Lawmakers return Tuesday for second part of legislative session

Published 11:30 am Monday, February 6, 2023

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Lawmakers return to Frankfort on Tuesday for the second part of the legislative session with plenty of unfinished work ahead of them before the 30-legislative day session wraps up on March 30.

Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, R-Greensburg, says one of the first things they plan to act upon is legislation to cut the state income tax by one-half percent, starting in 2024, which was passed by the House during the first week of January. “This reflects the strong robust economy in Kentucky, along with the largest rainy day fund ever, combined with the fact that we have been able to pay down some of our pension liabilities over the course of the last 10 years.”

Last year, lawmakers approved dropping the state income tax from 5% to 4.5%. The legislation now before the Senate, House Bill 1, would further reduce it to 4%. There is a mechanism in place to eventually bring the state income tax rate to zero over a period of several years, if state surpluses exceed certain levels.

The measure has already had two readings in the Senate, meaning it could have its final reading and a vote this coming week, if it clears the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee.  That panel’s next scheduled meeting is Wednesday.

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Another bill Givens says he also expects to Senate to act upon quickly is HB 2, which provides an additional $16 million to the veterans nursing home being built in Bowling Green. The money is an offset for HB 11, which takes $17 million back from the Transportation Cabinet as matching funds for building electric vehicle charging stations in the state, since the federal government said the match would not be needed.

Legislation he predicts lawmakers will approve is on juvenile justice. “There are ongoing concerns across the state, which calls upon us as legislators to shale things up a little, invest money where it is needed, especially the crisis we have in the juvenile justice centers. We’ve got to get this right.”

Besides the topics Givens mentioned, House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, says he doesn’t expect to see any earth-shattering legislation enacted, but primarily clean-up efforts, although there will be some priority issues coming up.

“Rep. Tipton has been working tirelessly on some teacher recruitment and retainment legislation, which is going to be a very significant priority for us,” he stated, referring to Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, who chairs the House Education Committee.

Osborne says he also expects regulation of so-called gray machines to be addressed. Those are gambling devices that have sprung up at businesses across the state during the past few years and one, he says, is a difficult animal that defies logic in the legislative process.

“You have those who are traditionally pro-gambling people and support expanded gambling that may be against the gray games. People who are traditionally opponents of any type of expansion of gambling are supportive of them. It creates a very, very odd dynamic.”

Osborne adds, one dynamic that can’t happen is allowing them to remain unregulated in Kentucky. “No matter what side of the issue you are on, we know that unregulated gambling is problematic.  Not only does it bring the normal woes associated with gambling, it also brings an element that Kentucky has quite frankly not faced.  While we have been slow to expand gambling, we’ve always had great control and have always kept unsavory elements at arm’s length.”

Last year, both the House and Senate passed their own measures to ban the machines, but the two chambers couldn’t agree on a final version.