Only three legislative days are scheduled for next week. If the calendar holds:
- The legislature will consider bills through this Wednesday (Day 26, March 8).
- Thursday, March 9 through Monday, March 13 (excluding the weekend) are considered “Working Days” during which the legislature will work, but no official action may be taken.
- The following Tuesday and Wednesday are slated for Concurrence, although the General Assembly rarely limits action to concurrence only.
- The veto recess begins on Thursday, and concludes with the return of the legislature on Wednesday, March 29.
- The session adjourns Sine Die on Thursday, March 30.
On Monday, House Democrats pulled dozens of bills off the Consent Calendar – the list of non-controversial bills that are considered in a single vote to expedite floor action. Rather than keeping a limited schedule and delaying action until later in the week, GOP Leadership kept the members in the chamber and voted on every bill until adjournment during the 11:00 hour Monday evening.
Friday punctuated the week as HB520, which would allow for public charter schools, passed the committee in the morning and the House floor in the afternoon. Governor Bevin testified in a forceful display of support for the measure. Governor Bevin, using the term “disgusted,” indicted the bill’s detractors as placing money and power above student achievement. The contentious hearing featured raucous supporters on both sides of the issue, forcing the Chairman to ask for decorum. The bill allows for charter schools across the state, with local school boards declared the charter’s authorizers, except in the major cities of Louisville and Lexington, where the mayors (currently both Democrats) are given that authority. A committee substitute removed a statewide virtual learning provision and clarified that there will be no changes to the way in which state dollars follow students across districts.
Governor Bevin continues to leave his mark in both the national political scene and within the legislature. On Tuesday, he was mentioned by name in President Trump’s address to the joint session of Congress. On Thursday, he appeared with the sponsor of a wildly popular measure to essentially declare its death for this session. SB226, sponsored by Sen. Joe Bowen, would have created a separate board and governance structure for the County Employee Retirement System (CERS). CERS is one of five systems included in the greater Kentucky Retirement System (KRS), and it is dramatically better funded than its counterpart Kentucky Employee Retirement System (KERS). Its momentum was squashed when the Governor advocated against it and its sponsor shared doubts that it could pass the House at this late hour. The entire system is subject to a three-part audit, and the Governor declared that if the auditors recommend CERS separation is the preferred way to fix the system, then he would consider supporting the measure in the future. Other bills of note include the passage of SB 4.
The medical review panel bill is finally on its way to the Governor’s desk following a four-year effort. The floor debate lasted well into Wednesday evening, and the Senate concurred in the House’s changes to the bill. It is one of the final pieces of the major reform agenda that moved quickly through the Senate in Week 1, though this one stalled out until now as final details were hashed out.
SB50, the school calendar bill, passed the House Education Committee late Thursday evening. The legislation, two years in the making, creates options for local school boards to start the school year after Labor Day while maintaining the same amount of instructional days as the early starters.