News from Frankfort: Ending Gov. Beshear’s COVID State of Emergency

Published 10:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2022

As we finish the 8th week of the 2022 Regular Session, we passed important Bills to help people across the commonwealth.

The Senate rolled out a tax rebate plan this week by way of Senate Bill 194 in response to inflation hitting a 40-year high.

Under the Senate’s plan, introduced during a special Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting yesterday, each single working Kentucky taxpayer will receive up to $500, each household up to $1,000.

This tax rebate is possible because of the conservative budget of the commonwealth; unexpected and exceptional revenue growth is expected to yield over $1.94 billion in excess funds that rightly belongs to Kentucky taxpayers. This plan will keep more money in taxpayers’ pockets and empower them with the tools to make appropriate choices for their families.

SJR 150 Senate Joint Resolution 150 (SJR 150), sponsored by Senator Donald Douglas (R – Nicholasville) aims to end the COVID-19 State of Emergency declared by Governor Andy Beshear on March 6, 2020, was voted favorably out of committee and off the Senate floor this week.

Prior to the Senate’s involvement in COVID-related decision making in 2020, the governor imposed widespread damaging mandates across the state; all elective medical procedures were halted, statewide mask mandates were imposed, schools were shut down, churches targeted, businesses were forced to close their doors and travel was restricted. Since the onset of the pandemic, overdose deaths, suicides and child abuse rates have skyrocketed.

If lawmakers do not repeal this current State of Emergency by March 7, it will expire on April 15 and the governor will have the ability to file another extension. The General Assembly would then be unable to curtail the extreme actions our governor has provided he is inclined toward, stoking additional fear in the constituency and further damaging our economy.

While the General Assembly recently passed Senate Bill 25, extending a limited state of emergency, the COVID-19 positivity rate for the Commonwealth is significantly lower than it was in January. Until a House Committee Substitute was added to SB 25, it was originally a clean bill providing flexibility for COVID mitigation in schools.

The Senate had to decide whether to pass that bill or leave schools without mitigation funding and thus, in-person funding. We ultimately determine the good of Sab 25 outweighed the bad.

SJR 150 is a thoughtful approach to end the Kentucky State of Emergency, as it gives the executive branch time to determine whether to file administrative regulations based upon existing statutory authority.

What’s does this really mean? This encourages the governor to engage the legislature as opposed to unilaterally dictating policy. If the governor chooses not to include the General Assembly in legislating, it will be clear to the residents of the Commonwealth he is playing politics with their lives and livelihoods. With COVID-19 here to stay, it is finally time for Kentucky to return to normal and declare COVID an endemic, no longer a pandemic.

Below are some notable legislation that I would also like to bring to your attention:

• SB 138, also known as the Teaching American Principles Act, extends existing elementary social studies standards to both middle and high school. It encourages a study of United States historical documents and uniting students around our nation’s history, not dividing it.

SB 138 preserves classroom discussion of controversial aspects of history and the historical oppression of a particular group of people. It also maintains a teacher’s ability to teach current events on controversial subjects and help students draw their own conclusion. It supports civic learning in settings that students may encounter in their lives, such as the legislative process. The bill also allows teachers to choose whether to engage in diversity-based training programs.

It does not circumvent the established standards adoption process or diminish employee professional growth and development, nor does it inhibit frank conversations about past injustices done. It prohibits homework assignments, projects or extra credit on political, social-policy or lobbying activities for which a student or their family objects.

SB 138 was drafted in response to the growing concerns from parents, students and teachers alike, that our nation’s history is being rewritten in the academic setting.

This has been a growing trend nationwide causing division and angst amongst parents and school boards. SB 138 sets out to unify these groups in the Commonwealth by the inclusion of our nation’s primary source historical documents that embrace the good, the bad and the ugly of the authentic American story.

• SB 124 allows CDL license holders to renew expired licenses less than 5 years old without taking both the knowledge and skills tests.

This only applies to CDL license holders whose license was not suspended, revoked or disqualified.

Drivers must submit medical clearance, self-certification, a criminal background check, a review of driving history and a vision test.

Any former CDL license holders whose license was suspended because of a failure to submit medical evaluation, may renew their license. Finally, it allows drivers to keep their hazardous materials endorsements if they retake the required examinations.

• SB 80 will require cardiac genetic testing for folks under 40 years of age when the cause of death cannot be determined through a normal post-mortem investigation.

If the genetic test results determine the cause of death, the notice of the death will be reported to the state registrar of vital statistics, who shall record the cause of death on the death certificate.

This information will also allow the family members to get tested to see if they too suffer from these potentially deadly genetic defects. Through this law, Shantel’s death may save the lives of countless other young citizens throughout the Commonwealth.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you here in Frankfort. Rest assured, I am here in in the capitol fighting for our cherished east Kentucky values. If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Johnnie.Turner@lrc.ky.gov.

Senator Johnnie Turner (R-Harlan) represents the 29th District, which includes Bell, Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher counties. Sen. Turner is vice-chair 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.