News From Frankfort: Old Kentucky State Capitol

Published 9:11 am Monday, March 21, 2022

Week 11 of the 2022 regular session was unique in that the General Assembly gaveled in for a historical day of session at the Old State Capitol. If you have never been there, I highly recommend you go. The Old Kentucky State Capitol was the third capitol, built in 1830 following fires in the previous two

Used during the Civil War, it was restored in the style of that era and replaced with historical items of that time. Upon renovation in 1920, when the Kentucky Historical Society moved into the building, the Senate chamber was furnished with similar 1830s desks and chairs after discovering descriptions in the 1830 Senate Journal.

Original to the building are the enormous iron 1840s era chandeliers and the hand-blown stained glass window panes. Walking in through the massive doors and into the marble rotunda is truly amazing; it’s hard to believe that the commonwealth is home to such a beautiful structure.

The Old State Capitol was home to some of Kentucky’s greatest political history, including prominent speeches by Henry Clay, Isaac Shelby and Thomas Metcalfe. It was also the location of the assassination of governor-elect William Goebel in 1899, which a plaque now marks.

The Senate experienced a bit of this history on Tuesday, when stories were told and history recounted through ruminations and floor speeches. Sen. Donald Douglas (R-Nicholasville) gave a moving speech about the symbolism of being an African American man elected to office and having the opportunity to stand and give a floor speech in a historic structure previously built by slaves.

Senators Brandon Smith (R-Hazard), Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) and Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) stood and spoke about historical figures either from their districts or families who had traveled to The Old Capitol for political business back in their day. It was a great day, not only fun but fascinating for those who love both state politics and history.

Three Senate bills landed on the Governor’s desk and were signed into law this week.

Senate Bill 64 was sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mike Wilson and allows any public agency to establish a peer support counseling program for Kentucky’s public safety officers who have faced a traumatic, emotional or difficult incident while on duty.

Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville) will make it possible for patients to take the specific medication their doctor prescribed instead of having to start with the generic medicine insurance companies prefer.

In addition to the excitement of Old Capitol Day, the House and Senate began negotiations over the state budget this week. Every two years, both the House and Senate pass a budget for the following two years, a process in both procedure and tradition.

At the conclusion of each day, the leadership of each chamber, budget chairmen and select caucus members came together in a conference committee to negotiate what will become the state’s budget. The first conference committee kicked off Wednesday evening and the second one was Thursday. These hearings are broadcast live on KET each day and can be viewed by all residents.

Senate Bill 315, sponsored by Sen. Robby Mills (R-Henderson), aims to tackle cleaning up Kentucky’s nearly 14,000 abandoned oil and gas wells. Under the federal government’s new infrastructure bill, Kentucky is eligible to apply for $105 million in federal grants to address this often forgotten issue.

This legislation will update the definition of an “orphan well” to include any oil or gas well which has been determined by the Energy and Environment Cabinet to be abandoned or improperly closed, and that all owners or operators with legal responsibility for the well are determined to be financially insolvent after the cabinet conducts a reasonable investigation. Doing so will ensure that Kentucky receives that maximum funding from these grants.

One of the main features of this bill will require that contracts awarded for the “orphan well” remediation be capped at 25 wells per contract. By doing so, this will allow for small contractors, vendors, and companies in the region to make competitive bids, creating much needed jobs and boosting the economy.

Many people in our commonwealth seem to forget that our great state was built on the backs of eastern Kentucky. As a mountain legislator, my main focus is passing legislation that ensures families in the region can continue to thrive.

This legislation will help restore the natural beauty of the landscape, and creates jobs for hard working east Kentuckians.
One the most important things to me personally, is protecting life of a living human. May they be living, or not yet born, I will always choose to protect life.

SB 321 represents an incremental change in how and when an abortion can occur. Sponsored by Senator Wise from District 16, while it does not completely abolish abortions in Kentucky, it is one step closer to a day that thousands of Kentucky children will be saved from premature deaths.

This was the most important piece of legislation I will vote on here in Frankfort this session, and I was honored to have the opportunity to cast that vote.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you in Frankfort. 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

Senator Turner (R- Harlan) represents the 29th District, which encompasses Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher Counties. Senator 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.