The Kentucky legislature officially wrapped up the 2022 Regular Session last Thursday night, capping off what will go down as one of the most productive and effective sessions in history. I share regularly that my mission as your legislator is to pass good, long-term public policy that provides Kentuckians with the opportunity to build a better life and make the state a better place to live and work. That is exactly what we achieved during the past 60 days. We arrived in Frankfort with a full agenda and leave with a long list of legislation that puts Kentuckians first.
While we passed many pieces of legislation, here are a couple of examples of the key bills we passed:
Balanced and Fiscally Responsible Budget: From the start of session, one of our main priorities was passing a fiscally responsible budget, and that is what we did. We approved a $31 billion budget that includes record-breaking investments in education, workforce development, health and family services, and public pensions. The budget includes $4.5 billion each fiscal year for kindergarten through 12th grade public education, $130 million for full funding for full-day kindergarten, more than $3 billion in funding to maintain existing roads and bridges as well as build new where necessary, $274.5 million in transportation funding for school districts, salary supplements, and $7.4 million to support school-based mental health programs. We also included $100 million for business site development in rural areas. The budget also invests in our social workers with $25.6 million allocated in the first year for raises, and then a $61.7 million increase in the second year. I cannot wait to see how all of these investments will lead to a brighter future for the commonwealth.
Highway Construction Plan: Another investment in our future is HB 242, which is our biennial highway construction plan. Each one of Kentucky’s 120 counties is getting record funding for improvements in safety, mobility, congestion, and bridges. This legislation includes funding for the Brent Spence Bridge, the I-69 corridor in Henderson, and the widening of the Mountain Parkway in Eastern Kentucky. While these are three of the largest projects in the legislation, there are many smaller projects that will create safer roads. Roads lead us to the future, with more economic opportunities and an improved quality of life. In addition to HB 242, we also adopted a two-year budget for Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet. That bill, HB 241, includes funding for programs like an additional $4 million to increase access to driver’s license and permit testing, and $11.4 million to be divided equally among the state’s 57 general aviation airports.
Pro-Life Omnibus Bill: HB 3, also known as Humanity in Healthcare, is Kentucky’s largest piece of pro-life legislation ever passed. Within the measure, a woman seeking a chemical abortion must receive a prescription from a physician, and it requires the physician to schedule and pursue a follow-up visit in order to ensure no conditions have developed as a result of the chemical abortion. It also states that physicians must ensure that at least one parent of a minor seeking an abortion is consulted. The bill would require that parents receive notice of their right to take responsibility or relinquish their child’s remains within 24 hours of the procedure. HB 3 also includes language which would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. This language was added in the event the Supreme Court upholds Mississippi legislation it is currently reviewing as constitutional.
Public Assistance Reform: Kentucky’s public assistance programs have not been significantly reformed since the 1990s, and this year the General Assembly took the step to reform an outdated system. With HB 7 we wanted to make sure that the people who need public assistance programs had access to the benefits they qualify for while ending benefits for those who are not eligible. We toughened penalties on public benefit fraud and added in a community engagement program for able-bodied adult Medicaid recipients without a child or dependent. The legislation is meant to emphasize the importance of work, and it will ensure the eligibility of those who qualify for programs like food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Tax Modernization: Another big step the legislature took this year was modernizing our outdated tax code. HB 8 would gradually eliminate the state personal income tax with the first decrease scheduled to lower the rate to 4.5% on January 1, 2023. Economists believe this first decrease will leave an estimated $500 million in taxpayer pockets. To ensure there is enough revenue to trigger decreases in the future, HB 8 would place a sales tax or a user fee to services like ride share companies, temporary rental services like AirBnB, security systems, bodyguard services, valet services, and lobbyists. It is another example of the legislature’s commitment to grow the state’s economy and put more money back into Kentuckians’ pockets.
Protecting Women’s Sports: The Save Women’s Sports Act prohibits those who are biologically male from participating in women’s and girls’ school sport teams. SB 83 requires any schools regulated by the Kentucky Board of Education and postsecondary institutions that participate in athletic competitions to designate team sports for students in grades six through 12 as boys, girls, or coed. The language reads that the sex of the student who wants to participate in a sport would be determined by what is on their birth certificate and a signed affidavit from a physician.
Safeguarding Religious Freedoms: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw restrictions put in place that stopped people from attending in-person worship services. HB 43 addresses this issue, stating that in a state of emergency, places of worship cannot be deemed unessential. It recognizes that religious freedom is essential to our commonwealth and prevents state and local governments from prohibiting religious services during a state of emergency.
Reducing the Motor Vehicle Tax: HB 6, which permanently lowers the motor vehicle taxes for Kentuckians, became law in March, and we are already seeing the benefit of this measure as motor vehicle taxes are frozen at last year’s rate. The bill ensures property valuation administrators (PVAs) under the Kentucky Department of Revenue only use the average trade-in value, not the clean trade-in value, as the standard when assessing the value of motor vehicles for tax purposes. I received an update on this measure before we adjourned, and it looks like those who paid their motor vehicle tax before the bill became law will be receiving refunds in the mail in the next couple of weeks.
In the last two days, we passed more crucial pieces of legislation and overrode many of the Governor’s vetoes. It is the Governor’s privilege to veto bills he does not like, but it is the legislature’s authority to overturn those vetoes and set the policy for Kentucky. Conservatives hold 75 seats in the House Chamber, a clear reminder that Kentuckians want leadership that defends their values, fights for their rights, and works to create opportunities.
As we wrap up with this year’s session, I want to emphasize I am proud to represent the people of the 18th district. I was sent to Frankfort by you to create positive policy, and this session we achieved just that.
As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. Feel free to contact me via email at Samara.Heavrin@lrc.ky.gov. If you would like more information, please visit the LRC website www.legislature.ky.gov.