The Forward Five – Wednesday, 3/31/21

Five Things to Know Today

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— Publisher’s Note —

Good morning! Last night, at a few minutes before midnight, this year’s General Assembly adjourned sine die. Thus, KYGA21 is in the books.

A fair assessment of the work of our legislature would note that they passed a number of bad bills, refused to use the budget to “go big” on improving the lives of Kentuckians – but then turned around and passed some good bills as well, and worked with the governor to “go big” on spending some of the COVID relief funds.

The morning after, it’s hard to say which bills will turn out to be the most consequential. The tax-credits-for-vouchers bill would certainly be right up there. So would the limits on no-knock warrants. And the relief funds will have a significant impact on parts of the state.

So, for the next eight months, we get to figure out exactly what they passed, and how to implement those things. They won’t be in session again until January of 2022 (an election year) – unless the governor calls them into special session.


This will be the last Forward Five for this week. Just like our leges, I need a little time off.

And like I said, watch for an all-subscriber newsletter coming soon (probably over the weekend). It will have some important news about Forward Kentucky.

Stay safe, wear your mask, get your shot. We’re making progress, but we’re not there yet. Let’s finish, together.

Bruce Maples, publisher
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Today’s Five KYGA21 Things to Know

Dozens of bills passed on last day of session

While Monday’s General Assembly agenda was filled with overriding Governor Beshear’s vetoes, Tuesday’s was filled with passing last-minute bills. Here’s a list of some of the more significant ones:

  • Constitutional amendment banning abortion — This will be on the ballot in the 2022 election. As long as Roe v Wade is not overturned by SCOTUS, this law has little meaning; it is more of a preparatory law in case the court throws abortion regulation back to the states. But, as Robert Kahne pointed out with his usual good analysis, the amendment’s real purpose is probably to get conservatives to turn out to vote in the mid-terms.
  • No-knock warrants — This bill places limits on no-knocks, but doesn’t outlaw them completely, as Rep. Attica Scott’s “Breonna’s Law” would have done. It does add new requirements to the use of no-knock warrants.
  • COVID relief funds — As had been rumored, spending bills appeared on the last day that allocates some of the American Rescue Plan funds coming to the state. The bills spend $1 billion, of the $2.4 billion Kentucky will receive, on a wide range of items, including expanding broadband access, full-day kindergarten, various infrastructure projects such as sewer and water systems, replacing and renovating school facilities, and paying back the loan Kentucky took out to pay unemployment claims. Also included is $10 million for investment in the West End of Louisville.
  • COVID liability protections — This bill protects businesses from liability lawsuits due to the coronavirus. It’s proponents say it only protects businesses if they are making a “good faith” effort to comply with guidelines, while its opponents say the language is so vague that it will wind up protecting bad actors as well.
  • Impeachment legal fees — Requires anyone filing an impeachment petition to pay the legal costs associated with dealing with the petition, including hourly rates for any lawyers involved.

All of the above bills, except the anti-abortion constitutional amendment, can be vetoed by the governor with no recourse available to override the vetoes, since the legislature has adjourned sine die.

Some bills that didn’t make it

  • Gas tax — There was much discussion about increasing the gas tax to boost the road fund, as the transportation budget is severely under-funded. In the end, the bill never got to the floor.
  • Subpoena power for Louisville police review board — This was an important bill for Mayor Greg Fischer, who stated publicly how disappointed he was that it didn’t pass in some form. Without subpoena power, the review board can request police officers and others to come testify, but the request can just be ignored.

Many other bills never even got a hearing in committee, such as raising the minimum wage, or a statewide fairness ordinance. By the same token, a number of bad bills also failed to make it. Check the Bill Trackers on the web site to see which ones.

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Forward Kentucky is an independent media organization focused on progressive news and issues in Kentucky. Our objectives are to provide journalism that is objective, policies that are effective, and commentary that is progressive. Our goal is to help Kentucky become all that it can be through government that works, for all. We are "the progressive voice for Kentucky politics."

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