TURNER’S UPDATE: ‘We left for home feeling accomplished’

Published 3:10 pm Monday, April 5, 2021

By Senator Johnnie L. Turner

Lawmakers was burning the midnight oil in Frankfort on the last two days of the 2021 Legislative Session. We left for home feeling accomplished. Most of our attention on the last two days was focused on the governor’s vetoes and appropriating federal dollars what has been sent to us.

Some of the vetoes that we overrode and will soon become law were:

A bill to let the Attorney General take constitutional cases to different circuit courts in the state (SB 251). Right now, only the Franklin Circuit Court hears those cases. This change will get rid of what is pretty much a super circuit where two judges alone get to hear constitutional cases. We have plenty qualified courts and judges across the state that is qualified to hear these cases. The new law sets the rights of the people above the convenience of the state.

We passed a bill that will make property owners able to pursue legal actions for damage purposefully done to their property (SB 11). It also sets up a way for them to look at renter’s rental history.

The General Assembly passed a bill that will let the State’s Treasurer have a say in state contracts, but only if a contract is found questionable by legislative committee (SB 165). In that case, the Treasurer would be allowed to revise, approve, or deny a state contract. This will make for better transparency and protect taxpayer dollars.

Another bill passed would require local school districts to accept students who do not live in the district. That part of the bill would be statewide, but another part of the bill is only for counties that have more than 90,000 people in them. In those counties, families that are at certain poverty levels could qualify to apply for funds to help their child with educational expenses. It could be anything from books or computers, to school tuition or tutoring. That part of the bill expires after 5 years, but can be extended by the legislature if results are good. Right now, wealth families are able to pay what they need for their child’s education, but the poor do not have that ability. Those funds can help give less fortunate kids opportunities. The fund could only be up to $25 million and has to be funded by private donations that can be a tax credit. No money comes out of public education to do that.

The bill to ban certain no-knock warrants was passed too. The bill keeps law enforcements ability to conduct one under certain conditions. It was not a veto override so it will be subject to the governor’s veto, but it is one that I think he will be supportive of.

The bill that builds on the four-wheeler bill I worked on years ago got passed. It will allow limited use of off-road highway vehicles and ATVs on public roads and let parts of state roads be marked as part of a trail systems in some of Eastern Kentucky. The Transportation department and local trail advisory boards and recreational authorities will have oversight over them.

A good pro-life bill that passed will put a constitutional amendment on your next general election ballot for you to vote on. If a majority of people support it, it will go into our state constitution. The amendment would clarify that the Kentucky Constitution does not secure or protect the right to abortion or funding of abortion. I ask that you support this measure when you vote in November of 2022.

Some of the bills we passed in the last hours of the session were to appropriate federal money. Some of them included:

  • $140 million for all-day kindergarten.
  • $75 million for local vocational schools.
  • $250 million for internet expansion. $50 million can be used immediately. We put in place ways to review performance levels and to make sure the money is used where there is most need.
  • $20 million for the rural hospitals.
  • $6 million for a $2 per diem COVID costs for our county jails and $30 million for the county jail performance pilot program.
  • $50 million to provide drinking water to areas in need and $50 million for grants to counties with greater than allocation costs.
  • $575 million in federal money for repayment of the $800-plus million loan the governor took for unemployment. Millions more was given for hiring more people to handle unemployment claims.

We got some good news that the President approved Kentucky’s federal disaster declaration after those bad storms that rolled through a few weeks ago. It looks like Floyd and Harlan counties here in the in the 29th District qualified to ask for assistance. According to what the federal government says, “Money will be available to local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis for emergency work and repair or replacement of facilities that were damaged.” As a part of the Mountain Caucus I thank everybody locally and in Frankfort for their work to get this approved.

If you have any questions about any of these public policy issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns you may have. You can reach my office toll-free by calling 502-564-8100 or by emailing me at johnnie.turner@lrc.ky.gov. God bless.

Senator Turner (R- Harlan) represents the 29th District, which encompasses Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher Counties. Senator Turner is Vice-Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Natural Resources and Energy. He also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Transportation, and Judiciary.