Final Day of 2023 Session Brings Flurry of Bills

The last day of the 2023 Regular Session of the General Assembly went late into the night and saw the passage of several measures. Among the bills sent to the governor was a KLC-opposed bill that targets city revenue. Governor Andy Beshear signed the measure Friday morning.

House Bill 5 phases out the bourbon barrel tax over the next 20 years, even though companies built several facilities with tax breaks granted by local governments because of the promised tax revenue.

Senators passed the bill 23-14, despite strong words of opposition from senators who represent areas with a large number of bourbon warehouses. Senator Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) noted that his district, which covers Marion and Nelson counties, has the most bourbon production and storage facilities in the state. The City of Bardstown is considered the “Bourbon Capital of the World” and hosts the Kentucky Bourbon Festival every year.

Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton, Loretto Commissioner Josh Ballard, and Marion County Judge/Executive David Daugherty warned the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee about the dire consequences the bill would have for their communities. Speaking on the Senate floor, Higdon pointed out that legislators did nothing to offset the massive revenue hit the legislation would have on cities and counties. He acknowledged that taxpayers would end up paying the price. “That is my opposition to this bill,” he said. “It’s a tax increase.”

The House voted by a 60-39 vote to concur with the Senate’s changes. Both yes votes ‒ the 23 in the Senate and the 60 in the House ‒ are the requisite amounts needed as it is a revenue bill.

Legislators also sent two high-profile measures to the governor on the final day of the 2023 session. The House passed Senate Bill 47, the medical marijuana bill, by a 66-33 vote. The bill establishes a list of medical conditions that qualify for medical marijuana, bans smoking the drug, and has a delayed effective date of Jan. 1, 2025.

Additionally, the Senate passed House Bill 551 to legalize sports betting. The governor signed both in a Friday morning ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda.

The legislature also unanimously passed House Bill 353, a KLC initiative that removes fentanyl test strips from being classified as paraphernalia unless the product is utilized in conjunction with importing, manufacturing, or selling fentanyl or fentanyl analogs. In all, legislators passed 14 KLC initiatives in the 2023 session.

Legislators will not convene again until January 2024, unless the governor calls a special session. The governor has 10 days to consider all measures passed in the final two days of the session. Legislators will not be able to override any vetoes.