Nothing is dead yet.
With the 2022 General Assembly on a brief hiatus, many bills once in the headlines, on medical marijuana, sports betting and other issues, now appear stalled ... blocked ... thwarted ... but nothing is dead yet.
The odds did not look good for any bill blocked ... held up ... stymied.
However, there are procedural maneuvers that can revive nearly any bill and slip it onto the governor’s desk within just a few hours in two weeks.
So nothing is dead yet.
“I’m optimistic,” Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, told supporters of his sports betting bill on Twitter. The bill is presently obstructed in the Senate.
“In this business, you have to be optimistic to succeed,” Koenig said. “We have two weeks to round up the votes in the Senate. It took four years to get it through the House, and the Senate has only had it for two weeks.”
Senate Bill 195, to provide up to $50 million in state aid to help resettle international refugees fleeing war in Kentucky.
SB 195 was aimed at the massive refugee crisis in Eastern Europe caused by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, although it wasn’t limited to helping Ukrainians, said its sponsor, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights.
The Senate budget committee passed the bill March 16. The full Senate has not acted on it.
House Bill 136, to legalize the medical use of marijuana in Kentucky.
For the second time in the last few years, the House passed the medical marijuana bill — by a vote of 59-to-34 on March 17 — but the Senate failed to act on it. Senate Republican leaders have declared themselves skeptical of the medical value of marijuana.
“I have said all along I wouldn’t stand in its way if we had the votes, but we do not have the votes in the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said a week after the House vote.
House Bill 606, to legalize and tax sports betting in Kentucky.
The House passed HB 606 by a vote of 58-to-30 on March 18. But it stalled in the Senate. It was assigned to the Senate Licensing and Occupations Committee and has received its necessary floor readings for a chamber vote, so the Senate might act on it when lawmakers return from their veto break on April 13 and 14.
As with medical marijuana, sports betting does not generate enthusiasm among certain Senate GOP leaders.
“To say that it’s a tax generator, it’s not. I think it’s just a small item on a menu for entertainment. So it really created no energy with me,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said shortly after the House vote, according to WEKU.
GOP floor leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said on Wednesday that Senate leadership agreed to give it enough readings to see if sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, could “find the votes” between now and April 13, when the veto break concludes.
Thayer, who is a proponent of the bill, called it “a longshot,” though he’s glad it’s still alive.
House Bill 313, to set restrictions on nonprofits posting bail for jail inmates.
As amended, HB 313 would prohibit bail nonprofits from getting involved in cases where the bond exceeded $5,000, or if the defendant faced a domestic violence charge or was getting court-ordered treatment for addiction.
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A push for the bill gained energy when the Louisville Community Bail Fund paid a $100,000 bond to release Quintez Brown, charged with shooting at Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg. But after the House easily passed it with a 76-to-19 vote on March 1, the bill became lodged in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
GRAY MACHINE BAN
A bill to ban so-called “gray machines” did not receive a vote in the Senate after passage in the House earlier in March.
Gray slot machines, also known as skill or nudge games, began to pop up in Kentucky convenience stores, bars and restaurants about a year ago and now there are estimated to be hundreds operating without clear legislative approval. Rep. Killian Timoney’s, R-Lexington, bill would shut down the wave of machines beginning to flood Kentucky. Timoney said that he was bothered by the industry asking for legislative permission after it had already entered the state.
Thayer said that the bill was passed over in the Senate’s orders of the day on Wednesday because Senators were “all over the place on it” and that he wasn’t sure if the Republican caucus had the votes to pass the bill.
Stivers said that he believes that House Bill 608 has a greater shot at passing this session than House Bill 606, but that it’s difficult to forecast.
House Bill 28, to prohibit public entities from requiring their employees or students to disclose whether or not they’re vaccinated against COVID-19
The bill breezed through the House with a 71-to-22 vote on March 10.
But it ran into a roadblock March 28 when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee had too few yes votes to report it favorably. The sponsor, Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, blamed the chairman, Sen. Ralph Alvarado, for deliberately letting the bill fail by calling it for a vote before she had whipped up enough support for it.
In response, Alvarado said Maddox had urged the public to pressure the committee to hold a vote on HB 28.
House Bill 379, to exempt the sales tax — currently 6% — on hundreds of millions of dollars in capital investments related to the construction, retrofitting, equipping and upgrading of data centers.
The data centers incentive has been sought for a while by a trade association representing tech companies including Amazon, Facebook and Google. This year, HB 379 was approved by the House Committee on Small Business and Information Technology on Feb. 22. But it was recommitted to the House budget committee three days later.
The legislature passed a similar version of the incentives bill last year. Gov. Andy Beshear vetoed it, saying it gave away public money “based merely on the promise of a project” and that there was “a lack of discretion to say ‘no’ to a project that is certain to fail.”
House Bill 196, to require residential pool owners in Kentucky to erect barriers around their pools to keep out young children.
HB 196 would have been known as the Ava Grace Jenkins Law, for a 2-year-old McCracken County girl who died in 2019 after climbing into a neighbor’s pool and drowning.
The House Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection approved the bill on Feb. 8, but it sat in the House for nearly two months until House leaders recommitted it to the House budget committee March 29.
Senate Bill 170, to ban production of intoxicating hemp-derived products, including Delta-8 THC.
The Kentucky Hemp Association is battling Kentucky State Police in court over raids of shops selling hemp products as part of a crackdown on Delta-8. Hemp growers are on one side of the debate over the legality of Delta-8, with state police and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture on the other.
The Senate voted 23-to-13 to pass the ban bill on March 9, but its progress halted in the House.
The sponsor, Sen. Paul Hornbeck, R-Shelbyville, recently told the Northern Kentucky Tribune that he is trying to craft a compromise amendment to restrict the sale of Delta-8 to Kentuckians age 21 and older.