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Politics

Kentucky Republicans begin overriding Gov. Beshear’s vetoes

J. Tyler Franklin
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The Republican-led Kentucky legislature has begun overriding vetoes issued by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

Beshear rejected more than two dozen bills during his designated “veto period,” and on Wednesday lawmakers quickly took up the business of reversing the governor’s actions on the state budget, charter school funding, abortion and a ban on transgender girls from participating in girls sports.

Lawmakers only have two days to consider overriding Beshear’s vetoes and passing any new legislation before the end of the annual legislative session.

There are several other measures advancing at the last minute, including another tornado relief bill and a fix to a “drafting error” that would create criminal penalties for teachers who don’t follow new requirements about how they address race and U.S. history in the classroom.

Since the session ends at midnight Thursday evening, lawmakers won’t have an opportunity to override Beshear’s vetoes of any bills that pass in these final days.

Here’s what’s moving on Wednesday:

Budget

House Republicans voted to override several of Beshear’s line item vetoes to the two-year state budget, though lawmakers did agree to retain several “technical” changes the governor made to the spending plan.

House Bill 1 would offer modest increases for critical state services and leave about $1 billion unspent. It includes raises for state employees, full funding for all-day kindergarten, money to rehab state parks and assistance for the state’s pension systems.

Beshear rejected 22 sections of the bill, including parts that would have provided raises to statewide elected officials and given the state attorney general and treasurer more power.

On the House floor, Democratic Rep. Angie Hatton of Whitesburg said one of the items Republicans are overriding would remove executive branch offices from the Capitol annex without input from the governor’s office.

“That veto was about the hard to understand and seemingly fairly petty removal of executive branch offices from the annex,” Hatton said.

The House voted to override Beshear’s line-item vetoes of the budget 73-24.

Education

Lawmakers began overriding Beshear’s vetoes of several education bills, including measures to fund charter schools, ban trans girls from playing girls sports and create new requirements for how teachers talk about race and U.S. history in the classroom.

Both the House and Senate voted to override Beshear’s rejection of the anti-trans bill, Senate Bill 83. The bill’s sponsor, Henderson Republican Sen. Robby Mills, said the bill would protect girls who don’t want to compete against transgender girls. Similar measures have been blocked in other states for violating the U.S. Constitution’s equal protection clause.

Both chambers also voted to override Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 1, which shifts power over school curriculum and principal hiring decisions from local councils to superintendents. It would also set parameters for how teachers talk about race and U.S. history in school. Republican lawmakers said a “drafting error” ended up in the final version of the bill, which creates criminal penalties for teachers who violate the measure. The bill’s sponsor, Campbellsville GOP Sen. Max Wise promised a “fix” would be inserted into a separate bill advancing in the legislature.

The House narrowly voted to override Beshear’s veto of the charter school funding bill, House Bill 9 52-44. The measure will require school districts to send a portion of their funds to charter schools approved in their areas and mandate the creation of charter schools in northern Kentucky and Louisville.

Tax overhaul

House Bill 8 would lower Kentucky’s income tax rate from 5% to 4.5% next year, and create a path to lower the rate even further in the future. Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner of Louisville rallied to defend the governor’s override, saying the dollars could be better spent helping vulnerable residents.

“This is not a time for us to gamble away general fund dollars,” Willner said. “People are feeling left out of a process, they are feeling their videos are not being heard.”

The plan would cost the state about $1.4 billion every budget cycle, and expand the state’s 6% sales tax to new services like ride shares, short term housing rentals and marketing services.

Republican Party of Kentucky House GOP spokesperson Sean Southard said he believes that Democrats will have a hard time justifying voting for a tax cut ahead of the next election.

“I’d hate to be a Democrat who voted against cutting the income tax come this November,” he wrote on Twitter.

The House voted to override Beshear’s veto of House Bill 8 75-25.

Tightening requirements for public benefits

House Bill 7 would create new requirements for people to keep public benefits like Medicaid and food assistance.

Democratic Rep. Josie Raymond of Louisville said the bill will put up new barriers that will make it more difficult for vulnerable Kentuckians to receive essential services. She said it will create new red tape, worsen outcomes for those who lose assistance, and create higher costs for taxpayers.

Raymond said the bill doesn’t accomplish what supporters said it would.

“It’s not worth passing a bill that doesn’t catch fraud or help people out of poverty,” she said.

Bill co-sponsor Republican Rep. David Meade of Stanford said the bill would cut down on fraud and is a “good start.”

Louisville Democratic Rep. Attica Scott of Louisville, called it the “empty bellies bill” because it would make it harder for Kentuckians to access public assistance. She said tens of thousands of people would lose food assistance and Medicaid under the bill.

The House voted to override the governor’s veto of House Bill 7 74-24.

Stripping executive power 

Lawmakers overrode Beshear’s vetoes of several measures limiting his authority and empowering offices currently held by Republicans, like the attorney general and state treasurer.

House Bill 335 would limit the governor’s ability to appoint members to the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council and other state agencies.

Democrats said they were fearful that several pieces of legislation that the House was voting to override encroached on the executive branch’s authority to govern.

“This is yet another attempt to strip the governor of his powers, or her powers,” said Louisville Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian.

House Bill 740 would reduce the number of times candidates have to report campaign finance contributions and expenses.

House Republicans voted to override Beshear’s veto of the measure 73-25.

And lawmakers overrode Beshear’s line-item veto in the state budget of a provision that would give the governor and other statewide officials a raise. Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville said Republicans were greedily giving themselves raises.

“When we couldn’t find money to give teachers a raise we found money to give ourselves a raise. That’s appalling,” Marzian said.
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