The first day of the 2021 Regular Session was dramatically different than my first session last year with face masks, social distancing, and the use of technology to allow many of our members to participate virtually from anywhere on the Capitol campus. However, when we held up our right hands and repeated the words of the Oath of Office together, one thing became very clear — we are still the Kentucky General Assembly, and we are going to continue to be the people’s voice.
Before I share an update on what we accomplished this week, I want to again thank the people of the 18th District for putting their faith and trust in me. It is my greatest honor to represent you all and be your voice in Frankfort. This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. I am committed to supporting policies that benefit the people of this district and help Kentuckians across the state forward.
If you are interested in following the legislature’s daily activities, you can keep track of that through the General Assembly’s official website at legislature.ky.gov. There are links on the website that will take you to the live broadcast of House Floor action and committee meetings, as well as the bills before us this session and our legislative calendar.
Below are the priority bills of the Kentucky General Assembly that we were able to pass during this first week of the 2021 Regular Session:
HB 1 — Framework for Remaining Open in the COVID-19 Pandemic — This legislation provides clarity and reassurance for businesses, schools, parents, and nonprofits. If passed into law, any of these entities may remain open and operational if they follow a comprehensive operating plan detailing how they will adhere to safety guidelines. HB 1 also prevents the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) from restricting, modifying or suspending in-person non-custodial parental visitation for children in state care and requires the CHFS to establish guidelines for long-term care facilities that choose to allow in-person visits if it is deemed necessary to the residents’ health and mental well-being. Major relief for employers who would otherwise be forced to pay as much as $100 more per employee in unemployment insurance contributions is also included.
HB 2 — Protecting Life — HB 2 grants the Attorney General the authority to seek injunctive relief and civil or criminal penalties to prevent violations regarding abortions or administrative regulations. By giving the Attorney General more authority, we are one step closer to ensuring there are people in place to protect unborn children’s rights.
HB 3 — Giving Kentuckians a Voice in Cases Against the State — This measure expands access to the courts and ensures that Kentuckians across the state will have a voice in who decides these suits. HB 3 would allow Kentuckians who file suit against state government or a state elected official to do so in the county of their residence and also allows for virtual hearings to increase accessibility.
HB 4 — Flexibility with Legislative Session Schedules — If passed by the Senate and approved by voters, HB 4 would eliminate the requirement that the General Assembly adjourn the 60-day session in even-numbered years by April 30 and the 30-day session in odd-numbered years by March 30. The provisions of HB 4 also allow legislators to add up to 10 additional legislative days if three-fifths of the House and Senate vote that they are necessary.
HB 5 — Expand Oversight on the Reorganization of Boards and Agencies — HB 5 would require all executive branch reorganizations and board reorganizations to be approved by the General Assembly. The five previous governors used the executive order to reorganize a cabinet, agency, or board a total of 446 times.
HB 10 — Liability Protection for Individuals, Businesses, Churches, Schools, Etc. — No person or organization acting reasonably to prevent the spread of COVID-19 should fear a lawsuit. HB 10 would provide liability protection from civil lawsuits related to COVID-19 if the entity in question is making a good-faith effort to conform to the current safety guidelines.
SB 1 — Better Defining Executive Authority in States of Emergency — SB 1 balances the need for Kentucky to act quickly in an emergency with ensuring that a governor does not overstep the boundaries of executive branch authority. The measure limits to 30 days any Emergency Orders issued by a governor that place restrictions on the functioning of schools, colleges, private businesses or non-profits, political, religious, or social gatherings, or places of worship, or imposes mandatory quarantine or isolation requirements.
Also, a Governor could not issue another emergency order based upon the same or substantially similar facts and circumstances as the original order without prior approval of the General Assembly. Additionally, the General Assembly, by joint resolution, may terminate a declaration of emergency at any time.
SB 9 — Born Alive Act — SB 9 states that medically appropriate and reasonable life-saving and life-sustaining medical care and treatment must not be denied to any born-alive infant. If it were to become law, any violation by a medical provider could result in felony charges among other penalties.
I left Frankfort after meeting on Saturday, something the legislature rarely does, but we felt was necessary this year. We will reconvene on Monday for the sixth legislative day of the 2021 Regular Session and plan to adjourn on Wednesday, Jan. 13 until Feb. 2. In the meantime, I can be reached during the week from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. (EST) through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Samara.Heavrin@lrc.ky.gov. Don’t forget that you can follow me on Facebook @KYRepSamaraHeavrin.