FRANKFORT, Ky. — Two major bills on maternal health and college politics began their journey through the Kentucky General Assembly this week while other measures on voting, teacher misconduct and criminal justice continued to inch forward.
Lawmakers have met for six straight weeks in the 2024 legislative session, and close to 100 bills have passed at least one chamber so far. Another three dozen were heard in committee this week before lawmakers gaveled out on Friday – day 28 of the 60-day session.
Among them was House Bill 10, an omnibus measure aimed at supporting maternal and infant health care and reducing the high mortality rate for mothers in Kentucky.
The legislation would require health plans to cover pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum care along with in-home treatment for substance use disorder. It would also require plans to cover labor and delivery costs and all services and supplies related to breastfeeding.
Dubbed the “momnibus” bill, the bipartisan measure cleared the House Health Services Committee Thursday with a 15-0 vote and two “pass” votes. It now heads to the full chamber for consideration.
Another bill drawing attention this week was Senate Bill 6, prohibiting colleges and universities from discriminating against people who refuse to support certain viewpoints on political or social issues.
The legislation includes a list of 16 “discriminatory concepts.” They range from theories about meritocracy and the United States to beliefs about privilege or guilt based on a person’s race or sex.
Campuses could not require faculty, students, or staff to endorse such concepts as a condition of employment or to obtain academic benefits. In addition, campuses could not use discriminatory concepts in training or require students to take courses on such concepts as an academic prerequisite.
SB 6 also calls on colleges and universities to offer resources on free speech and viewpoint diversity during student orientation.
The legislation precipitated a long debate in the Senate Education Committee Thursday. Supporters said the bill would protect free speech and promote viewpoint diversity while critics said it would harm academic freedom and undo crucial work to improve inclusion on campus.
SB 6 passed out of committee 10-2 and now heads to the full Senate.
Also in the Senate, lawmakers continue to work on the state’s two-year budget, which advanced out of the House last week.
Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights and chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said Friday that lawmakers in that chamber have given the House proposal a high-level review and will spend the next few weeks digging deeper and crafting a Senate version of the plan.
Here’s a look at some other bills moving this week:
Breast Exams: House Bill 115 seeks to eliminate co-pays and cost-sharing requirements for high-risk individuals who need follow-up diagnostic imaging to rule out breast cancer. The measure cleared the House floor Monday.
Divorces and Property: House Bill 155 would allow courts to consider a violent felony conviction of a spouse when it comes to dividing marital property during a divorce. Only convictions that occurred within the prior five years of the divorce filing could be considered. The House passed the bill Monday.
Sex Crimes: House Bill 207 would create felony penalties for possessing, trafficking, importing or promoting the use of a child sex doll. Offenders who digitally alter photos of children to create child pornography would also face felony charges under the bill. HB 207 advanced off the House floor Monday.
Cell Phones in Schools: House Bill 383 calls on school districts to develop a policy that forbids students from using cell phones during instructional time. The bill includes some exceptions for emergencies and learning experiences. The House Education Committee passed the bill Tuesday.
Border Security: Senate Resolution 123 calls on the governor to support efforts underway in Texas to secure the southern border. The Senate adopted the resolution on Tuesday. A similar measure was adopted in the House last week.
Vintage Alcohol Sales: House Bill 439 would create a licensing and regulatory structure for the commercial sale of vintage distilled spirits. It would also allow the state to auction off – rather than destroy – confiscated containers of alcohol. Proceeds would support alcohol wellness and responsibility efforts. HB 439 won approval Wednesday in the House Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee.
Pseudoephedrine: House Bill 386 would ease limits on the purchase of pseudoephedrine to help people with chronic allergies legally obtain an appropriate amount of the medication. The House Committee on Small Business and Information Technology passed the bill Wednesday.
Teacher Sick Leave: Senate Bill 4 would limit the number of sick days teachers could use to enhance their pensions – a practice known as “spiking.” After June 2024, teachers could only save 10 sick days a year to apply to the formula for calculating their retirement benefits. The legislation cleared the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
Non-Citizen Voting: Senate Bill 143 proposes changes to the state constitution that would prevent anyone who is not a U.S. citizen from voting in Kentucky elections. The Senate State and Local Government Committee passed the measure Wednesday. A similar bill has already cleared the House.
Aerospace Industry: Senate Bill 127 seeks to support Kentucky’s aerospace and aviation industries by fostering public-private partnerships and enhancing workforce development across the state. The Senate passed the bill on Wednesday.
Autonomous Vehicles: House Bill 7 would create a regulatory framework for operating autonomous vehicles on public highways in Kentucky. The House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee advanced the legislation Thursday.
School Notifications: Senate Bill 11 seeks to speed up notifications to schools when a student has been charged with a crime. The bill won support in the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
Juvenile Offenders: Under Senate Bill 20, juveniles who use a firearm in the commission of a felony would stand trial as adults if they are at least 15 years old. The bill cleared the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection on Thursday.
Fluoride Water Treatment: House Bill 141 would allow municipal water systems in Kentucky to discontinue the use of fluoride in tap water. The House State Government Committee advanced the measure Thursday.
Foster Care: Senate Bill 151 would allow family members who take temporary custody of a relative’s child to become certified as a “child-specific foster home.” That would allow them to access more state resources and support. The bill cleared the Senate floor on Thursday.
Teacher Misconduct: House Bill 275 would require school districts to fully investigate teacher misconduct – even if the teacher resigns before the investigation is complete. It would also require teacher applicants to undergo in-depth background checks and disclose recent disciplinary issues when applying for a new job. The House approved the bill Thursday.
Lawmakers are scheduled to gavel back into session Monday for day 29.
Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to read bills and follow their progression through the chambers. Capitol observers can also track budget bills on the 2024 Budget Bills webpage.
Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.