Article by Mike Wynn, Legislative Research Commission Public Information Officer
FRANKFORT — The final days of the 2022 legislative session are well in sight, and lawmakers are redoubling efforts to count votes and move bills, including some high-profile measures this week on gambling and medical cannabis.
The Kentucky General Assembly has nine days left in the 60-day session, and many of the most-watched bills from this year are hanging in the balance, including the state’s historic executive branch budget, which is poised to top $100 billion.
Lawmakers met in conference committee on Wednesday and Thursday night to begin negotiating a budget deal between the House and Senate, and talks are expected to continue next week.
The late meetings foreshadow even longer hours ahead as legislators debate, amend and otherwise prepare dozens of additional bills for final passage.
This week started with a jolt as the House advanced 22 bills during a marathon floor session on Monday. Measures related to juvenile justice, unemployment insurance, and penalties for trafficking fentanyl, among many others, all cleared the floor.
The Senate also kicked off the week by giving final passage to House Bill 263 – known as Kami’s Law – which would increase the penalties for abusing children under 12 years of age.
Much of the attention shifted toward medical cannabis and gambling as the week continued.
The House advanced a massive package out of committee on Wednesday that included four separate measures on gambling. Two of those bills, which would legalize most forms of sports betting and ban electronic “gray” machines, advanced off the House floor Friday.
The medicinal cannabis bill – House Bill 136 – also cleared the House floor on Thursday after a long and impassioned debate.
It would legalize some forms of cannabis as a treatment option for people with cancer, chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic nausea and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The legislation also calls on officials to track cannabis prescriptions through the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system.
In addition to those measures, many other bills were moving through the process this week. That includes legislation related to:
Fentanyl: House Bill 215, called “Dalton’s Law,” would make importing fentanyl, carfentanil or fentanyl derivatives a Class C felony. Offenders would be required to serve at least 85% of their sentence and would not be eligible for pretrial diversion under the bill. It cleared the House floor on Monday.
Felon student aid: Senate Bill 163 would allow some inmates and felons to access state aid for college, including funds from the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship, known as KEES. The bill passed off the Senate floor Wednesday.
Refugee relief funds: Senate Bill 195 would earmark $50 million to assist refugees from Ukraine and other countries. That includes grants to help families relocate. The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved the bill on Wednesday.
Abortion: With some exceptions, Senate Bill 321 would prohibit abortions at 15 weeks of gestation and redefine the term “pain-capable unborn child” in state law. It moved off the Senate floor on Wednesday.
KSU Board: Senate Bill 265 would direct the governor to name replacements for the Kentucky State University Board of Regents by April 4. The bill received final passage on Thursday and was sent to the governor.
School boards: House Bill 121 calls on school boards to provide a public comment period of at least 15 minutes during each regular meeting. It would also require rules around civility to remain in effect during comment periods. The bill cleared the Senate floor on Thursday.
Child abuse: House Bill 270 seeks to combat child abuse by teaching young students in Kentucky schools to speak up when they are victimized. The Senate Education Committee advanced the measure Thursday.
Religious freedom: House Bill 43 would prevent houses of worship and other religious organizations from being singled out for closure during a state of emergency. The bill passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Thursday.
Transgender athletes: Senate Bill 83 would prevent male-to-female transgender students from participating in girls’ sports, starting in the sixth grade. It moved off the House floor on Thursday.
Public assistance: House Bill 7 calls for a major overhaul of Kentucky’s public assistance programs with a focus on work requirements and battling fraud. It passed off the House floor on Thursday.
The General Assembly will return Monday for day 52 of the session, and Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to follow a bill’s progression through the chambers.
Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.