Legislature overrides all Beshear vetoes, could still pass medical marijuana and sports betting

Regular session’s finale is Thursday


FRANKFORT — Republicans on Wednesday flexed their supermajorities to override all 15 vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear, while other notable legislation still awaits final passage.

 House Speaker David Osborne spoke on House Bill 5 an, act relating to property tax on distilled spirits, on March 15. (Photo by LRC Public Information)

The GOP-controlled legislature could give final passage to bills legalizing medical marijuana and sports gambling after failed attempts to do so in past years. The legislature also could repeal a tax on the bourbon industry.

House Speaker David Osborne also signaled that a bill restricting drag shows is likely dead. Osborne said Senate Bill 115 did not receive a required second reading on Wednesday in the House. That means it likely faces a high hurdle to receive final passage on the final day. 

“Until we adjourn at midnight tomorrow night, nothing is ever effectively done. But it’s unlikely to come up,” Osborne said. 

Thursday is the final day of this year’s regular session.

A simple majority in both the House and Senate is needed to override a governor’s veto. Kentucky is one of only a handful of states where a simple majority is needed for an override instead of two-thirds of lawmakers.

What bills could win final passage on the final day?

Senate Bill 47 would legalize the use of medical marijuana for people with specific conditions. Similar bills have passed the House in recent years only to die in the Senate. But the Senate, earlier this month and for the first time, approved legalizing medical marijuana.

It received a required second reading on Wednesday and it is scheduled to be heard at 1 p.m. ET on Thursday in the House Licensing, Occupations, & Administrative Regulations. If it receives the committee’s approval, it could be voted on by the full House and win final passage on the last day of the legislative session. 

Beshear has signaled he would support such legislation and issued an executive order last year in an attempt to allow people with medical conditions to seek medical marijuana in other states without fear of criminal prosecution. 

House Bill 551 is the latest attempt to legalize sports gambling in Kentucky.

As long as no bill substitutes or floor amendments are added to the legislation, it would need to pass a vote by a Senate committee and receive a full vote by the Kentucky Senate to see final passage. 

Beshear has signaled he would support such legislation. 

House Bill 5 would eventually eliminate the property tax on bourbon barrels in Kentucky, something that the bourbon industry has supported. Local elected officials in affected areas have decried the measure, saying it would be devastating to local government budgets. 

As long as no bill substitutes or floor amendments are added to the legislation, it would just need to pass a vote in the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee and get approval by the full Senate to receive final passage. 

Speaker Osborne, R-Prospect, a supporter of the bill, said he was working on “language changes” regarding how the bourbon barrel tax is phased out and how reimbursement of lost tax revenue to school districts will work. He said such changes added in the Senate would have to be concurred to by the House. 

“I don’t think we’ll have any problem with that,” Osborne said. “Hopefully, that’s enough to get things taken care of over there as well.” 

Senate Bill 277 would, among other things, require some owners of hazardous dams to develop and maintain emergency action plans in the case of a dam breach. It would just need a vote by the full Senate to receive final passage. 

Senate Bill 104 would disband the board for Kentucky Educational Television, the state’s public television broadcaster, and require gubernatorial appointments to the board to receive approval from the GOP-controlled Kentucky Senate. It would also dictate certain demographic requirements for the board. 

The Republican-backed bill would need to be voted out of the House State Government Committee and receive a full House vote on Thursday to get full passage. The bill could be vetoed by Beshear without a chance for the legislature to override it. 

Osborne said there are not currently any State Government committee meetings scheduled for Thursday. 

“That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t come up, scheduled, during during a recess, but none scheduled right now,” Osborne said. 

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office has said the bill is “aimed at controlling KET.” 

What bills will become law after legislative overrides? 

Senate Bill 7 will stop automatic payroll deductions for some public employees’ unions or association dues. Beshear in his veto message said the bill was unconstitutional and targeted public employees. Unions representing public employees oppose the bill, including the Kentucky Education Association which relies on automatic deductions to collect dues. 

The Senate voted 23-13 to override the governor’s veto. Democratic senators called the bill a “union-busting” measure while some Republicans argued that it stopped taxpayer-funded payroll systems from collecting political contributions.

The House voted 68-29 to override the governor’s veto. A handful of House Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

Senate Bill 37 changes an advisory council for pharmacists, allowing organizations such as the Kentucky Pharmacists Association and the Kentucky Independent Pharmacy Alliance to appoint individuals to the council. 

The House voted to overturn the veto 80-15. The Senate voted 29-7. 

Beshear in his veto message said allowing private organizations to appoint people to a board violates the executive power of his office, making the legislation unconstitutional. 

Senate Bill 65 ends new Medicaid dental, vision and hearing benefits, something that Beshear expanded through an administrative regulation last year that the General Assembly rejected.

Sponsor Sen. Stephen West, R-Paris, said Beshear’s expansion was a $38 million budgetary appropriation that only the legislature has the power to make. Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville, argued that the new benefits would enable more Kentuckians to work and pleaded with lawmakers to let them stand. Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, urged fee increases for providers

The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto 30-7. The House voted to override the veto by 75-20.

 Education Commissioner Jason Glass addressed the House Education Committee earlier in the session. (Photo for Kentucky Lantern by McKenna Horsley)

Senate Bill 107 requires Kentucky’s education commissioner — the leader of the Kentucky Department of Education who is appointed by the Kentucky Board of Education — to be confirmed by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Republicans say SB 107 is needed to remove any perception of politics from the state Department of Education, but opponents, including current chair of the state Board of Education, say the bill could reverse decades of progress in protecting education from politics. 

Beshear in his veto message said the bill “politicizes the process” for hiring a new commissioner of education. 

