Education Bill Sparks Debate

The Kentucky General Assembly moved forward with much of the previously negotiated legislation during the second day of a pandemic special session. The House Education Committee failed to clear an education bill when it first met Wednesday afternoon but reconvened and found agreement. The Senate will likely vote Thursday on companion legislation. Lawmakers are considering identical bills in each chamber to pass the legislation more quickly. The strategy allows the House and Senate to reconcile the bills after passage, shortening the length of time it would typically take to pass separate bills.

House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1 focus on the pandemic’s impact on schools. While some lawmakers suggested that the bills did not go far enough, others claimed they overreach. Mask mandates became a focus of division ahead of the vote. The Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 1 on Tuesday, but floor amendments await senators when the chamber votes on the bill on Thursday. House Bill 1 cleared committee on its second try late in the day.

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee debated Senate Bill 2, which is designed to help ease staff shortages at hospitals, allow for more local options in pandemic health care decision making, and urge more new treatments for COVID-19. Committee members passed the bill 8-2. House Bill 2 mirrored the same language as Senate Bill 2 and cleared a House committee on Tuesday 15-5. Both bills could face votes in their respective chamber on Thursday.

Each chamber’s Appropriations and Revenue Committee passed House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 3 on Wednesday. Legislators voted in favor of reappropriating COVID relief monies that were not needed for their intended purpose.

Senate Bill 4 awaits a vote of the full Senate after passing committee on Tuesday 9-1 with one “pass” vote. If adopted, lawmakers would go without pay during veto recess periods of special legislative sessions. The House version of the bill has not received a committee hearing.

House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 5 both unanimously cleared committee on Wednesday. The legislation allows for more flexibility upon negotiating investments of $2 billion or more.

Leadership waived the required readings for the bills to get them prepared for passage by the close of Thursday. House Joint Resolution 1 passed both chambers in a single day, and Governor Andy Beshear signed the measure on Tuesday. That joint resolution extended some emergency orders until January 15, 2022, when the General Assembly will be back in Frankfort for the 2022 Regular Session.