This Week at the State Capitol
Seven bills passed today by General Assembly,
sent to governor
Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar; will
meet in session on Saturday
Senate committee advances right-to-work bill
work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House
approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy
Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to
Repeal of prevailing wage law gets House panel's OK - 01/04/17
Work bill passes House panel
January 7, 2017
This Week at the State Capitol
Jan. 7, 2017
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 will the newest laws in our commonwealth do? They will
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.
Senate Bill 3 will expand openness in government by making
information about the retirement benefits of state lawmakers
available for public viewing.
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
January 7, 2017
Seven bills passed today by General Assembly, sent to governor
FRANKFORT—Seven bills were given final passage today by the
Kentucky General Assembly and delivered to the governor’s desk.
The bills, covering matters ranging from labor unions and their
membership to changes in the state’s informed consent and
abortion laws, all include an emergency provision to ensure that
they take effect the moment they are signed by the governor. All
seven bills were introduced on the first day of the 30-day 2017
Regular Session that began on Tuesday and received final passage
within five days—the minimum time possible.
The legislation passed by the General Assembly and sent to
Governor Matt Bevin for his signature are:
House Bill 1. HB 1, sponsored by House Speaker
Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling
Green, would make Kentucky the nation’s 27th right-to-work
state. Right-to-work states prohibit mandatory membership in or
payment of dues to labor unions. HB 1 received final passage in
the Senate by a vote of 25-12.
Senate Bill 3. SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Christian
McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, would require that the retirement
benefits of current and former General Assembly members be made
public. Disclosure would include the member’s name and estimated
or actual monthly allowance. SB 3 received final passage in the
House by a vote of 95-1.
House Bill 2. HB 2, sponsored by House Speaker
Jeff Hoover and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require a
woman seeking an abortion to have an obstetric ultrasound of her
baby explained to her by her health care provider before she
could give required informed consent for an abortion. Women
could decline to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal
heartbeat if they choose. HB 2 received final passage in the
Senate by a vote of 32-5.
Senate Bill 5. SB 5, sponsored by Sen. Brandon
Smith, R-Hazard, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville,
would prohibit abortions in Kentucky at or after 20 weeks of
pregnancy. The bill would not apply in cases where an abortion
is required to save the life or prevent serious risk of
permanent bodily harm to the mother. SB 5 received final passage
in the House by a vote of 79-15.
House Bill 3. HB 3, sponsored by Speaker Hoover
and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would repeal the state’s
prevailing wage law that dictates the hourly base wage for
construction workers hired on for certain public works projects.
HB 3 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 25-12.
Senate Bill 6. SB 6, sponsored by Senate
President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, would require public or
private employees (with some exceptions under federal law) to
request membership in a labor union in writing before they can
be enrolled in that organization. It also specifies that dues or
fees paid to labor organizations cannot be withheld from
earnings without employee approval. Existing agreements between
employers, employees and labor unions made before the
legislation takes effect would be exempt from the provisions. SB
6 received final passage in the House by a vote of 57-39.
Senate Bill 12. SB 12, sponsored by Senate
President Stivers, would abolish the current board of trustees
of the University of Louisville and clarify the number of
members allowed on the new board along with qualifications and
conditions of membership. The bill would also require Kentucky
Senate confirmation of board appointments. SB 12 received final
passage in the House by a vote of 57-35.
The 2017 legislative session will adjourn today for a scheduled
break and then re-convene on Tuesday, Feb. 7.
The session is scheduled to end on March 30.
January 6, 2017
Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar;
will meet in session on Saturday
FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives
will convene tomorrow (Saturday, January 7) under a change in
the 2017 legislative calendar approved by legislative leaders.
After working tomorrow, lawmakers will return to their home
districts and are scheduled to come back to Frankfort for the
second part of the 2017 session on February 7.
The second part of the session is still scheduled for final
adjournment, as originally planned, on March 30. However, under
the recent change to the session schedule, March 9 has been
added to the days on which lawmakers will not be gaveled into
The latest version of the 2017 session calendar can be viewed
January 6, 2017
Senate committee advances right-to-work bill
FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would make Kentucky a
right-to-work state was approved today by the Senate State and
Local Government Committee.