Republicans in supporting the bill have pointed to past criticism of Beshear when he disbanded the state Board of Education and appointed new board members when he first assumed office. 

The Senate voted 30-7 to override Beshear’s veto and the House voted 78-19 to override his veto. 

Senate Bill 122 gives the legislature more control over parking spaces at the Capitol in Frankfort. The Senate voted 29-8 to override Beshear’s veto. The House voted 77-17 to override the veto.

Beshear in his veto message said the bill is akin to the General Assembly trying to “take space occupied by the Supreme Court of Kentucky” or trying to take parking spaces and lodge rooms at a state park. 

Senate Bill 126 will allow participants in civil lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of state laws, regulations and executive orders to request their case be moved to a new courtroom across the state at “random.” 

Beshear in his veto message called it an “unconstitutional power grab” that could add costs and delays to court cases, while the sponsor, Sen. Jason Howell, R-Murray, has said such changes of venue wouldn’t create some excess costs. 

To override the veto, the Senate voted 29-7. The House voted 78-19.

 Protesters against SB 150 filled the Capitol. (Lantern photo by Mariah Kendell)

Senate Bill 150, a sweeping anti-trans bill that would, among other things, ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, has received considerable attention in the past two weeks. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, originally would have prevented school districts from requiring staff or other students to use another student’s correct pronouns. 

In a last-minute move, Republicans added other measures into the bill that included mandating school districts adopt policies that would prevent transgender youth from using the bathroom of their gender. 

The House voted 76-23 to override the veto. The Senate voted 29-8 to override the veto. 

Beshear in his veto message said the bill would strip away the rights of parents to make medical decisions for their children, while Republicans have denounced his veto as supporting gender-affirming surgeries for youth. Trans Kentuckians say such surgeries aren’t happening in the state currently and that LGBTQ+ organizations have never advocated for such surgeries for minors.

Senate Bill 226 will allow surface mining companies to more easily receive permits to allow them to dump pollution into protected waterways. Sen. Johnnie Turner, R-Harlan, has said the legislation would help mining companies that are struggling with environmental regulations, while a conservation advocate has said the bill doesn’t account for specific needs of some aquatic habitats. 

Beshear in his veto message said such legislation could create a “real and significant threat” that the federal Environmental Protection Agency could take over the state-run permitting process. 

The Senate voted to override Beshear’s veto 31-6. The House voted to override his veto 79-18.

Senate Bill 241 allows for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to acquire conservation easements, in perpetuity, for about 54,000 acres of land. The primary sponsor was Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson. 

Beshear in his veto message pointed to what he said were “recent procurement abuses” by the department and said that Kentuckians should be able to trust that public funds are properly used. 

Some Senate Democrats joined Republicans in overriding the veto, 36-1. The House voted 75-17 to override it.

House Bill 4 creates a framework for how large-scale solar installations are decommissioned, or removed from their site locations, at the end of the project’s life decades in the future. The Senate and House voted to override the veto. 

Conservation advocates have worried the bill undercuts existing precedent favoring the rights of landowners leasing to solar developers, while Republicans backing the bill have said statutes are needed to better dictate how decommissioning of these projects should happen. 

Beshear in his veto said the bill removes local input from the current regulatory process vetting for new solar projects.

The House overrode the vote 81-17. The Senate _____

House Bill 329  is the latest attempt to decide who gives final approval to contracts within the state government. Currently, the Government Contract Review Committee can make non-binding recommendations whether to approve or reject a specific contract. The secretary of the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet is allowed to follow that recommendation or disregard it. 

The bill would allow for the state treasurer, currently controlled by Republican Allison Ball, to have the final say on such contracts. Similar past attempts have been blocked by state courts, something that Beshear mentioned in his veto message on the bill. 

In a 34-2 vote, the Senate overrode the governor’s veto. The House overrode the veto 79-19.

House Bill 395 creates a new board, composed entirely of lawmakers, to review state investments updating technology and cybersecurity resources within the state government. The Senate voted 30-6 to override the veto. The House voted to override the veto 90-8.

Beshear in his veto message said the new board would duplicate the work of an existing board, the Capital Planning Advisory Board, which is composed of members from all three branches of government in the state. 

House Bill 519  adds the president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky State Fair Board to tourist and convention commissions for first-class cities and consolidated local governments.

The Senate voted 35-1 to override Beshear’s veto. 

Beshear in his veto message pointed to a 2021 law passed by the General Assembly that gave the Republican Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles control over the majority of appointees to the Kentucky State Fair Board. Beshear at that time sued the legislature over the law, arguing it was unconstitutional. 

Beshear went on to say in his message that the “unconstitutionally-constructed board continues to operate without any oversight by the Governor.” 

House Bill 568 merges the Louisville-Jefferson County Public Defender Corporation with the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, which local public defenders in Louisville worry could raise future funding uncertainties for their work. 

Beshear in his veto message echoed those concerns from local public defenders, saying such a merger shouldn’t be done hastily without reviewing budgetary impacts and that the legislation appeared to be an effort to retaliate against the unionization efforts by the public defenders.

The Senate’s vote to override was 30-6.  The House

House Joint Resolution 69 directs Beshear to certify to the federal Environmental Protection Agency that the Kentucky Board of Radon Safety has the authority to enter into an grant agreement with the EPA, including monies from the State Indoor Radon Grant Program

Beshear in a veto message said the joint resolution is an attempt to shift power away from the Governor’s office in determining what agency or board is the designee for federal grant funding. 

The Senate voted 34-1 to override the governor’s veto.

Top photo: Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, comments on Senate Bill 150, a bill related to gender services and education. (LRC PIO)