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Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

Renee Shaw and guests discuss the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly. Guests: State Rep. David Meade (R-Stanford), House Speaker Pro Tem; State Rep. Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort), House Minority Floor Leader; State Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), Senate President; and State Sen. Gerald Neal (D-Louisville), Senate Minority Floor Leader.
Season 29 Episode 42 Length 56:33 Premiere: 01/09/23

Leaders from House and Senate Discuss Bills Introduced During the Session’s First Week

Even though lawmakers are on break between parts one and two of the General Assembly session, the work of crafting and considering legislation continues.

Tax policy is a key agenda item for the Republican supermajorities in the state House of Representatives and Senate. During the opening days of the session, the House passed a measure that would further lower the individual income tax rate from the current 4.5 percent to 4 percent effective Jan. 1, 2024.

“The impact statement I think showed that about $625 to $650 million will stay in the pockets of Kentuckians,” says House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade (R-Stanford). “So we’re looking at setting up that framework to continue down the path of hopefully reaching a 0 percent income tax in the future.”

Last week, the lower chamber passed House Bill 1 on a vote of 79-19, with Democrats objecting to the measure. House Minority Floor Leader Derrick Graham of Frankfort argues a further reduction in state income tax revenues at a time of economic uncertainty and the end of federal pandemic relief could put critical funding for education, infrastructure, and social services at risk.

Louisville Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner has proposed an alternative tax measure that would create a graduated tax structure starting in 2024. Under her House Bill 111, Kentuckians would pay either a 4, 5 or 6 percent income tax rate depending on their level of income. The more an individual earns, the higher their tax rate. (The state taxed personal incomes at 6 percent for decades prior to legislative actions in recent years to lower the rate.)

Willner contends her plan will be fairer to Kentuckians, while not putting much-needed state revenues at risk.

Meade says the House has not yet discussed Willner’s proposal, but he argues that the state can afford to continue to lower the overall income tax rate. He says Republican policies are boosting state revenues through economic growth, and that budget forecasters have already accounted for the end of federal pandemic dollars.

As HB 1 awaits action in the upper chamber, Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerald Neal says he’s not concerned about another half-percent drop in the tax rate so much as Republicans’ ultimate goal for taxation.

“We’re talking about doing away with the tax all together and then shifting the piece to a sales tax or a consumption tax of some sort, which actually is a regressive tax burden,” says Neal.

That means lower-income individuals would face a higher tax burden, according to Neal, since they would pay a greater percentage of their earnings to sales taxes than would wealthier Kentuckians.

But Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) says Republicans plan to structure consumption taxes in such a way that higher income individuals will pay more based on their discretionary spending.

Once lawmakers return on Feb. 7, Stivers says HB 1 will probably be the first measure the Senate passes. The Senate President also says lawmakers will likely act to prevent the gasoline tax from increasing as well. Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order last summer to delay a 2-cent increase in the gas tax. That order is set to expire this month.

Medical Marijuana

Two bills to allow the use of medicinal cannabis have been filed so far this session: House Bill 107 is sponsored by Graham and other Democrats. Senate Bill 47 is a bipartisan measure sponsored by Sen. Stephen West (R-Paris).

The House passed medical marijuana legislation twice in recent years with the support of Republicans and Democrats, but those measures then stalled in the Senate without a vote. House Speaker David Osborne has said he thinks medical marijuana legislation should start in the Senate this time around.

Stivers says he has become “the poster boy” that medicinal-use advocates “throw darts at” because of his reluctance to bring such legislation to a vote in the upper chamber. He says he and his colleagues know the gravity of the issue and take very seriously the desire to help terminal patients.

“I am working on it with others to try to figure out how we can get to a yes to take care of those individuals who are at end-of-life,” says Stivers.

The Republican adds that he wants to ensure there are strict controls on prescribing and dispensing medicinal cannabis products, and that patients are protected from potential harms that marijuana use might cause.

“We want to make sure we do it the right way, if it is done,” says Stivers. “There’s indicators out there that certain things are helped. There are (also) indicators that there are adverse consequences.”

Stivers says he also wants to see the results of medical research from the University of Kentucky Cannabis Center, which are due next year. But Neal says he believes there is already sufficient data to support legalizing medicinal marijuana use in the state.

“We should get on with it because we know that it is a benefit to a number of people,” says Neal. “The question is making sure there is not the abuse, I agree with that... But there are systems that are out there to do that. I don’t think it’s as complex as we might make it.”

State Employee Pay Raises

The spending plan passed by lawmakers in 2022 included an 8 percent pay raise for state employees this fiscal year. The document also appropriated funds for a 12 percent raise in the second year of the biennium, which would be allocated based on the results of a compensation study to be conducted by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet.

