Legislative update: Sen. Higdon offers update on week 2 of Ky. General Assembly

14th District State Senator

Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 — As state senator, I take pride in staying engaged with the 14th Senate District community. As an elected official, this usually occurs by speaking face-to-face during meetings or community events. This past week I had the honor of speaking to constituents at several legislative coffee events across the district. Writing these legislative updates provides me a welcomed means of reconnecting with you and others back home that could not attend.


The Kentucky General Assembly is making the most of the 30-day legislative session. In the first eight days back in Frankfort, lawmakers have already delivered seven bills to the governor’s desk.

The past 10 months have been challenging for all of us. Anxieties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have extended beyond the dangerous health risk the virus poses to the vulnerable and the indirect consequences to students, businesses, and mental health. The passage of priority House and Senate bills verifies the legislature’s commitment to being a co-equal branch of government and ensuring the representative branch of state government has a seat at the table as life-altering decisions are considered.

Senate Bill 1 is a bill that better defines executive authority during a state of emergency. It brings the representative branch of government to the table to be a voice for the communities its members represent. The bill will require legislative authorization before the governor can extend an executive order beyond 30 days if the order places restrictions on various public and private entities. The same requirement would exist for emergency executive orders. Similarly, it would require mutual agreement between the Governor and the Attorney General to suspend state statute during a state of emergency. Taking a more targeted approach to addressing a state of emergency, SB1 would allow local officials to request an extension of executive orders only for their area and only for the amount of time they ask.

For a long time governors and their administrations have been able to blur the lines between executive and legislative branch authorities by making law through the use of the emergency regulatory process. SB 2 seeks to address that issue. It enhances the emergency administrative regulation process by improving legislative and public oversight. The bill would require an expedited public hearing and written comment period as well as allow a legislative committee to review, amend, or find an emergency regulation deficient.

House Bill 1 provides clarity and reassurances amid a state of emergency for businesses, schools, parents, teachers, students, and religious institutions that they may remain open and operational if they follow a comprehensive operating plan detailing how they plan to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines—or state guidelines—whichever is least restrictive.

Additional legislation that has reached the governor’s desk include two pro-life measures.

SB 9, the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which the legislature passed last year before the governor vetoed it, has been sent to the governor’s desk yet again. Unfortunately, last year’s veto came after the legislative veto override period, and lawmakers could not override it. The bill ensures that a baby born alive in any circumstance receives lifesaving care.

HB 2 gives Kentucky’s Attorney General the authority to seek an injunction and civil or criminal penalties for violations of statutes and administrative regulations guiding the practice of abortion. Current law only allows the Attorney General to take action if the Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services secretary requests that he or she intervene.

Additional bills that made full passage this past week include HB 3, which establishes that challenges to the constitutionality of state statutes, executive orders, administrative regulations, or cabinet orders shall be filed in the county of the plaintiff’s residence. Currently, all suits filed against the state go through the Franklin Circuit Court and before a limited number of potential judges, essentially creating a “super circuit.”

HB 5 would improve oversight of the reorganization of state boards. Governors have used these boards to fulfill political agendas in the past. In fact, over the last five administrations, there have been over 445 reorganizations of state agencies, cabinets, or boards. The bill would require all executive branch reorganizations and board reorganizations to require a vote of the General Assembly and refine gubernatorial authority when the legislature is not in session.

The Constitution of Kentucky requires that the General Assembly adjourn following the first part of the session. Wednesday, January 13, was our final day before adjourning in compliance with that constitutional requirement. The legislature will reconvene for the second part of the session on Tuesday, February 2. Before adjourning, the House and Senate have each submitted their respective budget bill. The next step in the process is for the two chambers to come together in a conference committee to finalize an agreed upon budget to send to the governor for consideration.

Budget bills include HB 192, the executive branch budget; HB 193, the transportation budget; HB 194, the legislative branch budget; and HB 195, the judicial branch budget.

As Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation I am pleased to report that the state transportation budget bill was passed out of committee and by the Senate body this past Thursday. It will now go in to a conference committee like the state budget bills. You can access each of these bills at legislature.ky.gov.

IMPEACHMENT PETITION. As you may know, the House has — as required by law — established an impeachment committee following petitions submitted by several citizens of the Commonwealth. Per Section 66 of the Constitution of Kentucky, “The House of Representatives shall have the sole power of impeachment.” The committee was established specifically in compliance with Kentucky Revised Statutes 63.030 reads as follows:

  1. Any person may, by written petition to the House of Representatives, signed by himself verified by their own affidavit and the affidavits of such others as he deems necessary, and setting forth the facts, pray the impeachment of any officer.
  2. The House shall refer the petition to a committee, with power to send for persons and papers, to report thereon.”

Sections 66, 67, and 68 of the state constitution outline the process for impeachment. Section 66 states that only the House of Representatives may bring forth articles of impeachment. Should that happen, Section 67 outlines that it must be tried by the Senate. Finally, Section 68 specifies that the Governor or any civil officers shall be liable to impeachment for any misdemeanors in office. The impeachment cannot extend beyond removal from office by the legislative body. The State Senate, in which I am honored to represent you, essentially works as the jury in the event of an impeachment trial. Therefore, I am ethically compelled to avoid comment on any potential impeachment that I may find myself a juror in.

If you have any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues, please call my office toll-free at 502-564-8100 or the legislative message line1-800-372-7181. You can also reach me at (270) 692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov.


Comments are closed