News From Frankfort: Opposes Sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities Co
Published 12:48 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022
The final day of the 2022 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly is on the horizon, which means legislative activity is taking place at a rapid pace. We are required by the constitution to be finished by April 15. Week 12 of this year’s session included busy committee agendas and important legislation making final passage through the legislative process.
At this point in the 2022 session, 22 bills have been signed into law or have been filed with the Secretary of State’s office for enactment. Approximately 30 bills are with the Governor for consideration; a number of other bills are nearly at the governor’s desk.
The Senate was able to finally pass a number of bills that were modified by the state House of Representatives, including priority legislation Senate Bill 9 as well as Senate Bill 83.
Senate Bill 9 systematically improves the teaching of reading to students by providing support and individual instruction across the state for grades K-3. Senate Bill 9 sets the goal for each student to be reading at or above grade level by the end of the third grade, which would set an achievable and crucial goal. Students who can’t read have trouble in every area of education. The bill also provides for more helpful professional development to teachers. The objective of the bill is to target reading instruction to those falling behind, and setting a foundation so every child in the district is on the same path.
Senate Bill 83 is the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” which determines eligibility to participate in grades 6-12 and postsecondary education athletic activity or sport determined by a student’s biological sex. It protects women’s sports by ensuring fairness and eliminates the competitive edge a biological male may have over a female.
Senate Bill 9, and Senate Bill 83 along with many other bills achieved final passage this week and are now on their way to the Governor’s desk where they may be signed into law, vetoed or allowed to become law without his signature.
These bills and others were returned to the Senate with changes passed by the House. The House asks the Senate to concur, or agree, to their changes. We often do so, and did in these three bills. On the occasions we do not agree, those bills go into a conference committee where a final language is worked out by members of each chamber.
The most notable example of a conference committee is the two-year state budget bill. Both the House and the Senate have made their respective priorities for the budget clear. Significant provisions of the Senate’s proposal were outlined in my previous legislative update. Budget negotiations are nearing their end, and you can expect a final product to be announced in the week ahead. While the final budget is always a compromise on individual line items, the end goal is to provide for a great education, safe communities, and high quality of life for every Kentuckian.
The Governor has vetoed several bills and the House and Senate have begun to override them. Most notably was the Governor’s veto of Senate Joint Resolution 150. Upon the override of his veto, the state of emergency in Kentucky effectively ended Tuesday, March 22.
Following an unprecedented two-year-long state of emergency declaration, the enactment of Senate Joint Resolution 150 is a symbolic, yet strong, message to Kentucky residents that the emergency is over, and life as normal should quickly return to the commonwealth.
While we have worked hard and accomplished much since January, there is still a great amount left to do in these last few days. Please feel free to contact me at any time during or after the session if you are interested in any issue, or if I may be of any service to you in Frankfort or at home.
I voted against House Bill 4, which cuts unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 13 weeks.
With the passage of more and more legislation in the waning days of the 2022 session, there are sure to be more vetoes issued by the Governor. The session will soon enter what is known as the “veto period” to give the Governor time to consider the bills passed by the legislature. The final days of session will be reserved for the legislature’s consideration to override such vetoes.
Senate bills passed out of the chamber and moving to the House of Representatives this week included Senate Bill 40 and Senate Bill 93.
Senate Bill 40 declares the fundamental rights of parents to make decisions regarding the education of their children. The bill provides that parents’ rights cannot be restricted unless there is evidence the restriction is essential to furthering a compelling government interest. The law is designed to give parents’ rights priority when the government is involved.
Senate Bill 93 recognizes and protects religious liberties of employees by conforming state law with rights already recognized in existing federal law. It provides that employers who require vaccines must grant religious and medical exemptions, establishes guidance for employers on this front, and requires a written opinion from a health care provider that the required immunization would be injurious to the employee’s health. Finally, it requires employers implementing a vaccine mandate to provide notice of exceptions to employees.
In closing, I want to recognize two of the members of the Senate who will be retiring when this session concludes. They include a staple of the legislature since 2003, C.B. Embry, Jr. (R-Morgantown), who served for years in both the House and Senate, and who epitomizes public service; and Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), who after serving eight years in the Senate, will likely be back after devoting his full attention to his wife and precious young children.
Both of these fine people are being honored with Senate resolutions accompanied by emotional testimony and stories from their colleagues in the Senate. I’m grateful for having the opportunity to serve with both and they will be deeply missed.
Additionally, I want to touch on an issue that I know is affecting everyone in the 21st district.
Members from the bipartisan Kentucky Mountain Caucus held a press conference Thursday afternoon expressing their opposition to the potential sale of Kentucky Power to Liberty Utilities Co., and requesting the Public Service Commission to NOT approve the sale.
Liberty is a subsidiary of Canadian energy giant Algonquin Power & Utilities, with a business plan that emphasizes renewable energy, bringing concerns to many that higher monthly bills for consumers could follow. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Kentucky, a state rich in natural resources, ranks 30th in the nation in cost of electricity prices for residents while California, a state boasting some of the highest renewable penetration rates in the country, has the fourth highest cost of electricity for residents.
If approved by the Public Service Commission (PSC), Liberty will become the region’s sole electric utility provider, essentially purchasing a monopoly over 165,000 residents with no alternate options in the market.
Every week I hear from many of my constituent’s about soaring electric bills. As your representative here in Frankfort, my number one job is to protect your best interest. Rest assured this issue is at the forefront of my mind, and I will keep you apprised on any updates related to this issue.
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 Johnnie.Turner@lrc.ky.gov.
Senator Turner (R- Harlan) represents the 29th District, which encompasses Floyd, Harlan, Knott, and Letcher counties. 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.