Kentucky General Assembly

Fall Election: Five Weeks Out

Oct 1, 2018

The general election is now five weeks from tomorrow.  It’s not just legislative races for seats in Washington getting attention this fall.

All 100 seats in Kentucky’s House are up for election and half the seats in the 38 member senate.  While not expecting to flip the House, Veteran Lexington Representative Kelly Flood looks for democrats to close the gap and change political dynamics. 

Series Of New Laws Go Into Effect This Week

Jul 10, 2018

Drivers will need to maintain a three-foot buffer when they pass bicyclists, health educators will be required to teach sex abstinence in public schools and sweeping changes to Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system are all part of new state laws that go into effect on Saturday.

The state budget director’s office says end of fiscal year tax receipts show some growth in Kentucky’s economy.

Greg Harkenrider, deputy director in the Governor’s Office for Economic Analysis, says general fund receipts totaled 3.4 percent more than last year.  

Still, the veteran budget official says that’s not, quote, “gigantic growth.” “In the 1990’s and some of the years in the early 2000’s after the recession, it would not be unusual to see five or six percent growth in sales tax and four plus percent growth in withholding,” said Harkenrider.

Kentucky House Leader Calls For Investigation Into State Broadband Project

Apr 30, 2018

The leader of the Kentucky House of Representatives is calling for an investigation into the deal that created the Kentucky Wired high-speed internet project, a public-private partnership that has cost the state tens of millions of dollars in delays in recent years.

Kentucky Wired was first approved at the end of Gov. Steve Beshear’s administration and is supposed to result in a 3,000-mile fiber optic cable network that stretches to all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

Stu Johnson

The 2018 Kentucky General Assembly session ends today in an unusual Saturday session. The second to last day was a busy one.

The day began with a bit of deju vu as massive crowds of teachers inundated the capitol, lobbying for additional school funding. Lawmakers relatively quickly dispatched vetoes issued by Gov. Matt Bevin.  When the second to last day was done, House and Senate members had blocked Bevin’s vetoes on the budget, a tax bill and legislation to stretch pension payments for municipalities out over time.

Companies Warn Ky. Broadband Project Could Fall Apart Without Funding

Apr 6, 2018

Businesses that have invested in Kentucky’s delayed statewide broadband network are concerned that the budget passed by legislators earlier this week doesn’t provide enough certainty that the state will hold up its end of the public-private partnership.


Governor Bevin Vetoes Pension Phase In Measure

Apr 5, 2018

Governor Matt Bevin has vetoed legislation allowing local governments to cover pension cost increases over time.  In his veto message, Bevin said it’s not the phase-in section of the measure which worries him.  The governor says some buy out provisions create too much risk to retirement systems and could burden taxpayers.

Retiring Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education President Robert King was honored Monday by the general assembly.  The recognition came the same time as a massive outcry when educators from across the state crammed into the state capitol to protest pension reforms.

Kentucky Lawmakers Send Budget And Tax Overhaul To Bevin

Apr 3, 2018
Stu Johnson

Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature has passed a new two-year state budget that cuts much of state government in order to put more money into the state’s ailing pension systems.






But lawmakers also approved about $680 million in new revenue by expanding the sales tax to 17 services ranging from auto repair to country club memberships and raising the tax on cigarettes.

Senate Acts on Taxes and Budget

Apr 3, 2018
Stu Johnson

Final votes on the state’s two year budget and a sizeable tax measure moved forward Monday in Frankfort. It came just before lawmakers break for ten days while the governor considers possible vetoes.

Teachers Descend On Kentucky Capitol To Protest Pension Changes

Apr 3, 2018
Stu Johnson

Thousands of teachers have packed into the State Capitol building in Frankfort to protest the Republican-led legislature’s passage of a bill overhauling the state’s pension systems last week.




The pension changes would no longer give conventional pensions to future teachers, instead providing them with cash-balance retirement plans that depend on the stock market but are guaranteed to not lose money.


Stu Johnson

Kentucky lawmakers return to Frankfort later this morning to act on remaining bills including a possible vote on a two year spending plan.  Legislators from the House and Senate have been trying to reach consensus on the biennial budget.

When this discussion between House and Senate conferees began over a week ago there were some significant differences.  The House plan included calls for a 50 cent cigarette tax and a 25 cent levy on prescription opioids at the distribution level.  The senate backed plan didn’t include any tax increases.  

Kentucky Lawmakers Pass Pension Bill

Mar 30, 2018
Stu Johnson

The Kentucky legislature has passed public pension reform legislation with just a few days left in the current 2018 session.  

Debate on the House and Senate floors was accompanied by almost non-stop protest chanting from current and retired teachers.

The brand new pension bill got committee approval in the early afternoon, House backing a few hours later, and Senate approval late in the night.  The 22-15 senate vote got quick reaction from teachers.

Senate Acts This Week on MidWifery Legislation

Mar 28, 2018
Stu Johnson

Legislation tied to midwifery across Kentucky generated a great deal of debate in the state senate Tuesday.

Package Liquor Quota Bill Advances to Full House

Mar 28, 2018

Legislation seeking to put into law an existing quota regulation for package liquor licensing continues to move through the Kentucky general assembly.  An effort to weaken the measure fell short in a House Committee Tuesday.