Stivers says the goal wasn’t necessarily to provide a 12 percent, across-the-board raise for all state workers, but rather to see which workers might get a higher or lower raise based on job duties, experience levels, and local costs of living.

The Personnel Cabinet told KET it provided lawmakers with “a comprehensive, 44-page compensation report that included a specific plan on how to provide additional raises to state employees.”

But Stivers says that plan only calls for a 6 percent across-the-board pay increase for all executive branch employees. Stivers and Meade say legislative leaders expected a much more detailed report of what raises specific job sectors should receive with 12 percent being the average of all the increases. The leaders say they requested and received such reports from the legislative and judicial branches.

The original legislation mandating the Personnel Cabinet report included a substantial penalty for failing to provide lawmakers with the requested data. Stivers says that could be done by revisiting the current state budget and reducing the cabinet’s appropriation. But Meade says lawmakers will continue to push the cabinet for the numbers they need so they can allocate the pay raises before the end of this legislative session.

Capital Punishment

Senate Bill 45, a bipartisan measure cosponsored by Neal and Republican Senators Stephen Meredith and Julie Raque Adams, would abolish the death penalty in the commonwealth and replace it with life imprisonment without parole.

Neal admits he supported capital punishment earlier in his legislative career, but after studying the issue more he concluded the death penalty should never be an option.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” says Neal. “I think that we are better than that as a society.”

Meade says he’s also had a change of heart, going from a death penalty supporter to not knowing where he stands, especially after meeting people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes.

“I’m a little torn on it just because this one weighs quite heavy on me because it’s a big decision,” says Meade. “As a lawmaker, you would be making the decision whether or not to take someone’s life, and it’s not an easy decision to make.”

Wrongful convictions also worry Rep. Graham. He contends the death penalty is unnecessary, and says he no longer supports capital punishment.

“If a person commits a crime, if they stay in jail, that’s a punishment in itself,” says Graham.

As an attorney who has been involved with death penalty cases, Stivers says there are some criminals who deserve to face the severest consequences for their actions.

“I think there are sufficient safeguards, which there should be because this is the ultimate penalty for somebody who has done something so heinous that they have forfeited their right (to live) based on taking other people’s lives,” says Stivers.

Other Issues

House Bill 50 and its companion measure Senate Bill 50 would require partisan affiliations for candidates for all city and county offices as well as school boards. Stivers and Meade say the bill is meant to make it easier for voters to know where those candidates stand on issues.

“They want to make sure that those folks who are being elected are of their same ideas and their same beliefs – they want to know where they stand,” says Meade. “So I understand that side of it. I also understand that partisan politics are invading every piece of society right now and we want to try to keep partisan politics out of as much as possible, so I also see that side of it.”

Democrats Graham and Neal contend the Republican-sponsored bills are unwarranted and unnecessary.

“I think it’s a clear overreach from the state level,” says Neal. “We should not be involved in local elections – that should be resolved at local level.”

Lawmakers may also consider banning the social media video platform TikTok on state government-issued cellphones and other devices. The four leaders say they haven’t reviewed Senate Bill 20, but add that they support the idea as a way to prevent the Chinese parent company that owns TikTok from accessing the devices and user information of Kentuckians.

The House has already approved $16.6 million in additional construction funding for a veterans nursing home in Bowling Green. The Senate is expected to approve that money when lawmakers return in February. In the remaining days of the 30-day session, the leaders say they also hope to take action on juvenile justice, education funding, and economic development issues.

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Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.Kentucky Edition host Renee Shaw in a green dress with the set behind her and the logo superimposed over the image along with a CHECK SCHEDULE button.

Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

S29 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/30/23

Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

S29 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/23/23

Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

S29 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/09/23

2023 Legislative Session Preview

S29 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/19/22

National Politics

S29 E40 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/05/22

2022 Election Preview

S29 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/07/22

Inflation and the Economy

S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

S29 E37 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 10/24/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

S29 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/03/22

Discussing Flooding's Impact on Eastern Kentucky Schools

S29 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/26/22

COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

S29 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/12/22

Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S29 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/09/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S29 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S29 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/03/22

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S29 E1 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/06/21

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Renee Shaw and guests discuss child abuse and neglect. Scheduled guests: State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), Senate Majority Caucus Chair; Shannon Moody, chief officer of strategic initiatives for Kentucky Youth Advocates; Heather Wagers, Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution in the Kentucky Attorney General's Office; and Melissa L. Currie, M.D., chief of Norton Children's Pediatric Protection Specialists and professor of pediatrics at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

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Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System - S29 E46

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Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, is a public affairs discussion program broadcasted live on Monday nights at 8/7c on KET and KET.org/live.

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Kentucky Tonightwas awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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