By Sen. Wil Schroder
Week 3 of the 2021 Regular Session, written 2/5/21
The Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort this week for the second portion of the 2021 Regular Session, having now completed 11 out of the required 30 days. Legislative business at the Capitol resumed full speed ahead, as both the House and Senate spent the week meeting in committees, voting bills out of the chamber, and overriding vetoes recently cast by the Governor.
During the recess period, the Governor vetoed six priority bills. They included Senate Bills 1 and 2, and House Bills 1, 2, 3, and 5. The policy measures disapproved by the Governor consist of language to implement a 30-day expiration of executive orders concerning restrictions placed on schools, businesses, and nonprofits—unless extended by the approval of the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious, and social gatherings or impose mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements.
All of the gubernatorial vetoes listed above were overridden this week by the legislative majority and have effectively become law. As elected officials representing Kentuckians throughout the Commonwealth, we are eager to be involved in these consequential decisions moving forward.
You can find more details on each of these bills in my previous legislative updates or online at www.legislature.ky.gov.
It comes as no surprise that the Governor has already filed litigation challenging some of the veto overrides. However, I am grateful to say that Senate Bill 9, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, was enacted. Although the Governor did not sign the bill into law, he did not veto it either, effectively allowing it to become law without his signature.
While we were in recess, budget conference committees, including members from both the House and Senate, began meeting to deliberate an agreed-upon budget bill. Luckily, the state’s Consensus Forecasting Group predicted in December that Kentucky would see a small increase in revenue at roughly $53 million in the next year. Economists expect that the state’s budget will not be as hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic as initially thought, thanks in a large part to the federal government sending the states money. These budget discussions will remain a vital part of the session as these conference committees hammer out details of the state’s annual fiscal plan.
The Senate passed several bills to the House this week, including the following:
Senate Bill 8 provides exemptions to mandatory immunization requirements during an epidemic based on religious grounds or conscientiously held beliefs. If enacted into law, it would require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop and make available on its website a standardized form relating to exemptions from immunization requirements. The bill also codified existing practice for parents with students in schools allowing an exemption for immunization when religious or medical objections are presented.
Senate Bill 11 provides recourse for property owners to pursue legal action for intentional damages done to rental property. The bill would classify the deliberate or wanton destruction, defacement, and damage to residential rental property as criminal mischief. It also strives to provide landlords with notifications on background checks if a prospective applicant has previously been charged with causing substantial and intentional damage to rental property.
Senate Bill 21 allows originating hospitals to voluntarily transport mental health patients to a different hospital or facility upon staff authorization and a patient’s signed written agreement. It would prevent an adult or child patient who has voluntarily been transported from being released during the transport to a receiving facility. The bill would also establish that a qualified mutual health professional may provide outpatient counseling to any child who is age sixteen or older.
Senate Bill 38 requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement regulations requiring health facilities to use a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to produce surgical smoke. It defines “surgical smoke” to mean the by-product resulting from tissue contact by an energy generating device. The bill’s primary intent is to protect operating room doctors, nurses, and other personnel, along with patients, from the hazards of surgical smoke.
Senate Bill 61 establishes training standards for the staff of personal services agencies and home health agencies that serve patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. If enacted into law, the bill would improve the care provided to these patients. The hope is that it would also address retention of direct-care staff by better preparing them for job duties—resulting in less stress and dissatisfaction.
There is still much work to be done, but I will continue to keep you updated in the weeks ahead. Thank you for staying engaged in this year’s legislative session. It is a great honor to serve you in Frankfort.