Legislative update: Week three of the session

Published 2:02 pm Wednesday, January 24, 2024

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By Sen. Greg Elkins

Guest Writer

The Kentucky General Assembly reconvened in Frankfort on Tuesday after observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to start the third week of the 2024 Regular Session.
This week’s notable development was the unveiling of the biennial budget proposal by the state House of Representatives. The proposed bills, House Bill (HB) 6 and HB 1, are now available for review at Bills – Legislative Research Commission. With these proposals in hand, the Senate will begin its review and formulate recommendations. I am eager to participate in this process as your elected voice in the Senate. I will advocate for Bath, Clark, Menifee, and Montgomery Counties and my eastern portion of Fayette County, which all fall within our 28th Senate District. I will keep you updated on the pertinent details of the budget as it progresses.

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I’m continuing to work on several policy items, including a bill allowing tinting material to be applied to windshields as long the light transmittance is not less than 70 percent. It wouldn’t let the tint be red or yellow. You probably notice that driver-side windows are often tinted, but on front windshields, the only tint is at the top of the windshield. If I can garner support among my colleagues, my bill would follow federal motor vehicle safety standards and provide drivers with reasonable relief on roadways. I’m not sure about you, but I sometimes feel blinded by some of these new LED headlights on vehicles. I reviewed the laws in Ohio and Hawaii, currently the only states allowing a whole windshield to be tinted. I’m a big believer in our founding fathers’ vision for our constitutional republic, and I think state and local governments are laboratories for our republic. Rather than recreating the wheel, I think it’s important to look at policies that have worked elsewhere that can apply here in Kentucky. My bill is Senate Bill 46. While plans are always subject to change, I expect the bill to get consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee this week (week four of the session).

There was an uptick in floor action this week as we passed several Senate bills (SB), including SB 10. This proposed measure aims to amend the Constitution of Kentucky (Section 95) by shifting elections for state constitutional officers to even-numbered years. The objective is to address voter fatigue, boost participation, enhance cost-efficiencies for local governments, and fortify the stability of government at various levels.

Despite recent bipartisan efforts to expand voting access, the 2023 general election saw an 8.7 percent decrease in turnout compared to four years prior. The amendment is anticipated to save local governments about $20 million annually and the state approximately $1.9 million annually in those years that an election would no longer occur. Perhaps the most convincing argument favoring the measure is that voters would be given an additional year free from political campaign ads, mailers, and road signs. All indications are that voters are fatigued, as Kentucky holds elections three out of every four years. We are an outlier, with only a few other states holding odd-year elections.

If the Kentucky House of Representatives ultimately passes SB 10 and is backed by the majority of Kentucky voters, the amendment would be made to the Constitution of Kentucky. Elections for statewide offices would still occur every four years, starting after the November 2027 election. An additional year would be added to the term of officers elected that year, with the subsequent election set for 2032.

Other bills receiving approval this week include SB 24, which seeks to refine the landscape of managed care organizations contracted by the Department for Medicaid Services. Under its provisions, the department is now limited to engaging with no more than three such entities, a strategic move aimed at enhancing efficiency and optimizing service delivery.

SB 17 also advanced through the Senate. This bill focuses on easing the regulatory burdens related to death certificates for county coroners and vital statistics. This legislative effort is designed to alleviate workloads and set realistic timelines for forensic studies, contributing to a more streamlined and effective system.

To bolster Kentucky’s bourbon and spirits industry and boost tourism, SB 62 successfully passed with a reduced passenger capacity for riverboats. The new threshold, set at 40 or more passengers, facilitates the legal service of alcoholic beverages on these vessels, supporting economic growth and enhancing the appeal of communities along Kentucky’s riverways.

Lastly, SB 63, having garnered approval, proposes a meaningful change by renaming the current Investments in Information Technology Improvement and Modernization Projects Oversight Board to the Information Technology Oversight Committee.

Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort.

You can learn more about these bills and others by visiting legislature.ky.gov and following legislative coverage at KET.org/legislature or on the LRC YouTube Channel. Thank you for staying engaged in the legislative process. You can reach my office by calling 502-564-8100 or emailing me at Greg.Elkins@lrc.ky.gov. It is an honor to serve you in Frankfort.

Senator Greg Elkins, R-Winchester, represents the 28th Senate District, including Bath, Clark, Menifee, and Montgomery Counties and an eastern portion of Fayette County. Elkins is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Local Government, State Government, Families and Children, and Health Services. He is a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services. Elkins is also an Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee member.