From the LRC Press Office:
FRANKFORT — An endless variety of instruments may be used for power-wielding, politics and governance. But the tool of choice for enshrining a historic shift of power in Kentucky this week was a Phillips-head screwdriver.
Just minutes after lawmakers convened the General Assembly’s 2017 session on Tuesday, a Capitol caretaker walked to the front of the House chamber with screwdriver in hand. After a minute’s worth of twisting screws into the mahogany of the Speaker’s rostrum, he stepped away and the gaze of a standing-room-only chamber fell upon his handiwork.
There, for the first time in 96 years, the name on the bronze nameplate affixed to the chamber’s focal point was a Republican’s. The moment highlighted that Kentucky has, for the first time, Republican control of both legislative chambers, as well as the governor’s office.
This ascendency of Rep. Jeff Hoover to the House Speaker’s chair and the arrival of a new Republican 64-member supermajority in the House this week certainly marked the turning of page in Kentucky politics. But, though there were moments of celebration and pageantry, the session’s first week wasn’t all about fanfare, or settling in, or even getting accustomed to the new dynamics in Frankfort. It was largely about action.
Over the course of five days, members of the Kentucky House and Senate pushed seven significant bills through the legislative process and delivered them to Gov. Matt Bevin’s office. Because emergency clauses were added to the bills, each one will go into effect the moment the governor signs his name to them.
What do the newest laws in our commonwealth do? They affect pregnant women, unborn children, economic development officials and job recruiters, members of labor unions, university students, construction workers, manufacturers, open government advocates and citizens in every corner of this state. More specifically:
- Senate Bill 3 will expand openness in government by making information about the retirement benefits state lawmakers open to viewing by the public.
- Senate Bill 5 will prohibit a woman from having an abortion if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.
- Senate Bill 6 will prevent employees from being enrolled in labor organizations or having money withheld from their earnings for union dues unless they give permission in writing.
- Senate Bill 12 will reorganize the University of Louisville board of trustees by establishing a new, 10-member board.
- House Bill 1 will make Kentucky a right-to-work state. Under this measure, membership in a labor union would optional instead of mandatory for workers at unionized workplaces.
- House Bill 2 will require a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows. Women could decline to see the ultrasound images if they choose.
- House Bill 3 will repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. That action will remove a guaranteed base wage to construction workers on certain public works projects.
In other business this week, lawmakers took care of matters typically required before they can start passing laws, such as adopting rules and electing leadership, which included the re-election of Sen. Robert Stivers as president of the Senate.
Senate and House members have now wrapped up the first part of the 2017 session and will return to their home districts for a scheduled break. They will come back to the Capitol on Feb. 7 to convene the second part of the session.
If you would like to offer feedback on the issues confronting Kentucky, you can share your thoughts with state lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.