Kentucky lawmakers ended their legislative session for the year shortly before midnight Friday after approving and sending to Gov. Matt Bevin several major bills.
The House gave final passage to House Bill 626, which will create the “Work Ready” scholarship program for students with at least a 2.5 grade point average who are pursuing an associate’s degree at community colleges or universities. The state budget includes $25.3 million to fund the program for its first two years.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, compared Work Ready to the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990, the landmark law that overhauled the state’s public schools and improved per-student funding.
“This is something that’s still going to be around long after all of us are gone,” Stumbo told reporters.
The House also sent Bevin a bill that would change the state’s driver’s licenses so residents can meet federal requirements for boarding domestic flights. The measure updates driver’s license procedures to comply with the federal Real ID Act.
To get a new license, beginning in 2019, Kentucky drivers will have to pay $48 and bring in a copy of their birth certificate and two proofs of residency.
The new driver’s licenses would be optional, but anyone who does not have a new license by Oct. 1, 2020, would have to use a U.S. passport, a passport card or some other acceptable form of identification to board a domestic flight. It costs $135 to get a passport and takes about six weeks to get one. A passport card costs $55 and cannot be used for international travel.
The House also passed a second revenue bill to help pay for state operations, this time without the assortment of tax breaks that prompted Bevin to veto the previous revenue bill. To create a vehicle for the new measure, House leaders gutted House Bill 80, which had been a transparency bill that would have expanded the Kentucky Open Records Act to cover private companies that run public utilities.
The House gave final passage to the state’s road plans that identify several billion dollars in highway and bridge work over the next six years that will be addressed based on how it’s prioritized. It also gave final approval to House Bill 4, which increases penalties for trafficking or possessing synthetic drugs.
Across the Capitol, the Senate sent Bevin Senate Bill 296, which creates the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs.
The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee started the day by making drastic changes in three bills. Two of them later died in the House and one failed to get out of the Senate.
The Senate budget panel gutted House Bill 449, which previously dealt with waste-to-energy facilities, and created a bill aimed at bringing more transparency to area development districts and the pension programs of retired state workers, teachers and legislators.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer dubbed it the “Super Transparency Bill.” He called it “a first step” to shed light on how the state programs and agencies are managed.
The Senate later approved it on 37-0 vote and sent it to the House, which did not consider it.
The Senate committee removed from HB 127 a provision dealing with academic credit for military experience, and replaced it with language to stop state funding to Planned Parenthood clinics. The vote was 8-2. A similar Senate bill has languished in the House for much of the session. The full Senate later approved the amended HB 127 on a 32-5 vote and sent it to the House, which never considered it.
The Senate budget panel also changed HB 147 to raise individual campaign contribution limits from $1,000 to $2,000. The limit would be indexed for inflation every odd-numbered year using the previous year’s Consumer Price Index
Thayer said 39 states have raised their campaign contribution limits and that Indiana and Virginia have no limits. The House has previously approved a similar bill pushed by Stumbo
But the full Senate never voted on the amended HB 147.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said after the session ended that the Senate did not take up the measure because there is pending litigation in federal court on the issue that involves Sen. John Schickel and two Libertarian candidates. All three men sued the state last year to overturn laws limiting campaign donations to $1,000 and prohibiting gifts to legislators from lobbyists.
Stivers also said the Senate did not confirm 20 to 25 appointments made by former Gov. Steve Beshear. He said they included Beshear’s farms chief, Roger Thomas.