FRANKFORT – Although the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2020 session reached its halfway point this week, much more than half of the workload of this session likely lies ahead.
After seven weeks of legislative activity, hundreds of bills have moved closer to becoming law, although fewer than ten have reached the governor’s desk to be signed. That’s typical at this point in a session. It’s likely that the pace will progressively increase in the days ahead and that the number of bills sent to the governor’s desk could exceed 100 by the time the legislative veto recess begins in early April.
One of the lengthiest legislative debates so far this year was held on Thursday as members of the House considered – and ultimately approved – a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. Under an amendment added to the bill, qualifying conditions for the use of medical marijuana would include chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and nausea or vomiting.
If House Bill 136 becomes law, the measure would establish policies for the cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medical marijuana. Patients who qualify to receive a registry card to obtain medical marijuana would not be able to use the medicine in a form that could be smoked. They wouldn’t be allowed to grow marijuana at home either. Local governments would be able to prevent dispensaries from locating in their areas, if they choose.
The bill was approved by the House on a 65-30 vote on Thursday. It now goes to the Senate for further consideration.
In other business this week, lawmakers cast votes on numerous other measures, including bills on the following topics:
Diabetes. House Bill 12 would limit patient costs for a 30-day supply of insulin to $100. The legislation was approved by the House 92-0 on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate.
Marsy’s Law. A measure to add a crime victims’ “bill of rights” to the state constitution was approved by the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 15—widely known as Marsy’s Law— would specify in the state constitution that crime victims have the certain rights, including the right to be notified about court proceedings, the right to reasonable protection from the accused, and the right to be heard in hearings. If approved by the full Senate and the House, the measure would be decided on by Kentucky voters this fall.
Lawmakers considered Marsy’s Law legislation two years ago and approved the measure, which sent it before the states’ voters in the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Though a majority of Kentucky voters cast votes in favor of Marsy’s Law, the Supreme Court invalidated the measure with a ruling that said the voting ballots should have provided the entire text of the proposed amendment rather than a summary of it.
Public assistance reform. House Bill 1 seeks to reform the way public assistance is provided in Kentucky, with an eye toward preventing fraud while offering assistance to people seeking to move beyond public assistance and into the workforce.
Key provisions of HB 1 would require most cash assistance beneficiaries to use a single electronic benefit transfer card for all programs with penalties for misusing the card. Other provisions would provide “transitional” benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and allow implementation of a Medicaid work requirement should state matching funds required to cover Kentucky’s expanded Medicaid population reach a certain level. Additionally, those with earnings between 138-200 percent of the federal poverty level who no longer qualify for Medicaid because of increased income, but who otherwise qualify for Medicaid, could participate in a state health insurance option. The program would provide the optional insurance to a qualified individual for 12 months or longer.
House Bill 1 was approved by the House 57-33 on Friday and now goes to the Senate.
Transportation secretary. Senate Bill 4 would no longer make the selection of the state transportation secretary solely a decision of the governor. Instead, the bill would create a Kentucky Transportation Board to be responsible for submitting a list of transportation secretary candidates from which the governor would make a selection. The governor’s choice would have to be confirmed by the Senate. The bill passed the Senate 25-8 on Wednesday and now goes to the House for consideration.
Citizens are encouraged to share their feedback with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.