The proposal, which would make membership in a labor union
optional rather than mandatory for workers at unionized
workplaces, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The
House of Representatives has already approved the measure, known
as House Bill 1, a designation given to House leadership’s top
Testifying in support of the measure at today’s meeting, House
Speaker Jeff Hoover, a primary sponsor of HB 1, said the
legislation would boost Kentucky’s labor market.
“Right-to-work is simply the name given to the ability of an
employee to negotiate his or her wages and negotiate his or her
benefits directly with the employer without being compelled to
be a member of a labor union,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown. “I
don’t see why government should stand in the way of a worker
opting to not join and be given the ability to negotiate on
their own if they so choose.”
“…Recent history proves that not only is passing right-to-work
not a hindrance to labor union membership, it can actually help
labor unions grow. For example, both Indiana and Tennessee … are
right-to-work states and they have more union members today then
what they had prior to enacting this legislation. That is simply
because of the economic development that has been brought to
those right-to-work states.”
Hoover said private sector employment grew 17.4 percent in
right-to-work states between 2001 and 2013, more than double the
8.2 percent in states that don’t have right-to-work laws.
Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, a primary sponsor of HB 1,
said Kentucky has lost job-creating opportunities to other
states that have right-to-work laws. “The governor has an
initiative to make Kentucky the epicenter of advanced
manufacturing in the world. … There’s no reason why we can’t
expand our economic opportunities by passing right-to-work
legislation,” he said.
Opponents of right-to work legislation testified that Kentucky’s
manufacturing sector is already strong compared to neighboring
“Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that among
all states, Kentucky already has the fifth-highest manufacturing
employment as a share of total jobs,” said Anna Bauman, a
research and policy associate for the
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “A larger
share of Kentucky workers are in manufacturing than workers in
both Virginia and Tennessee, two of our three neighbors with
active right-to-work laws.”
Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, also
testified against the right-to-work proposal, emphasizing that
unions come to workplaces where a majority of eligible workers
vote in favor of them.
“…Workers have a variety of options if they are unwilling to
financially support or become union members,” he said. “They
have the freedom not to seek employment in unionized workplaces
if they are displeased that a union was voted in to a workplace
by a majority vote. In such cases, the individual can seek
employment in the 89 percent of workplaces in Kentucky that are
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, predicted the
state’s economy will quickly enjoy a boost if Kentucky becomes a
“We will see the results very quickly across this commonwealth
as the numbers, the leading economic indicators in this state,
start pointing in the right direction,” he said.
House Bill 1 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would take
effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.
January 5, 2017
Right to work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House
FRANKFORT—Legislation that would make Kentucky the 27th
right-to-work state by outlawing mandatory membership in a labor
union as a condition of employment passed the House today by a
vote of 58-39.
Supporters say House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff
Hoover, R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green,
would boost jobs by allowing employees to negotiate benefits and
wages directly with their employers. Committee testimony on the
bill yesterday said job growth in right-to-work states has been
more than double that in non-right-to-work states like Kentucky
in recent years.
Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, whose grandfather worked for 43
years in the coal mines, said he voted in support of HB 1 to try
and bring jobs to his district where, he said, 3,000 people are
out of work.
“I reluctantly vote yes,” said Fugate, adding some of his
constituents are for right-to-work and some are against it.
Fugate said he isn’t against unions, but “our coal miners are
not working in the mountains in case anybody didn’t know that.”
“I’ll work my rear end off to make sure that I do everything I
can for them to get jobs so they don’t have to move to another
state or another place to provide for their families,” Fugate
Opponents of right-to-work legislation like HB 1, however, claim
such bills weaken wages of the working and middle classes. Rep.
Joni Jenkins, D-Shively told House members that studies show
right-to-work legislation hurts the wages of working men and
women in Kentucky.
“I proudly stand with my union brothers and sisters and all
workers across this Commonwealth and vote no,” said Jenkins.
Also passed by the House today was HB 3, sponsored by House
Speaker Hoover and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. That
legislation, which passed the House 57-40, would repeal the
state’s prevailing wage law which guarantees an hourly base
“prevailing” wage to construction workers on certain public
works projects. Koenig said the process for determining that
base wage “is unlikely to yield wages that are representative of
Koenig said the only reason the bill was filed is to save the
taxpayers money. “That is our motivation for filing this bill,”
Among those voting against the bill was Rep. Angie Hatton,
D-Whitesburg, who said prevailing wage was designed to ensure
quality work done by local workers.
