by Senator Steve Meredith:
With the end of the 2021 Regular Session in sight, fellow lawmakers and I are wrapping up legislative efforts by passing a variety of bills and finalizing the state’s annual budget.
The General Assembly needs to pass most bills by Tuesday, March 16, to consider any veto overrides that may be necessary.
Why so soon? The legislature will recess on Tuesday, March 16 and will reconvene on Monday, March 29. During the recess period, the Governor will have time to consider bills that have arrived on his desk. Upon returning to the Capitol at the end of the month, the legislature will only have 2 days remaining to pass additional legislation and override any vetoes. Therefore, any legislation sent to the governor during those final days will not be eligible for a veto override, as we are constitutionally required to conclude Regular Session business before April 1 in odd numbered years.
The House and Senate have overridden the Governor’s vetoes on Senate Bill (SB) 3 and House Bill (HB) 6. Since both of these measures contain what’s known as an emergency clause, the bills go into effect immediately upon becoming law rather than 90 days after adjournment.
Senate Bill 3 moves the Office of Agricultural Policy under the jurisdiction of the Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner’s Office. Moving these critical boards under the authority of the Commissioner of Agriculture streamlines our efforts to strengthen Kentucky agriculture and help our farmers. The office’s official role is the promotion of interests of agriculture and horticulture, agricultural revenues, and the protection of Kentucky’s livestock industries.
House Bill 6 strengthens an already existing legislative committee which, with the passing of this bill, would become the Legislative Oversight and Investigations Committee. It codifies subpoena powers, gives the committee the ability to maintain the confidentiality of investigative documents, and imposes fines on those in non-compliance with the committee’s efforts.
Several bills are now with the Governor for consideration including:
Senate Bill 102 expands the Kentucky Proud agricultural marketing program to allow products produced from Asian carp, paddlefish, or sturgeon to be qualified to use the Kentucky Proud logo on packaging as long as the fish were harvested from a body of water in Kentucky.
House Bill 312 limits the ability of people who do not live, work, or conduct business in Kentucky to obtain records through the state’s open records law. These restrictions would not apply, however, to out-of-state journalists. A second section of HB 312 would explicitly allow open records requests to be made via email. A third would provide a standardized form for the request but not require that it be used. Under this bill, the time to comply with requests would also be lengthened to five days from three.
House Bill 518 would change the makeup of the Kentucky State Fair Board and clarify how it operates. Not only does the fair board operate the Kentucky Exposition Center where the state fair is held, but it also operates the Kentucky International Convention Center in downtown Louisville. The two properties have an annual $500 million economic impact and generate $40 million in taxes.
The General Assembly took significant steps regarding the one-year State Budget this past week. Biennial budgets, or two-year budgets, are traditionally enacted in even-numbered years. As the budget was being crafted last year amid the pandemic's onset, legislators did not know what the economic outlook, and therefore, what state revenues would be. Out of an abundance of caution, it was determined to pass only a one-year budget, then return to the 30-day session this year to pass another. This year’s budget will essentially be a continuing budget and will look similar to last year’s.
The budget conference committee met to publicly review and discuss decisions regarding the budget proposals from the Governor, the House, and the Senate. This committee consists of Majority and Minority Leadership and Appropriation and Revenue Committee Chairmen from both chambers. You can find the archived video of budget conference committee meetings by visiting www.ket.org/legislature/archives.
I continue to keep those impacted by recent weather events in my prayers. It has been inspiring to see communities and the whole state come together to support those in need. Please remain patient as assessments of damage are done by the state to determine our unmet needs. Once preliminary damage assessments are conducted by federal, state, and local officials, the Governor can submit a declaration request to the regional FEMA administrator. The president can decide whether or not to grant it.
Stay up to date on committee meetings and bill activity by visiting the LRC’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov. Additionally, you can stream live legislative coverage by logging onto www.ket.org/legislature.
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 Stephen.Meredith@LRC.ky.gov.