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,