HB 1 and HB 3 now go to the Senate for its consideration. They
both include emergency provisions, which make them take effect
immediately if signed into law.
January 5, 2017
Senate approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy
FRANKFORT -- The state Senate today approved legislation that
would prohibit a woman from having an abortion in Kentucky if
she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.
The legislation, Senate Bill 5, would “protect pain-capable
children from the horror of having an abortion performed on
them,” said a primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandon Smith,
Smith said books for expecting parents describe a 20-week-old
fetus as capable of sucking its thumb, yawning, stretching,
making faces and responding to pain.
SB 5 passed on a 30-6 vote. It now goes to the House of
Representatives for consideration.
Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, was among the opponents of
the measure, arguing that women should be able to make decisions
on their pregnancies without the limitations of SB 5.
“My fear is that by adopting this bill that we’re going to
ultimately go back to what we saw in the 50s and 60s when we had
back-alley butcher shops to take care of situations rather than
having a safe medical procedure,” Thomas said.
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, a primary sponsor of
the legislation, says it focuses on the wellbeing of the unborn
child. “We’re not just talking about these women who are seeking
abortions. ... We’re talking about the child that is a life.
That life deserves a chance to survive. Twenty weeks – that’s
five months. … We’re not stopping anyone from getting an
abortion. We’re not doing anything that gets in the way of
(women’s) conversations with their partner, their spouse, their
physician, their priest or minister. We’re not stopping any of
that. But we are going to recognize that life exists there.”
Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a medical doctor, said that
medical advances are reducing the age at which fetuses are
viable, or able to survive outside the womb. “All we’re trying
to do here with this bill is give those children an opportunity
to survive,” he said.
Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, voted against SB 5 and
urged lawmakers to focus on other issues. “One in four children
in Kentucky are living in poverty and over 7,000 live in foster
care. Our young people, if they are fortunate enough to graduate
from college, come out with huge student loans and can’t find
jobs. Four-hundred-thousand people may fall through the cracks
and lose their health insurance. My question is: why do we spend
our precious time in this body attacking a woman’s right to
choose … when Kentucky faces so many more demanding issues?”
While casting his vote in favor of the legislation, Sen. Max
Wise, R-Campbellsville, also quoted statistics.
“We heard statistics earlier … But I want to say there are also
statistics of 58,586,256 abortions that have been performed in
the United States since 1973. That’s an average of over 1
million abortions per year,” he said.
SB 5 contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective
immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.
January 5, 2017
Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to Senate
FRANKFORT—Women seeking an abortion would be required to have an
obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what
that ultrasound shows under a bill that today passed the state
House of Representatives on an 83-12 vote.
Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, who is a primary sponsor of
House Bill 2 along with House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown,
said the ultrasound proposal is about informed consent.
“In this Commonwealth, it is important that we give women full
and informed consent. We have moved historically from a time
when women were just given the bare information about medical
procedures to making sure that we respect their autonomy and
their decision-making process in issues…that impact their
lives,” said Wuchner.
Any woman seeking an abortion would have to comply with the
proposed ultrasound requirement before she could give informed
consent for an abortion, according to the bill. Revised in 2016,
Kentucky’s informed consent law requires women seeking an
abortion to have an in-person or teleconferenced medical consult
at least 24 hours before the procedure.
The bill would also require the woman’s physician or health care
provider to display the ultrasound images to the woman and allow
her to hear her fetus’ heartbeat, although the women would not
have to look at the images or listen to the heartbeat. Signed
certification would be placed in the woman’s medical record
noting that she was presented with the required information and
noting if she viewed the images and listened to the heartbeat or
declined to do so.
No ultrasound would be required in cases of medical emergency
where an abortion is considered a “medical necessity,” according
to HB 2. Health care providers who do not comply with the
requirement would face fines of $100,000 for a first offense and
$250,000 for additional offenses.
