News From Frankfort: Humanity in Healthcare Act

Published 3:19 pm Monday, April 4, 2022

With the conclusion of week 13 of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly, the session has now entered the veto recess period. Lawmakers worked late into the night to ensure critical legislation was sent to the governor ahead of the veto period. The House and Senate passed over 100 bills this week.

The veto recess period allows the governor an opportunity to review and consider the legislation the General Assembly has passed. My colleagues and I in the state Senate and state House of Representatives will return to Frankfort for the final two days of this session on Wednesday, April 13, and Thursday, April 14, where we have reserved the opportunity to override any vetoes the governor issues on the bills passed by the General Assembly. We will still have the opportunity to pass additional bills, but if those bills are vetoed, they will not be overridden.

The highlight of week 13 was the final passage of the budget bills, including those funding the operations of our three branches of state government: the executive branch (House Bill 1), the legislative branch (House Bill 243), and the judicial branch (House Bill 244). Additionally, we passed the state Transportation Budget and Road Plan, which funds new and improved state highways, roads, and bridges. The Senate played a significant role in the passage of each of these critical bills. I am pleased with what each of them mean for the future of our state and our district.

The state budget bill cleared the Senate without a single vote in opposition. This is a testament to the diligent and careful planning put into the bill over the past several weeks. Hundreds of hours have been invested into crafting the state’s spending plan, with careful consideration of the best interest of Kentuckians in mind. The investment of Kentucky taxpayers’ time and energy made the funding opportunities outlined in these budget bills possible.

Despite the many challenges thrown our way these past two years, the spending plan for the next two years took advantage of the unique funding opportunities available while remaining fiscally responsible and conservative with our precious tax dollars. We are addressing the issues from COVID-19 and natural disasters head on; investing in our state employees like never before with significant pay raises; making further historical investments in education, curriculum updates, and paying into the state teacher pensions, while also securing a pay raise for every school district employee in the state

Even though week 13 only consisted of two legislative days, it was without a doubt the most productive of the session in terms of the number of bills making their way through the process. There were a number of bills that reached the governor with the Senate’s fingerprint on them, which I was happy to support.

● House Bill 3 is a pro-life measure referred to as the Humanity in Healthcare Act. It addresses several aspects of abortion, including access to abortion-inducing drugs. After a December 2021 policy shift by the Food and Drug Administration, these types of drugs are now readily available through online websites with limited oversight and accountability. This bill corrects this troubling problem. I am also happy to say the Senate added an amendment to the bill banning abortions when the gestational age of the baby is beyond 15 weeks.

● House Bill 8 is a tax modernization measure lowering Kentuckians’ personal income tax. It does so in a way that is responsible and will not blow a hole in state revenues. Income tax rates would be lowered by a half percent if certain criteria is met. The lowering of income taxes is made possible by broadening service taxes to certain services.

● House Bill 607 standardizes the excise tax on every pari-mutuel wager placed in Kentucky, taxing all such wagers off the top at 1.5 percent, raising more taxes on gambling. The bill further strengthens Kentucky’s gambling while raising more money for the state’s general fund to go toward the valued areas of government funded in this year’s state budget including education.

● House Bill 315, which was carried in the Senate by Senate President Pro Tempore David Givens, was sent to the governor’s desk on Wednesday. HB 315 is another example of the important steps being taken by the Kentucky General Assembly, showcasing its commitment to improving broadband access for our rural communities. HB 315 mandates that $182,769,000 from the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and $67,231,000 from the ARPA State Fiscal Recovery Fund are to be set aside for the Broadband Deployment Fund. This crucial legislation will establish the Office of Broadband Development and clarify how the office is to administer and implement the Broadband Deployment Fund. Additionally, the bill allocates $20 million in new funding from the State Fiscal Recovery Fund to create the Rural Infrastructure Improvement Fund to replace utility poles for the construction of broadband networks.

I am also happy to inform you that a bill of which I was the primary sponsor has also been delivered to the governor. Senate Bill 245 allows the judge overseeing emergency protective orders and interpersonal protective orders to allow both parties obtain some personal items and communicate and decide best interest of children and the parties during the time of the emergency protective order is in place. This is a change in the existing law. It is my sincere hope the bill will be signed into law or at least allowed to become law without signature. Should it be vetoed, I’ll work with my colleagues to override the veto.

I am eager to pass these bills and others into law, as I trust they will continue to move our state forward in a positive way. I will keep you updated on the status of the numerous bills pending a decision from the governor and ultimately those which may need further action from the legislature.

Finally, I want to talk about a bill that passed through the Senate and House this session. House Bill 9 is the Charter School Bill and sets the guidelines for school districts to opt-in or opt-out of having charter schools. I voted against this bill, but I want you to know that it will not affect our school districts. House Bill 9 only applies to school districts with a student population greater than 7,500 students and can only be approved by the local school board.

I want you to know I will always vote for what’s best for eastern Kentucky. The people of the 29th Senate District elected me to be an independent voice in Frankfort. That is why I will never be a yes man in our state’s Capitol.

When bills like the Charter School bill, or legislation such as Senate Bill 7, which would have restricted our teachers’ ability to have a say in the political process, are proposed, you can be sure that I and other Mountain legislators will put a stop to it.

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. 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.