March Madness stretches on, from high school state championships to the SEC and ACC tournaments and around to Frankfort where it’s getting close to the final buzzer.

First off, Vice President Mike Pence touched down in Lexington on Friday to galvanize support for Governor Bevin. The Veep’s presence shows strong support from the Trump Administration and was intended to boost the Republican incumbent ahead of the May primary.

In Frankfort, legislators recognize that March means it’s time to move players into the paint. So far, 31 bills have reached the Governor’s desk for his consideration. Best guess is that this number doubles, maybe triples this week to pass pending legislation before the 10-day veto break.  “Work expands to fill the time,” a management guru once observed.  It’s no surprise – especially in a short session – that major votes are taken after the maximum amount of time for analysis.

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Week in Review March 4-8

HB 205School Tax Credits| Bill proposing tax credits for school choice garnering serious controversy and prompting severe backlash and “sickouts” from public schools is still sitting in the House. This legislation incentivizes donations from Kentuckians scholarship programs that fund private schools. For each dollar donated (up to $1 million) the taxpayer would receive a nonrefundable, dollar-for-dollar tax break of an equal amount. There is some disagreement on the bill’s fiscal note – an LRC analysis found the bill could cost the state $50 million by year four, however, the state budget director found the bill will actually save Kentucky money long-term. Supporters, opponents, and status of HB205 covered in the above article. 

SB 2Civil Actions| Allows the appointment of a special judge in certain cases brought state officials and agencies, moving a state case from Franklin Circuit Court. If the defendant requests a special judge, the Chief Justice assigns a judge randomly via lottery draw. Sponsored by Senate President Stivers, an attorney in Clay County, the proposal arises from GOP leaders feeling that the Franklin Circuit leans to the Democratic point of view. In a highly unusual move, Chief Justice Minton testified during the bill’s Senate committee hearing, voicing serious concern on the measure. 

SB 8Tribunal Reform| Bill changing the current school tribunal structure has been delivered to the Governor and awaits his signature.  The legislation mandates that one of the members of the tribunal council be an attorney trained in education law (a change from the previous lay person designation).

SB 67Sex Crimes Against an Animal| A bill outlawing bestiality is expected to pass tomorrow, the 12th

SB 85Driving Under the Influence | Amendments were attached to the bill designed to strengthen Kentucky’s Ignition Interlock program and DUI laws. The amendments primarily concern reducing penalties for first-time offenses. The bill’s final outcome is still up in the air. 

SB 97Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence | Bill that creates a tracking system for sexual assault evidence kits is expected to pass tomorrow, the 12th.

SB125Feral Cats | The number of bills concerning animals and animal cruelty is noteworthy. SB 125, a bill removing landowners’ requirements to vaccinate or capture feral cats is awaiting the Governor’s signature. 

SB 214Legislative Redistricting| A bill to change the jurisdiction and venue for challenging legislative districts from Franklin Circuit Court to a panel of three Circuit Judges, and to establish procedures for selecting the panel and reviewing challenges. Also sponsored by Senate President Stivers, the bill is preemptive of any 2020 redistricting challenges, again seen as a move by the GOP to bypass Judge Shepherd of the Franklin Circuit Court.

SB 240Anti-Doxing| Bill prohibiting the online release of a minor’s identifying information – a practice known as “doxing” – has passed the Senate and moved onto the House. Ted Sandmann, father of Covington Catholic student, Nick Sandmann, testified on behalf of the bill. Earlier this year, Nick’s personal information was involuntarily released after photos and videos circulated of him standing face to face with Native American protester Nathan Phillips, embroiling Nick and others in nationwide controversy. The bill says that disseminating personally identifying information about a minor is a Class A misdemeanor, unless it results in injury, monetary loss above $500 or death of a minor, in which case it is a felony.

SB 250Public Education | The bill that increases the JCPS superintendent’s hiring and purchasing power is expected to pass tomorrow, the 12th

HB 84Spoofing | Measure prohibiting misrepresentation by telemarketers (i.e. altered caller location or identification), also known as “spoofing,” is moving through the Senate.

HB 136Medical Marijuana| Bill that would permit physicians to prescribe marijuana to patients suffering from certain conditions like epilepsy and cerebral palsy passed out of House committee with a 16-1-1 (yes, no, pass) vote. If it becomes law, Kentucky will be the 34th state to legalize medical marijuana. Testimony from chronic pain sufferers as well as concessions made by the bill sponsors strengthened support for the proposed legislation. The measure, however, must come before the full House for a vote and faces considerable opposition in the Senate. With the tight timeline, the outcome remains to be seen.

HB 175Sports Wagering| Bill proposing the legalization of sports wagering on college and professional sporting events at Kentucky horse tracks, Kentucky Speedway, and through apps remains at a standstill. An amendment has been filed regarding a program designed to monitor wagering.H

HB 354: House and Senate passed different versions of the tax cleanup, so HB 354 is headed to conference committee where R’s and D’s from both chambers will decide which provisions to keep, delete or add. 

HB 525Teachers Retirement System Board of Trustees| A bill to change teacher pension board membership that prompted “sickouts” from school districts across the Commonwealth has not yet passed the House.

Here’s a look at what’s coming up

March 12-14 Final work days

March 15-26 | Veto Days 

March 28 | Final day of session known as “Sine Die” or to adjourn indefinitely


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Kentucky Legislative Weekly Wrap-up video.