Higdon: Legislature returns to Frankfort this week for last 2 days of session

14th District State Senator

Sunday, March 26, 2023 — The veto period is upon us, and numerous bills are now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action. The Governor has 10 days to consider whether he will sign them, allow them to become law without his signature, or veto them. Any vetoed legislation will qualify for a legislative override when we return to Frankfort on Wednesday, March 29th. Any additional bills fully passed during the final two days of the session will not qualify for a legislative override.


BOURBON BARREL TAX. First, I want to let you know House Bill 5, bourbon barrel tax legislation that would phase the tax out by 2039 and leave a big revenue hole in our counties in the 14th Senate District, did not receive final passage. It could still pass on the final two days of the session, but I’m continuing to work on this with my House colleagues, Rep. Candy Massaroni, Rep. Sarge Pollock, and Rep. Kim King. I will keep you updated.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA. One of the most significant things to happen in week 7 was the passage of medical marijuana legislation, Senate Bill 47. I supported the bill because it’s been clear to me for a long time that my constituents are in strong support. The bill is narrowly tailored to provide residents with pain and other serious medical conditions access to non-smokable forms.

If enacted, the bill would take effect on January 1, 2025. Before accessing cannabis, patients must register and receive approval for a special identification card. Patients under 18 years old would not be allowed to possess, purchase, or acquire medicinal cannabis without the assistance of a designated caregiver. Senate Bill 47 would also create separate licenses for cultivators, dispensers and producers. It would also give the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services great oversight and latitude in developing regulations.

Several medical conditions could qualify someone to use the product, including cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The bill is now with the House for consideration. A similar measure to Senate Bill 47 was passed in the House last year but did not have enough support at that time to pass in the Senate. If the House approves the measure in the last two legislative days, it will be delivered to the Governor’s desk for consideration.

Significant Senate bills receiving final passage and delivered to the Governor include:

SENATE BILL 4 is a measure to stand by Kentuckians facing high energy costs due to the federal regulations that have decimated Kentucky’s coal industry. It prohibits the Kentucky Public Service Commission from authorizing the retirement of fossil fuel-fired power plants unless the utility can demonstrate it will replace the retired plant with new electricity generating capacity that maintains or improves the grid’s reliability.

SENATE BILL 5 ensures parental engagement in decision-making regarding a student’s access to sexually explicit materials that may be inappropriate or harmful to minors by providing parents with a complaint resolution process.

SENATE BILL 141 included an agreement between counties and cities on the annexation issue.

SENATE BILL 150 does several things, but notably it provides parents with the information they deserve to know regarding their child’s mental health and services offered in school. It also bans sterilizing and ‘gender-affirming’ surgery for anyone under 18.

KIMBER’S LAW. A number of House Bills were also approved this week. One included House Bill 249, or Kimber’s Law. The bill would make the intentional killing of a child under the age of 12 an aggravating circumstance. The measure is named after 3-year-old Kentuckian Kimber Collins, who was beaten to death in 2019. With the way statutes are currently written, the man who killed Kimber was not eligible to be sentenced to life without parole in Kentucky. Instead, the man received a 45-year sentence and will be eligible for parole after 20 years.

HOUSE BILL 594, which bans ‘gray’ machines, was signed into law. Gray machines are gaming machines with cash payouts operating in a gray area of state law. The original bill included an emergency clause, which would have made the legislation take effect as soon as it became law. However, House Bill 594 was amended to remove the clause and allow ample time for all to comply.

Other bills included:

HOUSE BILL 75 allows hospitals to be reimbursed for outpatient services, pulling down federal resources and saving state funds. Under the bill, hospitals would be able to cover inpatient and outpatient services to better stabilize their finances.

HOUSE BILL 153 would prevent the federal government from enforcing its own firearms restrictions or prohibit the General Assembly from enacting new gun laws in the future. It applies to federal laws or regulations enacted on firearms, ammunition and accessories since Jan. 1, 2021.

HOUSE BILL 180 would require health benefit plans to cover biomarker testing for patients diagnosed with cancer and other diseases.

HOUSE BILL 236 would require state public pension funds to base investment decisions on financial risks and returns and not on environmental, social and governance factors, commonly known as ESG.

HOUSE BILL 268 would establish an advisory committee to review Kentucky’s perinatal care system and make recommendations for improving perinatal outcomes within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

HOUSE BILL 547 protects the religious liberty of students and staff in school settings.

You can find a listing of all bills reaching the Governor’s desk by visiting: https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/23rs/enrollment_actions.html.

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 line 1-800-372-7181. You can reach me at 270-692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov.


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