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— Publisher’s Note —
Good morning! There was a scene a few days ago in Frankfort that no one could have predicted.
There was a budget hearing, and one of the finance people from the administration was briefing lawmakers on what might be coming from the American Rescue Plan, if it passed.
And the lawmakers in the hearing, who normally are looking to cut-cut-cut (either because they have to or because they want to), were almost speechless about the money coming in. One observer used the word “giddy” to describe their reaction.
There were, of course, comments like “remember this is one-time money” and “we have to be smart about this.” But even so, the possibilities suddenly opening up completely changed the discussion.
Let me say this: When it comes to the budget, we need to cut our leges some slack. First, they have to do a budget as a global pandemic is hitting. In response, they pass a one-year basic budget, then have to go home. They have no idea what is going to happen.
Then, a year later, they come back in a short session but still have to do another one-year budget, and this time the pandemic is still going but getting better, so there’s still no way to know when we are going to be back to “normal.” And in the midst of their trying to craft a budget with still many unknowns, here comes the rescue bill from Washington, dumping some unknown amount of money into their laps.
And they’ve got six legislative days left to finish the budget and get is passed in both houses. Wow.
Here’s my hope: I hope that for once, everyone in Frankfort can put aside their partisanship and their own political aspirations, and work together to craft a budget that moves our state forward in significant ways. THAT would be a memorable moment, for sure.
Bruce Maples, publisher
Today’s Five Things to Know
3/10 update — Beshear: ‘We are going to get back to a normal’ that he hopes is kinder and gentler; Rocky Adkins: ‘Let’s not kick it out of bounds’
As the pandemic continued to wane, Gov. Andy Beshear and his chief lieutenant for Eastern Kentucky went to a vaccination center near Ashland on Wednesday to encourage people in the region to get immunized to the coronavirus. (Forward Kentucky)
No-knock warrant measure passes House committee
Senate legislation that would restrict the use of no-knock search and arrest warrants passed a House committee on Wednesday. This is the Stivers bill, not the “Breonna’s Law” bill filed by Attica Scott. The committee also heard from Scott, and Stivers said he would consider incorporating some of Scott’s bill into his. The Dems on the committee voted “Pass,” saying they would wait to see if Stivers actually did that. (Forward Kentucky)
Tax-credit scholarship bill nears vote in Kentucky legislature
A measure to create a tax-credit scholarship program is moving through the Kentucky General Assembly. But bill sponsor Chad McCoy (R-Bardstown) removed the measure’s most controversial feature — he struck K-12 private school tuition from the list of items the scholarships could fund.
“We took out private school tuition,” McCoy told the joint Appropriations and Revenue committee Wednesday afternoon. “And I want to be clear: I personally hate that…But quite frankly enough people complained that this was just a way to fund private schools.” (WFPL)
After uproar, Senate changes bill that weakens open records act. It still shields lawmakers.
A Kentucky Senate Committee approved a bill to weaken Kentucky’s Open Records Act, after changes were made in attempts to make the bill more palatable when its swift passage in the House caused uproar.
The original bill would have significantly weakened Kentucky’s open records law, by limiting requests to residents of the state and letting lawmakers shield themselves from open records inquiries among other provisions. The committee substitute attempted to address some of those issues.
While the bill passed the committee by a 7-2 margin, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, and Sen. Brandon Storm, R-London, said they were concerned about the language in the bill that exempts the Legislative Research Commission from open records law. “I’m a little bit worried about the legislative piece,” McDaniel said. “I’m a little bit worried about the LRC director and the approval there.” (Herald-Leader)
This time, McConnell votes for Merrick Garland
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted Wednesday to confirm Merrick Garland as President Joe Biden’s attorney general, five years after he blocked the longtime judge’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. McConnell recently telegraphed his plan to support Garland’s nomination this time around, and this week the Senate held a final vote to install him as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
On Wednesday, he publicly addressed his decision: “I’m voting to confirm Judge Garland because of his long reputation as a straight-shooter and legal expert. His left-of-center perspective has been within the legal mainstream. For the country’s sake, let’s hope our incoming attorney general applies that no-nonsense approach to the serious challenges facing the Department of Justice and our nation.”
Today’s KYGA update
Our daily KYGA21 update includes three sections: a list of actions on key legislation from last session, a list of actions on key legislation planned for today, and the published calendar for today. (Today’s update)
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