FRANKFORT, Ky — Lawmakers will be back to work in Frankfort on Tuesday with a laundry list of things to get to in a short amount of time.
The 2020 General Assembly session is a budget year and lawmakers have their work cut out for them. The main issue on everyone’s mind is, of course, the 2020-2022 budget, Governor Andy Beshear has promised an “education first” budget vowing to put more money towards public education and institute a $2,000 across the board raise for public school teachers a promise with an $80 million price tag.
State economists have projected the state’s general fund will grow about 1.6 percent in 2020 but predicts growth to slow down for 2021 and 2022. The grim outlook means new revenue sources need to be explored, Beshear ran on using revenue from expanded gaming to help pay for the increases in education funding but Republican lawmakers have said any legislation that includes casino gaming is not going to pass, but sports betting does. The legislation was filed during the 2019 session to legalize sports wagering in the commonwealth but it failed to gain approval from lawmakers, new legislation has been filed for this year and it has strong support among many lawmakers.
“Right now sports betting seems like it has the most momentum behind it, depending how it’s done it could bring in between $20-$40 million,” Beshear told reporters Monday, “To give you a concept new textbooks for our kids would cost about $17 million, and we’ve got to look for more revenue options that are out there.”
Bill sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, estimates with surrounding states legalizing sports wagering Kentucky’s proceeds will be on the lower end.
Money could be saved by reforming the criminal justice system in Kentucky. Beshear says his office is looking at reforming the correctional system. The cost of Kentucky’s correctional system continues to increases as jails become more and more overcrowded. What those reforms will be remain to be seen but bail reform has been an idea tossed around for several years and could possibly see some movement during this session.
Medical marijuana is another issue that will likely come up during the 2020 session. Rep. Jason Nemes, R-Louisville, has filed similar legislation to the 2019 bill and believes it has a shot of passing this year. Beshear is in support of medical marijuana but believes it can be done in a way that will increase the state budget, something Republican lawmakers disagree with.
Another area that will be addressed during the session is funding for Senate Bill 1 (2019), the School Safety and Resiliency Act, which passed during the 2019 session but did not have any funding attached to it. It’s estimated it will cost about $120 million to fund the act, Beshear says his budget will begin to include funding for the mandates.
“I believe we have a commitment to at least start the various tasks that are inside of that,” Beshear said. “I believe we will at least start down the process of ensuring that we fund that bill.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, has also said a resolution to investigate the 2015 Purdue Pharma settlement will be filed on the first day. Stivers says it’s important to investigate the $24 million settlement to determine if there were any “ethical lapses, malpractice, fraud, or criminal conduct.”
Several measures to curb the youth epidemic of vaping will also be discussed during the 2020 session including adding a tax to e-cigarettes and banning the sale of flavored vapes at gas stations.