Here’s What’s Been Filed So Far For The 2017 Kentucky General Assembly

Dec 6, 2016

Credit Alexey Stiop, 123rf Stock Photo

Lawmakers have already pre-filed scores of bills ahead of the 2017 legislative session, though likely priorities like anti-abortion legislation, permission for charter schools and tort reform have not yet been filed.

Instead, a mix of familiar proposals, like transparency measures for the state’s pension systems, and a handful of new ones, like removing the $500 filing fee to clear a criminal record, have been suggested for the next session, which begins Jan. 3.

Republicans will have supermajorities — more than 60 percent of the seats — in both legislative chambers as well as control of the governor’s mansion for the first time in state history.

Senate President Robert Stivers said last week that the legislature might not have time for “broad-based social issues” during the session and would instead focus on economic initiatives.

According to the AP, incoming House Speaker Jeff Hoover expressed similar feelings, but said the legislature would also swiftly pass anti-abortion legislation.

There aren’t any anti-abortion bills on the list of already-proposed legislation, though last year the state Senate passed a bill requiring abortion seekers to view or hear a description of a sonogram image of their own fetus.

Here’s what’s already been proposed:

Right-to-Work:” This bill would forbid employers from requiring workers to become a member of a union or pay union dues in order to get a job. Supporters of the proposal say it would make the state more attractive to manufacturing employers looking to locate here. Opponents say it would drive down wages.

The policy has long been thwarted by Democrats in Frankfort, but now that Republicans are in control, it will have an easier time passing. Right-to-work was a major plank of Gov. Matt Bevin’s campaign last year.

REAL ID: Kentucky is out of compliance with stricter driver’s license rules passed by the federal government more than 10 years ago. This measure would bring the state into compliance, requiring driver’s licenses to be issued by the state Transportation Cabinet instead of county clerk’s offices, and verified through a federal immigration database.

The bill passed during this year’s legislative session but Bevin vetoed it, citing “tremendous opposition and misunderstanding” of the issue. The measure is opposed by both libertarian-leaning groups like the Tea Party as well as the ACLU of Kentucky, who argue that the policy would make citizens’ identities vulnerable.

Pension Transparency: This bill would require the state pension systems to disclose more information about fees and commissions received by those who manage the state’s investments. It would also require the retirement systems to operate under the same purchasing guidelines as the rest of state government.

A handful of other pension bills have been proposed, including one that would reveal how much lawmakers make from their public pensions and another that would require lawmakers to participate in the pension system for most state workers — Kentucky Retirement Systems. The pension fund for lawmakers has 79 percent of the money it needs to make future payouts; the state workers’ fund has 16 percent.

Criminal Justice Reform: A handful of bills have been proposed to try and help people with criminal records assimilate with society. One bill would reclassify three crimes that are currently Class D felonies as “gross misdemeanors.” The new category would include flagrant non-support (not paying child support), second degree forgery and second degree criminal possession of a forged instrument.

Another bill would “ban the box,” forbidding employers from requiring job applicants to disclose prior criminal history and another seeks to reduce the $500 fee for expunging a felony conviction to $200.

Blue Lives Matter:” This bill would make it a hate crime to target police, firefighters or emergency personnel in Kentucky. Proposed over the summer in the wake of several officer-involved shootings of African-Americans, the bill has garnered 10 Republican sponsors.

Allow Local Gun Laws: This bill would allow Lexington and Louisville to pass their own gun control laws. State law currently preempts local governments from regulating firearms and ammunition.

Elections In Even Years: This measure would move elections for statewide offices like governor, state auditor and attorney general to the same years as presidential elections.

Supporters say the bill would save state and local government money on election costs and would reduce election fatigue. Opponents say state elections would get drowned out by national campaigns.

Boost Police, Firefighter Bonuses: This bill would increase the amount police officers and professional firefighters receive in annual bonuses from $3,000 per year to $4,000 per year. Volunteer fire departments would also receive $11,000 per year instead of $8,250.

The bonuses come out of the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program, which was criticized in a state audit last year for unnecessary and excessive spending.

Unclaimed Life Insurance: Would require life insurance companies to regularly check death records to find out if beneficiaries have died. A similar bill passed in 2012, but the new version would apply retroactively.

The issue was at the center of a lawsuit between life insurance companies and the state Department of Insurance, which dropped a lawsuit over the matter when Bevin took office.

No-Jail Jailers: There are 41 Kentucky counties that don’t have a jail but still have a jailer — a constitutionally required office in Kentucky. Many of those jailers don’t do much, according to a 2015 investigation from WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

This bill would require local fiscal courts to clarify jailer duties and require jailers to submit quarterly reports on their activities.