With time ticking, legislators pass long list of bills

Published 11:06 am Thursday, March 28, 2024

FRANKFORT — Legislators worked late into the night Wednesday, progressing through their final priorities before a key deadline.

Wednesday and Thursday were the last days before the ten-day veto period, a time during which Gov. Andy Beshear can unilaterally reject any bill the General Assembly has passed in the past three months.

The legislature will return for two days in April to override Beshear’s vetoes and take care of other remaining business. The Republican supermajority can and likely will easily do so.

However, if the legislature waited until after the veto period to pass controversial bills, they would have no opportunity to override Beshear’s vetoes.

What did the legislature pass Wednesday?


The Senate passed the final compromise executive budget, House Bill 6, nearly unanimously Wednesday evening.

The 268-page document includes a 3% and 6% increase in SEEK funding in the first and second year of the biennium, respectively. Student transportation costs are 90% and 100% funded, based on last year’s costs.

There is a cap on emergency funding, which would require a special session to approve funding above that threshold in cases of natural disasters.

While the Senate budget included funding for construction of two female juvenile justice detention centers, the final budget does not. It also omits funding to make up for expiring federal child care funding.


This session has been particularly education-heavy. Wednesday was no exception.

Civics education

The Senate nearly unanimously passed House Bill 535, which would require public school students to either pass a 100-question civic test drawn from the official exam given to prospective citizens or take a half credit civics literacy course.

If local boards of education chose the latter option, the curriculum would include principals of U.S. government, the roles of the various levels and branches of government, civil rights and liberties, domestic and foreign policy, political parties and major issues facing government.

Secretary of State Michael Adams said he did not like the current version of the bill and preferred a previous version that would have required the civics course instead of giving schools an option.

A floor amendment that would have made that change, among others, failed on Wednesday. The measure now heads to the governor.


A bill that would prohibit public schools from entering into nondisclosure agreements with educators relating to misconduct involving a minor or student passed unanimously.

House Bill 275 would require principals to document and report any accusations of abusive misconduct, including sexual misconduct, to the superintendent. The superintendent would then have to conduct an investigation to completion, even if the accused teacher resigns before it’s finished.

During the application process, teachers who have been the subject of an allegation, investigation or disciplinary action, and the schools they worked at, would have to share that information.

The Senate version of the bill adds a provision cleaning up last year’s Senate Bill 150, which dealt with a variety of issues involving gender and sexuality.

It clarifies that local boards of education must “respect parental rights” by both banning any human sexuality or STD curriculum before grade 6 and any instruction that studies or explores gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Previously, a language loophole allowed local boards to choose between the two requirements.

Math education

During the 2023 session, lawmakers focused on bolstering early reading education in Kentucky. This year, they’re back to add another subject—mathematics.

House Bill 162, the Kentucky Numeracy Counts Act, would start an early numeracy initiative establishing new standards and supports for students in Kindergarten through grade three.

“We recognize that numeracy is in fact a foundation for our children,” said Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria. “This bill seeks to pursue what are issues that might be holding our children back.”


Cleaning up the voter rolls

House Bill 44 includes several measures to clean up voter rolls. It requires:

  • the Secretary of State and the State Board of Elections to report annually on their efforts to clean up voter rolls;
  • the State Board to create a publicly accessible data listing of how many active and inactive voters are registered at each address to detect duplicate voter registrations; and
  • the Administrative Office of the Courts to make a list of everyone excused from jury duty for not being a U.S. citizen, and have the State Board remove them from voter rolls.

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, said the bill was a collaborative effort between the Secretary of State, the State Board of Elections and the County Clerks’ Association.

The Senate’s version of the bill adds a ban on ranked-choice voting in any Kentucky elections.

Ranked-choice voting is a process by which voters rank their choice of candidates instead of choosing just one in races with more than two options.

If none of the candidates receives at least 50% of the vote, the candidate with the least number of top voter picks would be removed from the race. Voters who chose the losing candidate as their top pick would have their second pick move into the number one spot. Then, the race would be re-tabulated in this manner until a candidate earns an absolute majority.

Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R, said he was glad about the removal of ranked choice voting.

“Election Day is there for a reason; winners are chosen on Election Day,” Wheeler said. “You vote the candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins. We shouldn’t be picking the second, third or fourth option. That is the process, and that’s the way the process has always been done and that’s the way the process needs to stay.”

Ranked-choice voting does not require multiple days of voting, nor does it allow the fourth most popular candidate to win.

HB44 passed 28-8 and goes back to the House, which will decide whether to agree with the ranked choice ban addition or not.


House Bill 53, which would require random hand-to-eye recounts on at least one ballot scanner and a race tabulated on it in each of Kentucky’s 120 counties, passed 34-1.

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, R-Smithfield, said the goal is to verify the integrity of Kentucky’s elections.

Health and safety

Road safety

House Bill 193  would ban people from traveling in or near a highway work zone in a “reckless or negligent manner” that could endanger people or property, regardless of whether anyone is there at the time.

Violators could lose their drivers license. They may incur a $500 fine if nobody is hurt, and between a $5,000 and $10,000 if someone is injured or killed.

It passed 33-3 Wednesday with several Senate changes. It will go back to the House next, which will agree or disagree with the changes.

Addressing sex crimes against minors

House Bill 278 would crack down on sex crimes against minors in various ways. Among other provisions, it would increase penalties for child pornography, solicitation of a minor, human trafficking and rape if the offender is a person in position of authority.

It would also ban superintendents from hiring anyone who is a registered sex offender or convicted of a sex crime.

The original version eliminated the statute of limitations for reporting childhood sexual assault, but a Senate change adds it back.

Another Senate change would require age verification before Kentuckians could access online platforms whose content is substantially pornographic or harmful to minors.