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HomeLocal NewsState GovernmentLegislative Update: 3/15/23

Legislative Update: 3/15/23

FRANKFORT– Exciting news from the Kentucky Senate this week, as my bill, Senate Bill (SB) 241, passed overwhelmingly off the Senate floor with a vote of 34-1. This bill seeks to streamline and improve operations in the Department of Fish and Wildlife by allowing the Department to make its conservation easement acquisitions and work with outside parties to complete transactions.

SB 241 is an important step forward in advancing a three-state collaboration with Virginia and Tennessee to establish the Elk-Habitat Initiative in partnership with the Nature Conservancy and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. The initiative would include 54,000 acres of land in Knox, Bell, and Leslie counties and allow hunting and other recreational activities. This bill would greatly benefit Kentucky’s natural resources and economy, and I’m proud to have sponsored it. It now goes to the House for further consideration, where I’m hoping they pass it into law.

As the latter portion of the 2023 Regular Session approaches, there is a sense of anticipation and urgency in the air. With time running out, legislators are gearing up for what promises to be a flurry of activity on the Senate floor next week. Bills that have been sitting on the back burner for months will finally see the light of day, as lawmakers race against the clock to push through as much legislation as possible before the session comes to a close. The stakes are high, and the pressure is on. Will the Senate be able to make the most of the time remaining, or will crucial bills fall by the wayside? Only time will tell.

Two bills related to juvenile justice in Kentucky have been advanced off the Senate floor with broad, bipartisan support this week. Earlier in the year, I served on a legislative work group that was established to review ongoing issues in the state Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). The group spoke with staff from facilities around the state, stakeholders, and numerous officials from all levels of the government to provide insight. The group’s efforts resulted in the formulation of two bills, Senate Bill (SB) 162 and Senate Bill (SB) 158, that propose various reforms to improve the juvenile justice system in Kentucky.

SB 162, based on the efforts of a legislative work group, aims to address issues within the DJJ including understaffing, a culture of self-preservation in management, fear of retaliation on the frontlines, a lack of faith in leadership, a breakdown in communication, and a lack of services for youth with severe mental illness. The bill calls for a regional model of detention, a compliance division, improved data tracking, increased training, and better treatment options for children with severe emotional disturbances or mental illness. It also seeks to enhance salaries and staffing ratios inside facilities and strengthen oversight of the state’s Juvenile Justice Advisory Council. SB 158calls for an independent performance review of DJJ detention facilities to be completed by mid-October. Both measures passed unanimously in the Senate and now go to the House for further consideration.

Legislators must address these issues within our juvenile justice system due to the serious concerns that have arisen, including increased violence, behavioral and mental health issues, and complaints regarding the treatment of juveniles in the system. The DJJ has faced greater scrutiny, pressing the need for immediate reform. Improving the juvenile justice system is important for the safety and well-being of Kentucky’s youth and to help them avoid adult corrections in the future.


SB 7 prohibits any deduction from the wages of a public employee for dues, fees, or charges associated with a labor organization or for political activities without written authorization from the employee. It also forbids public employers from assisting labor organizations in collecting funds or financial information for political purposes. Additionally, any dues deducted from a public employee’s wages would be required to be used only for purposes related to compensation. These provisions are yet another attack on unions, hindering their ability to collectively bargain. For these reasons, I voted no. However, the proposal passed 27-8. 

SB 156 establishes a statewide reading research center in Kentucky to improve literacy rates among students. Under the proposal, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will direct the research center and establish annual goals and performance objectives. The KDE is also tasked with annual programming and funding recommendations for the center. The bill mandates that the KDE must select the center through a competitive proposal process by July 1, 2024, for a five-year contract. The measure advanced in the Senate with unanimous consent. 

SB 192 allows an investor-owned electric utility to apply for financing through securitization for extraordinary costs and costs associated with the retirement of electric generation assets. The proposal outlines the application process and the handling of proceedings by the Public Service Commission and requires their decisions on securitization to be based on fairness, justice, reasonableness, and the public interest of utility customers. Furthermore, it establishes a formula-based mechanism for reconciling over- or under-collection of the securitization surcharge on customer bills. SB 192 was given passage by the Senate unanimously. 

SB 247 gives students the option to remain in the same school when changing their residence within the same school district. The goal of SB 247 is to ensure that students have stability in their education when moving within the same school district, and minimize the potential disruption to their academic progress. I voted yes because the bill would provide students and families’ greater flexibility and support during times of transition. It passed the Senate unanimously. 

HB 146 proposes changes to the unemployment insurance system by requiring the Office of Unemployment Insurance to inform claimants approved for benefits of additional benefits, training opportunities, and financial aid resources available to them. The bill also creates a comprehensive list of conditions that the secretary must consider when determining whether work is suitable for a claimant. Furthermore, it seeks to increase the minimum state average unemployment rate from 4.5% to 6.5% and the minimum weeks of benefits available from 12 to 16 weeks. Under HB 146, claimants with a defined return-to-work date or recall within 16 weeks of filing their initial or reopened claim would be removed from the classification system. The bill brings us in tow with federal law and passed off the Senate floor unanimously. 

All Senate bills passed this week now go to the House for further consideration, where they may be subject to amendments before returning to the Senate for a final vote. House bills passed without Senate amendments now go to the Governor to be signed into law. 

With only six days remaining, I suspect next week to go late into the evenings as members race against the clock to have their bills heard and passed. The final days of the legislative session can be intense, with lawmakers striving to prioritize their agendas and legislative priorities addressed before adjourning. It is an exciting and pivotal time for the Kentucky General Assembly as we work to deliberate and pass meaningful legislation that benefits all citizens of the commonwealth. 

For more information on the 2023 session, visit the legislative record online at www.legislature.ky.gov. There, you can track bills, watch live and archived coverage of committee meetings, search legislator contact information, learn about the legislative process, and view informational materials.

If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, feel free to email me anytime at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711. 




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