Kentucky Gang Bill Rolls Forward, Despite Protest

Mar 27, 2018
Stu Johnson

A bill that would broaden the definition of criminal gangs, give longer prison sentences to those labeled as gang members and increase penalties for gang recruiting is close to becoming law in Kentucky.

Supporters say the measure would discourage gang activity in the state, while opponents argue it would wrongly label some defendants as gang members and disproportionately affect African-American communities.

Stu Johnson

The Kentucky General Assembly will work this week to wrap up action on a number of issues.  That may not include final votes on public pension reforms.

Capitol Annex Cafeteria Future Up for Debate

Mar 26, 2018
Stu Johnson

There are lots of items on the negotiating table as legislative leaders from the House and Senate try to reach agreement on a state budget. That includes a matter near and dear to lawmakers and visitor’s stomachs. 

Along with discussions about education funding, Medicaid, and pensions, lawmakers are debating the future of the Capital Annex Cafeteria.

Republicans Writing Budget For First Time In Kentucky History

Mar 26, 2018
Stu Johnson

State legislative leaders said they made progress after the first day in Kentucky history that Republicans were in control of budget negotiations. But capitol reporter Ryland Barton says major differences between the state House and Senate versions of the two-year spending plan remain. 

The Senate opposes the House’s proposal to raise about $500 million in revenue by increasing the cigarette tax and creating a tax on opioid pain pills.

Meanwhile the House put about a $1 billion more in the teachers’ pension system than the Senate did.

Stu Johnson

Legislation assuring that Kentucky public school students will be taught about the Holocaust has won final passage in the general assembly.  A holocaust survivor who lives in Kentucky was in attendance for the vote.  

81 year old Fred Gross was held in a concentration camp in France during World War II.  His brother, 13 years older, escaped and returned to help free captives, but Gross says they remained in hiding before making it to Switzerland. Gross remained on the floor of the Senate for the discussion and unanimous vote. 

Overhaul Of Workers’ Compensation Benefits Passes Kentucky Senate Panel

Mar 21, 2018

A bill that would overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system continues to roll forward in the state legislature despite opposition from law enforcement and labor groups.

House Bill 2 is a top priority of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is also supported by the Kentucky Coal Association, who say that businesses have to pay too much for workers’ compensation insurance.

Tyler White is the president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

Female Incarceration Reforms Move on to Full House

Mar 21, 2018

Legislation to bring reforms to female prisons appears headed for final passage.  The senate measure got the approval Wednesday of the House Judiciary Committee.

Louisville Senator Julie Raque Adams wanted to keep the bill narrowly focused on incarcerated women and not be expanded to include broader criminal justice reforms.

“That was really my intent all along in filing this bill is to kind of address the problems we see with females who are incarcerated and I didn’t want that message to get watered down in a bigger bill,” said Raque-Adams

Senate Budget Vote On Tap for This Week

Mar 19, 2018
Stu Johnson

Members of the Kentucky Senate are expected to vote this week on a two year budget.  A vote before the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee could come as early as Tuesday.  Senate consideration of pension reforms have stalled.

WEKU’S Stu Johnson asked Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer if the biennial budget document could include pension provisions. “Nothing structural, I mean, obviously the funding of pension systems, all eight of them, is including in the budget,” said Thayer

“But nothing in the reform area?” Asked Johnson.

The Kentucky Senate has voted overwhelming to change the candidate filing deadline for those running for the general assembly. Proponents say it could help dispel perceptions that January is a relatively unproductive month at the state capitol.

‘Compromise’ On Judicial Redistricting Seeks To Help Overworked Judges

Mar 15, 2018

Instead of tackling a comprehensive plan to reshuffle judgeships around Kentucky to alleviate overworked judges, the state legislature is poised to pass a more limited approach.

The changes would reallocate two judgeships from areas that have light caseloads and move them to areas with heavy caseloads.

Chief Justice John Minton said he would prefer more ambitious changes, but the compromise would still help courts with the most critical needs.

Senate Approves Free Speech Measure

Mar 14, 2018

The Kentucky Senate has voted 27 to 11 in favor of free speech legislation regarding the state’s public colleges and universities.  The measure, extensively debated Tuesday afternoon requires policies ensuring the protection of freedom of speech and expression by faculty and students.

In the wake of the January shooting at Marshall County High School, Kentucky lawmakers have advanced a bill that would require schools to employ mental health professionals to recognize symptoms of trauma in students.


The Kentucky General Assembly is considering legislation requiring high school students take a financial literacy course before graduation. The House Bill is now up for a vote in the Senate.

The requirement to educate public school students about money matters would begin with those entering the ninth grade in the fall of 2020.  Elizabethtown High School Educator Alex Todd has been teaching a financial literacy elective course for two decades.

Shelbyville Senator Paul Hornback says Alltech Founder Pearse Lyons contributed to the agriculture industry by thinking outside the box.  Hornback was reflecting on the impact of Lyons, who died Thursday after battling a lung condition following heart surgery.

Hornback, a lifelong farmer, says animal feed advances at Alltech led to an expansion of Kentucky’s livestock industry.

Stu Johnson

Pension reform, one of the top legislative priorities this session, is headed to the Senate floor.  Committee approval of pension reforms came over the vocal objections of a large group of retired educators.

A roomful of mostly retired teachers linked arms and chanted “find funding first, we vote” as members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee filed into the room.