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— Publisher’s Note —
Good morning! The weather is picking up here at Casa Maples. It’s supposed to be sunny and warm today, which is a welcome change.
The political weather also seems to be picking up, both in Frankfort and in Washington. Bills are getting passed that are actually good bills, and other changes are on the horizon that bode well for our state and nation. Let me point out a few.
- The COVID relief package passed the Senate. They made a few changes, so it has to go back to the House for concurrence, but it should be on Biden’s desk in a few days, and the help should be coming before the end of March. This is huge.
- The “For the People Act” passed the House. It is the largest expansion of voting rights and voting protections since the 1964 Civil Rights Act. If implemented, it would protect us from much of the Republican effort to make it difficult to vote. It won’t pass in the Senate, due to the filibuster. Unless …
- There are serious discussions about changing the filibuster rule. Joe Manchin actually said he was open to making it harder for senators opposing a bill to filibuster. And there are growing calls for at least narrowing the use of it. If the filibuster rule is changed so that more of the Biden agenda could pass, that would be another huge deal.
- In Frankfort, the General Assembly is about to pass a bill exempting the seriously mentally ill from the death penalty.
- They are also considering putting a cap on monthly co-pay for insulin at $35, expanding the use of telehealth, and making it easier for quasi-governmental organizations such as health departments and universities to pay their pension debt.
So, even though all is not sweetness and light in our politics, at least we can see some good things happening. Sort of like the green shoots coming up in our flowerbeds.
Let’s hope they continue to come up, and grow into actual laws that make people’s lives better.
Have a great week – get your shot when you can, keep wearing your mask, and get outside to enjoy the weather. See you tomorrow morning.
Today’s Five Things to Know
3/7 update — Positive-test rate rises; state has more new cases than last Sun
The waning of the pandemic slowed in Kentucky Sunday, illustrating public-health experts’ worries of another surge before the novel coronavirus is beaten. (Forward Kentucky)
Kentucky House leadership has quietly tacked controversial school choice legislation onto a new bill before steering it to a committee vote.
House Bill 563, filed by House Majority Whip Rep. Chad McCoy (R-Bardstown) initially called for all Kentucky school districts to create open enrollment policies to allow students from neighboring districts to attend classes and let funding follow. But a proposed committee substitute of the bill, obtained by The Courier Journal, significantly alters the legislation to include “education opportunity accounts.”
Education opportunity accounts are a reprise of tax credit scholarship legislation that floundered repeatedly in previous sessions. It also drew a sharp rebuke from educators and, in one session, opposition from every superintendent in the state. Like scholarship tax credits, EOAs offer a tax credit to people who donate to third-party organizations that then give money to qualifying families for education expenses. (Courier-Journal)
With just six days left in KYGA21, many health-related bills near final passage; here’s a roundup
With just six days left in the General Assembly’s short, odd-year session, many health-related bills remain on the table, and only a few have become law. Here’s a roundup of health-related legislation. (Forward Kentucky)
Rep. Massey files bill to change ‘impeachment’ law so only House members can petition to remove
Representatives Adam Koenig and Ed Massey, Republican members of the House Impeachment Committee, have filed a bill that would allow only members of the House of Representations to file a written petition to impeach a state officer. The petition would have to be signed by two other House members.
Rep. Koenig told WHAS that “We live in an extremely polarized universe and it is being used as a hammer to punish people and to show how smart or effective or mad they are about something. That’s not what impeachment is for.”
Fighting for equal justice in the General Assembly
The Kentucky Equal Justice Center has worked diligently for justice through advocacy in Kentucky’s legislature since 1976. The executive director, Richard Seckel, spoke about the bills they’re watching closely this session, both good and bad. (Forward Kentucky)
Today’s KYGA update
The General Assembly doesn’t hold session again until Thursday, but committees are still meeting each day this week. The agendas for those committees are still in flux; we’ll update this post as their agendas get posted. Note the joint budget committee meeting on Wednesday. (Forward Kentucky)
Recent Content on Forward Kentucky
[new] indicates item not in a Forward Five before
indicates high # of reads, social media shares, or both
[New] Open records shenanigans, abortion amendments, and JCPS reopens – Jazmin and Robert discuss several of the bills making their way through KYGA21, including a bill allowing the AG to prosecute protestors, major changes to the open records law, changes to voting rights, and a constitutional amendment to end abortion in Kentucky. (Podcast)
[New] Not one Republican voted to help Americans in the midst of the COVID Pandemic. Not one. – Let’s scream from the rooftops — Not one Republican voted to help families in dire need. Not one Republican voted to help bring an end to this pandemic. Not one Republican voted to help open schools safely. Not one. (Commentary)
[New] Insulting a police officer could become a crime in Kentucky – A Senate committee advanced a bill Thursday enhancing punishments for crimes related to rioting, including a provision making it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer to the point it could provoke a violent response. (Brief)
[New] Kentucky bill would ban execution for severely mentally ill – Efforts to ban the application of the death penalty to some people with severe mental illnesses ran into resistance Thursday, but the bill mustered just enough votes to be sent to the Kentucky Senate. (Brief)
Important bills are moving – here’s a list – As we head into the home stretch of this year’s General Assembly, the pace of legislation has picked up dramatically. Of all the bills getting hearings and votes, here are some of the more important ones and where they stand. (Backgrounder)
House Democrats just passed the most important democracy reforms since the 1965 Voting Rights Act – These reforms face a challenging path in the Senate, given Democrats’ narrow majority and the GOP filibuster. But, their adoption is critical for preserving American democracy amid unprecedented attack by Republican extremists both in and outside Congress. (News)
You can help Eastern Kentucky with your wallet – You can help the people in Eastern Kentucky by donating to one of these three relief funds, or by buying something on an Amazon wish list. (Action)
Keeping guns from those in crisis is as important as protecting the right to ownership – Not everyone gets the chance to look death in the face and come out on the other side with an opportunity to make an impact and save lives. But on September 6, 2018, the opportunity found me when twelve bullets ripped through my body. (Commentary)
Diverse coalition sends letter opposing gutting of open records law – A diverse coalition of forty-nine groups and individuals have sent a letter to the KY Senate asking them to vote no on a bill that would make significant changes to Kentucky’s open records law, which the coalition believes would cause significant damage to the law. (News)
Credit where due — Repubs in Frankfort pass some GOOD bills – With Repubs controlling pretty much everything in this year’s General Assembly, we give them much grief for some of the horrible bills they sponsor and pass. So, it’s only fair that when they actually pass some GOOD bills, we call those out as well. (Commentary)
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