The first week of the 2020 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly has come to a close. We had a productive week in Frankfort and left with confidence in what the session has in store. It was a pleasure to begin the session last Tuesday with a visit from the 100th Army Band from Fort Knox, who performed an extraordinary rendition of “My Old Kentucky Home” and our National Anthem.
As with the early stages of any session of the General Assembly, some procedural measures were in order. The Senate Majority has listened to feedback from our constituents and have prioritized several pieces of legislation that we are hopeful of passing this session. Those bills, among others, were assigned to their respective committees last week. Committee hearings begin this week and provide the public an opportunity to hear more about the legislation.
Here are the Senate’s priority bills for the 2020 Session:
SB 1: Prohibits law enforcement officials and other public officials from enacting, adopting or otherwise enforcing any sanctuary policy. It would also require these officials to use their best efforts — considering available resources — to support the enforcement of federal immigration law. School district would be exempt. Sections of the proposed law would be named the Federal Immigration Act of 2020.
SB 2: Requires voters to present photo identification. Kentucky already has a law that requires identification to vote, but it does not require photographic identification.
SB 3: Moves the election of constitutional officers — the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner and state treasurer — to even-numbered years starting in 2028. The Senate has passed similar bills in previous sessions but the legislation hasn’t become law.
SB4: Strips the governor of his autonomy in appointing the secretary of the Transportation Cabinet, placing some control of the appointment with a nine-member citizen board that would be appointed by the governor. The board would also vet and prioritize statewide transportation projects.
SB 5: Requires special-purpose governmental entities, such as a library board, sewer district or volunteer fire department, to get approval from a county fiscal court or city council before increasing taxes. The bill exempts airport boards. Supporters of this change have argued that unelected appointees who run local agencies should not be authorized to raise taxes without the oversight of officials who answer to voters, which is the present situation.
Bills must be presented at a public committee meeting and passed with a majority vote before heading back to the Senate chamber to be voted on by the entire Senate body. If the bill is approved by the Senate, it heads to the Kentucky House, where the same process occurs. Bills that are passed by both chambers are submitted to the Governor for his approval.
The proverbial legislative “elephant in the room” for the 2020 session is, of course, the General Assembly’s duty to pass a balanced two-year budget and two-year road fund plan. My colleagues and I in the Kentucky Senate Majority are working diligently with members of the Kentucky State House in preparation for this crucial responsibility. I look forward to continued discussions on this matter throughout the coming weeks.
If you have any questions or comments about these issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Damon.Thayer@LRC.ky.gov.
Damon Thayer represents the 17th Senate District.He is Senate majority floor leader.