Legislative Update 1/18/2020

The 2020 Kentucky General Assembly wrapped up its second week. While the House has yet to vote on any bills, committee agendas are filling quickly, and there’s a buzz in the Capitol Annex as the hallways fill up with advocates ready to engage with legislators and the democratic process.

Thanks to the constituents and stakeholders who’ve come by my office, made phone calls, and sent emails to share concerns and ideas. 

Last Tuesday evening, we gathered in the House chamber for Governor Andy Beshear’s first State of the Commonwealth address. In addition to the Governor’s focus on good jobs, healthcare, investing in public education, secure retirement, and public infrastructure, Gov. Beshear also modeled a tone of civility and respect, and called for a spirit of bipartisanship.  What a very welcome change!

HB 153 is one example of a good bipartisan bill.  HB 153 would make an appropriation for expanding mental health first aid training across the state. This bill has the potential to save lives, and it is endorsed by health advocacy and provider groups.  This week it passed unanimously out of the House Health and Family Services Committee.  I was happy to speak in favor of the bill, and to give it my yes vote.  I was glad to hear the very positive reception from both sides of the aisle. 

Meanwhile…

HB 199, the Youth Mental Health Protection Act that I filed on the first day of session, has also been assigned to the House Health and Family Services Committee. Like HB 153, HB 199 is a life-saving mental health bill, with strong support from a broad range of statewide health advocacy and provider groups. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing, but did get a big bipartisan boost this week when Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Fayette, filed a mirror bill in the Senate.  Sen, Kerr’s bill, SB 85, has bipartisan co-sponsorship. (Photo above is of Sen. Kerr and me, pictured at a press conference together earlier this week.) 

The Associated Press picked up the news of Sen. Kerr’s and my bills to ban the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy.  The story ran in numerous news outlets this week, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The San Francisco Herald and others, and even made news across the border in Canada.  When Kentucky is highlighted in the national news, it is too-rarely over something positive.  I was delighted to play some small part this week in seeing our Commonwealth presented in a  favorable light!

I have several bills that I am continuing to work on, and several that I have already, or will soon, sign on to co-sponsor.  Among the issues I’m working on and supporting are public and mental health, women’s health and safety, investing in public education from pre-K to post-college, better wages, statewide Fairness, and increasing voter access. I’ve also been in deep discussion with stakeholders and economic experts about revenue options, so that we can invest in a healthy, educated, prosperous, and equitable future.   

The legislature will gavel back in session on Tuesday when we return from the Martin Luther King. Jr. holiday weekend.