Legislative update: end of 2022 legislative session

Published 8:42 am Thursday, May 5, 2022

BY Sen. Johnnie Turner

We now have another General Assembly in the book. There are many policy areas where both the Senate and House of Representatives did phenomenal work during the 60-day session.

First and foremost, per the United States Federal Constitution as well as the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, the General Assembly undertook the task of redistricting. This occurs every 10 years following the federal census, taking into account population shifts across the state and reallocating congressional seats to reflect those shifts. The process is mostly complete with the Senate with judicial maps having already gone into effect, but there is pending litigation on the maps for the House of Representatives and congressional district maps.

The General Assembly passed a constitutionally balanced biennial budget, as occurs every two years. The most notable winner in the budget was in the education sector, where we once again provided full funding to the teachers’ pensions beyond what state statute requires, increased per-pupil funding for our students in the classroom to record levels, provided funding for educational initiatives and appropriated money for school renovations and transportation.

We constructed a road plan improving the streets and highways across the commonwealth, and we committed to across-the-board raises for all state employees, including social workers and state police. Funding was also set aside for much needed child welfare initiatives.

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. While I did not vote in favor of this bill, I want you to know that it will not affect any of the five schools districts that I represent. 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.

Any charter school formation must be voted on and approved by the local school board. This gives you the voters’ control, by electing your board members, the final say about what is right for your school districts.

When bills like House Bill 9 are proposed, you can be sure that other Mountain legislators and I will stand up for east Kentuckians best interest.

Additionally, several other education bills originating in the Senate made their way to the governor’s desk. Modeled after Mississippi’s landmark legislation, the “Read to Succeed Act,” sets new standards for K-3 reading instruction, returning to a curriculum based on phonetic principles. It also sets the standard for teacher development, assuring that they are prepared to instruct students in being proficient readers at or above grade level by third grade.

The Teaching American Principles Act establishes guidelines for U.S. history education incorporating 24 historical primary source core documents into history instruction. The Senate also led the charge on school-based decision making council reform, returning authority to elected school board members accountable to the district they serve.

In addition to education, child welfare reform was one of the main policy priorities of this year’s session. A comprehensive bill originating in the Senate was passed early on, overhauling policies and practices related to identifying and preventing child abuse and neglect. This bill includes a provision that differentiates between poverty and neglect, and also emphasizes family preservation services and the rights of foster youth. Kentucky has been one of the worst states for child abuse and neglect in the country, and this legislation aims to change that trajectory.

Boosting the commonwealth’s workforce, particularly in the health care sector, was also a major priority this session. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges to an already struggling nursing workforce, and the Senate passed legislation to revitalize the nursing profession. The bill restructures the Kentucky Board of Nursing, gives nursing schools more autonomy over enrollment, and reduces the burden on out-of-state and foreign nurses who wish to practice in Kentucky. Each of these stipulations goes toward strengthening the workforce by increasing the number and longevity of those in the nursing profession without compromising the standard of care.

As it relates to government, the General Assembly passed legislation fortifying a constitutional amendment that will be on the ballot in November. Currently, the legislature only convenes once a year in January, unless the governor calls a special session. This constitutional amendment and corresponding law will give the General Assembly the authority to jointly call itself into session for an additional 12 days during that calendar year if needed. This ability can be critical during times of emergency. For instance, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Governor Andy Beshear wrote sweeping executive orders that infringed upon individual freedoms. Because the General Assembly was out of session, we were unable to curtail this executive overreach.

While we had tremendous success on valued state policy initiatives, there were also some big winners on conservative policy initiatives as well. Most importantly, the General Assembly passed an omnibus pro-life bill preventing mail-order abortion drugs, requiring a judicial review of abortions for minors, and banning abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. With the Attorney General arguing the state’s “Heartbeat Bill” before the U.S. Supreme Court and this new legislation, Kentucky has become a staunch advocate for the unborn.

Another social issue of nationwide interest, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, was passed, making Kentucky one of the first states to protect Title IX and our state’s biologically female athletes. This law bans transgender individuals from participating in female-designated sports from kindergarten through the post-secondary collegiate years. Kentucky is one of the early states to pass legislation of this kind and makes us a leader in the movement to protect women’s athletics, as well as our culture.

In closing, the General Assembly tackled election reform through two additional bills this year. The first bill, originating in the House, bans non-profit organizations from donating monetarily to our state’s election system and county clerk offices.  This became an issue during the 2020 election when Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook gave $300 million nationwide, which benefited multiple counties in Kentucky. The second bill requires a photo ID as opposed to a debit or credit card, as proof to vote. It also requires paper ballots, and locked and video-surveilled voting machines for 30 days following the election.

The 2022 Regular Legislative Session was one of the most successful sessions as your elected leaders were able to champion and pass many fiscally sound budget-related policies, as well secure conservative issues Kentuckians care about most.

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.