What Will Kentucky Lawmakers Do in Final Days?

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky General Assembly gets back to work on Tuesday.

Lawmakers will be in Frankfort working to override some of Governor Andy Beshear’s vetos and clean up some last-minute business. 

Beshear line-item vetoed parts of the one-year budget passed by lawmakers on Monday. 

“There were no vetoes of specific appropriations, only to language that would limit his flexibility during this unprecedented time to respond decisively in battling the coronavirus or that would hamper the normal activities of state government,” a statement from his office said.

Some of the line-item vetoes to HB 352, the Executive Branch budget includes changes to service rates for the Commonwealth Office of Technology, the budget had maintained the rate schedule from the current fiscal year, Beshear said with the unprecedented increase in unemployment claims the rate has to be adjusted to keep up with demand. 

“This part would prevent the Commonwealth from being able to continue to increase its capacity and people in need would not be able to receive the help and benefits they are eligible for because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) emergency,” the veto message read. 

He also vetoed some provisions of the measure relating to increasing appropriations of restricted funds. 

“This provision would result in halting the work of the some state agencies to provide services to Kentucky citizens and businesses, and prevent their ability to adjust to changing circumstances,” the message reads. “Some of the Families First Coronavirus Act funds will require federal funds to be paid to other state agencies that provide direct services and those funds are expended as restricted funds and will require an appropriation increase.”

He also used his power to line-item veto parts of the revenue measure. He removed the requirement that the secretary of state must also approve any changes made to an election. Beshear says this part of the measure is unnecessary.

“This amendment is also unnecessary because, as shown during the state of emergency relating to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the existing statutory process for ordering changes to an election is effective,” the message read. 

The Republican-led legislature is also expected to override Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 2, the voter photo ID law. 

In his veto message, Beshear said the law would create an obstacle for people to vote. The ACLU of Kentucky says the legislature should be focused on helping to increase access to the ballot box in November not decreasing it. 

“If they are going to come in contravening public health experts recommendations against large gatherings we would hope they are focusing on problems that are addressing the global health pandemic facing Kentucky by expanding access to the ballot box, by expanding access to absentee ballots to allow for no-excuse absentee ballots, by allowing early voting,” said Corey Shapiro, Legal Director, ACLU-KY. 

The law would not go into effect until the November election, however, the ACLU says with the ongoing global pandemic people will be unable to comply with the law. 

“The idea of passing a law that a person cannot comply with the day it’s passed seems cruel and unconscionable,” Shapiro said. “For thousands of people that we know don’t have the photo ID that would be required to vote, to say we are going to pass a law that would preclude them from voting on a day that they can’t comply with the law seems backwards and inappropriate.” 

If the law veto is defeated, the law would require Kentuckians to present a photo ID to vote, if they are unable to afford one they would be able to obtain one free of charge from the state.

Voters would be allowed to use a social security or credit or debit card instead of a photo ID as long as they sign a voter affirmation statement identifying a “reasonable impediment” to having a photo ID, that statement would go to the Commonwealth’s and county attorneys for review.

Those impediments include lack of transportation, inability to afford a copy of a birth certificate or other documents needed to show proof of identification, work schedule, lost or stolen ID, disability or illness, family responsibilities, proof an ID has been applied for but not yet obtained, or religious exception to being photographed.

The ACLU says this law will impact the same group of people who are being hit the hardest by the coronavirus. 

“This measure will disproportionately impact communities of colors and the elderly and these are the very same people who are being most impacted by the coronavirus,” Shapiro said, “It is really unfortunate if they were to override a veto on a measure that we know would disproportionately impact those folks.”

Beshear also vetoed several other bills that lawmakers could take up including HB 336, which would delay gubernatorial candidates from picking their running mate until after the primary in May, but no later than August. Beshear said this bill would contradict the 1992 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution which required Governor and Lt. Governor candidates run as a slate. 

The veto on HB 195 could also be taken up, the measure would allow local governments to post advertisements of government actions online instead of a newspaper. This would apply to local governments of more than 80,000 residents and would still require a one-time posting in a newspaper notifying the public of the full posting online. Beshear vetoed the measure saying it would not provide the cost savings to local government supporters had hoped while reducing access to vital information for those in Kentucky who do not have adequate access to the internet. A similar version of this bill made its way into HB 351, the revenue measure, which Beshear also line-item vetoed for the same reasons. 

Supporters of constitutional amendment known as “Marsy’s Law” are hoping the House takes up SB 15, to create a Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights within the Kentucky Constitution. The legislature passed the same bill in 2018 and it was ratified by more than 60 percent of Kentucky voters only to be shot down by the Kentucky Supreme Court. The measure has passed the Senate and a House committee — only requiring final passage by the full House floor. 

Lawmakers must complete all legislative business by April 15.