sponsors as well as the strong support of mental health organizations statewide. HB 200 would reduce class size in public schools. HB 233 would “ban the box” on college applications.
I’m also a co-sponsor on many important pieces of legislation, including a bill to ban corporal punishment in schools (HB 22, sponsor Rep. Steve Riley), an interstate compact for psychological practice that would increase access to care (HB 110, sponsor Rep. Walker Thomas), statewide Fairness (HB 225, sponsor Rep. Mary Lou Marzian), and several others.
On a positive note, it is important to note that some of these bills have strong bipartisan support, and that it is possible in many cases to work across the aisle to bring positive change to our state.
If you support these bills, please contact your legislators to let them know.
There are many other good bills filed that I fully support, and will be signing on to co-sponsor in the coming weeks.
It is far too soon to know what will ultimately become law, but it is certainly not too soon to let me know your views and concerns regarding these and other issues. Leave a message for me or any legislator at 1-800-372-7181. The line is toll-free and open each weekday. You may also contact me through my legislative email address: Lisa.Willner@lrc.ky.gov.
You can read all of these bills and follow their progress on the General Assembly’s website (Legislature.Ky.Gov). You can also view committee meetings and what happens on the House and Senate floor each day by watching KET online. There’s a smartphone app that makes this especially easy.
I will continue to keep you updated in the weeks ahead as the legislative session progresses, and I encourage you to reach out to me as well!