DEI, child labor, adult-oriented businesses: What bills are ‘dead’?

Published 2:45 pm Monday, April 1, 2024

FRANKFORT — The General Assembly returns for its final two days of session in mid-April after a ten-day veto period. Some high-profile bills are effectively “dead.”

Any bills passed by the legislature during the final two days can be vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear, with no opportunity to override his veto. Thus, any controversial bills Beshear doesn’t like have lost their chance this year.

Additionally, with only two days remaining and three readings required to pass a bill, any bills that have less than one reading are dead.

Senate Bill 6: Eliminating DEI

One of the session’s most controversial bills met a shocking fate in the final hours before the veto period.

SB6 would have removed all diversity, equity and inclusion offices and initiatives from Kentucky’s public colleges and universities.

Earlier in March, the Senate passed a previous version of SB6, which would have banned promotion of certain “discriminatory concepts.”

Institutions would also not be able to ask about applicants’ views on or experience with religion, race, sex, color or national origin.

But when the bill got to the House, it underwent major changes, possibly without the permission of the original sponsor, Sen. Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green.

Language from another anti-DEI bill sponsored by Rep. Jennifer Decker, R-Waddy, was added to the bill. In addition to effectively eliminating DEI initiatives,  the threshold for so called “bias incident investigations” would be raised.

According to House Speaker David Osborne, neither chamber was willing to compromise on its preferred language. He said it does not appear that SB6 will be taken up again.

House Bill 255: Loosening child labor standards

Georgetown Republican Rep. Phillip Pratt’s bill removing Kentucky’s guardrails for child labor is dead.

Although it has two readings, Beshear is highly unlikely to allow it to become law in its current state. The bill aligns Kentucky’s child labor standards for 16 and 17-year olds to lower, federal minimum standards.

Under Kentucky law, 16 and 17-year olds can already work up to 40 hours a week while maintaining a 2.0 GPA during the school year. They cannot work between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. on school days.

Federal child labor laws remove all these restrictions.

The aim was to make it easier for Kentucky businesses to comply with the law, Pratt repeatedly explained. He said that oftentimes, employers only check federal labor laws and might “accidentally” be in noncompliance with state law.

HB255 never got a vote in the Senate, and several proposed floor amendments would change the bill entirely to provide money for natural disaster recovery.

Senate Bill 147: Regulating adult-oriented businesses

Sen. Lindsey Tichenor’s bill would prohibit “adult-oriented businesses” that distribute, display or host sexually explicit performances from being located within 933 feet – the length of an average city block – from a place where minors may be present.

It doesn’t explicitly mention drag performances, but language describing them is included. Only performances with “explicitly sexual conduct” would be banned from places like schools, parks, places of worship, recreational areas or any commercial establishment primarily dedicated to children’s entertainment.

A similar bill failed in 2023, and it looks like Tichenor’s second attempt will meet the same fate. SB147 has two readings, so the legislature has time to pass it, but Beshear would ultimately decide whether it becomes law.

Senate Bill 13: Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Act

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill, never got CARR off the ground. The Crisis Aversion and Rights Retention Act would have temporarily removed firearms from individuals in crisis.

The goal was to reduce firearm-related suicides and homicides.

Westerfield openly admitted that CARR was unlikely to pass this session, but hoped it would at least get a committee hearing. It did not, but it’s likely to reappear in future sessions.

House Bill 711: Adding limited abortion exceptions

Another bill that never made it anywhere was Republican Rep. Ken Fleming’s abortion exceptions bill. 

HB711 would have added exceptions for rape and incest within the first six weeks of pregnancy.

It also would have clarified that abortions to remove dead unborn fetuses, ectopic pregnancies or incomplete miscarriages are legal. Lethal fetal abnormalities would also be acceptable grounds for abortion.

House Bill 367: Removing SNAP benefits

After passing the House, Rep. Wade Williams’s bill raising the threshold to qualify for SNAP benefits didn’t progress much further.

Williams, R-Earlington, said his goal was to close loopholes allowing at least 34,000 able-boded Kentuckians without dependents to use food stamps.

The bill would have reestablished an asset test that would disqualify Kentuckians whose savings and non-essential possessions exceed a certain value. It also would have raised the income threshold to qualify from at or below 200% of the federal poverty level to 130%.

Opponents said the asset test disincentivizes saving money, and that removing people’s access to affordable groceries would not have the intended effect on Kentucky’s workforce participation crisis.

Senate Bill 110: Retroactive child support

Another one of Westerfield’s proposed bills fell short this session. SB110 would have allowed mothers to claim child support for the nine months they were pregnant within the first year of their child’s birth.

The bill flew through the Senate before stalling in the House Judiciary Committee. With no bill readings, SB110 is dead this session.

Senate Bill 80: Removing student IDs as voter identification

Sen. Adrienne Southworth, R-Lawrenceburg, introduced about a half dozen elections bills this session, including SB80. None of them made it through the entire process.

SB80, which got the furthest, would have removed student and employee IDs as valid forms of voter identification at the polls. It also would have removed credit and debit cards as acceptable secondary forms of identification.

Southworth’s bill passed the Senate on party lines before stalling in the House.

Secretary of State Michael Adams, Kentucky’s chief elections officer, said he was pleased that SB80 was “stuck.”

Senate Bill 295: Banning vaccine requirements

Tichenor also introduced a bill that would have banned COVID vaccine mandates requirements for school enrollment, employment or medical treatment.

It passed the Senate, albeit with some Republican opposition, but never got committee approval in the House.

House Bill 96: Requiring moments of silence in public schools

Rep. Daniel Fister, R-Versailles, filed HB96, which would have required moments of silence at the start of each school day.

The one to two minute moments of silence could be used for meditation, prayer or any other silent activity.

Opponents argued that the bill was just the latest Republican attempt to bring prayer into public schools. Supporters argued that prayer wasn’t required.

After passing the House mostly on party lines, the bill got stuck in the Senate Education committee.