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This week at the State Capitol

FRANKFORT – State lawmakers voted to override vetoes, approve proposed constitutional amendments and give final passage to numerous bills in this week’s final days of the General Assembly’s 2020 session.  In gaveling the session to a close on Wednesday night, lawmakers ended a session that unfolded differently than anyone could have predicted when it began in early January. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic affected not only the way people interacted in the Capitol as a result of social distancing, it also impacted the issues lawmakers cast votes on as COVID-19 relief bills were approved and lawmakers overhauled the state budget proposal to account for the economic uncertainty that lies ahead.  Although the state budget usually outlines spending for a two-year cycle, the plan lawmakers approved this year covers only one year. Lawmakers intend to come back next year, unless the governor calls a special session before then, and plan the budget for the following fiscal year when they have a better idea of the ways the pandemic will affect the economy and state revenue.  Gov. Andy Beshear recently issued line-item vetoes to portions of the budget, but both the House and Senate responded with a majority of members voting in the session’s final hours to override those vetoes. As a result, the budget that will go into effect on July 1 matches one that lawmakers sent to the governor at the beginning of this month.  The one-year $11.3 billion spending plan is described as austere budget that spends less than many lawmakers expected just a few months ago before the pandemic reached Kentucky. Still, the budget will keep steady the basic per-pupil funding for Kentucky schools and support safety measures envisioned when lawmakers approved a major school safety bill last year. It also provides the full actuarial-recommended level of funding for state public pension systems.  In addition to overriding the budget vetoes, lawmakers voted this week to override the veto of Senate Bill 2, a voter ID measure. The legislation will require voters to present photographic identification at the polls, starting in the general election in November. Voters without a photo ID will be able to show another form of ID and affirm, under the penalty of perjury, that they are qualified to vote. The new law will also allows poll workers to vouch for a voter they personally know even if that person has no valid ID. Another provision will provide a free state-issued ID card for individuals who are at least 18 and do not have a valid driver’s license.  This week, lawmakers also approved proposed constitutional amendments that will be voted on by Kentuckians in the November election.  Senate Bill 15 would add a crime victims’ “bill of rights” to the state constitution. Widely known as Marsy’s Law, the proposal 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.  House Bill 405 would amend the state constitution to increase the term of office for commonwealth's attorneys from six years to eight years beginning in 2030 and increase the term of office for district judges from four years to eight years beginning in 2022.  For a complete list of bills that have passed into law this year, go to the online Legislative Record at https://apps.legislature.ky.gov/record/20rs/law.html. Most new laws – those that don’t contain an emergency clauses or specify different effective dates – will go into effect on July 15.  To offer feedback to state lawmakers, call the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

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