Several floor amendments were proposed to the measure, including
amendments to outlaw all forms of abortion in Kentucky, provide
an exception to the proposed ultrasound requirement in cases of
rape or incest and ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. Each
floor amendment called stalled on a procedural vote.
One freshman member who voted against HB 2 was Rep. Attica
Scott, D-Louisville, who said half of her constituents are
female. “I have spent years mentoring women who are older than
me, younger than me and in my own age group and have found the
importance of trusting women to make their own decisions,” said
Among those voting in favor of HB 2 was freshman member Rep.
Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill. The former neo-natal
intensive care nurse said HB 2 will give pregnant women a clear
understanding of their medical condition so they can make
“As a medical professional, it is my obligation to ensure
patients have accurate access to medical information regarding
their medical diagnosis and that it should be available to
them,” said Moser.
“It is with accurate information that a patient can make an
informed decision regarding their treatment, whether it is
treatment for a brain tumor requiring an MRI or a CT scan, or if
it is to determine the health and the progress of a pregnancy
through an ultrasound.”
HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Repeal of prevailing wage
law gets House panel's OK
FRANKFORT—A bill that would repeal a state law requiring payment
of an hourly base wage—or prevailing wage—to workers on public
works construction projects has passed
a House committee.
House Bill 3, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover,
R-Jamestown, and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would apply to
projects for which bids have not yet been awarded at the time
the bill, should it pass, takes effect. An emergency clause
included in HB 3 would ensure the bill takes effect immediately
upon being signed into law by the governor.
Koenig, who presented HB 3 to the House Economic Development and
Workforce Investment Committee before the committee approved the
bill today, said prevailing wage laws are “unlikely to yield
rates that are representative of market wages.” They are also a
financial strain on local governments and school districts,
Koenig said, emphasizing that saving money was the motivation
for filing HB 3.
The bill has the support of Boone County Schools Superintendent
Dr. Randy Poe who testified alongside Koenig. Poe told the
committee that higher construction fees on prevailing wage
projects have cost his school district as much as $50 million
over the last 19 years.
“The higher fees we pay through prevailing wage keeps us from
improving upon traditional space versus portable space (for) our
students,” said Poe. “This is about creating more space for our
Speaking against the bill was Bill Finn, the state director of
the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council.
Finn said that nine out of 11 economic studies since 2001 have
showed no increase in overall construction costs due to
prevailing wage. “Twenty three percent is the entire pie that
prevailing wage affects,” said Finn.
HB 3 now goes to the full House for its consideration.
January 4, 2017
Right to Work bill passes
FRANKFORT—A House panel has passed right-to-work legislation
that would prohibit Kentuckians from being required to join
labor unions as a condition of employment.
House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover,
R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would
prohibit mandatory membership in or payment of dues to labor
organizations with few exceptions involving federal law and
agreements entered into before HB 1 would take effect. Violators
would be subject to prosecution.
The legislation passed the House Economic Development and
Workforce Investment Committee favorably after an hour-long
discussion that began with comments from Governor Matt Bevin.
“Jobs come from private sector employers and they’re
incentivized by the kinds of things you’re going to hear in
coming days,” said Bevin. “This is a zero-sum game.”
Right-to-work bills have been filed several times in past
legislative sessions said Speaker Hoover, who told the committee
that HB 1 will give employees the ability to negotiate benefits
and wages directly with their employer without being part of a
“I personally have no problem with an individual opting to be
part of a labor union,” said Hoover. “… But government shouldn’t
stand in the way of someone who opts not to join a union.” He
said HB 1 would make Kentucky the 27th Right to Work
state in the country, putting it on par with most Southern
states as well as Indiana and labor-heavy Michigan.
Hoover said private sector employment in right-to-work states
increased over 17 percent between 2001 and 2013 compared to
around an 8 percent increase in non-right-to-work states like
Those opposing the bill included Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah,
who told the committee that
tax code changes and the paring-down of regulatory
burdens could do more for Kentuckians than right-to-work
don’t believe personally a right-to-work law is (a) silver
bullet,” he said.
Also speaking against the bill was Kentucky Center for Economic
Policy analyst Anna Baumann who said Kentucky’s manufacturing
sector is strong without right-to-work—Kentucky has the
fifth-highest manufacturing employment as a share of total
employment nationally, she said. But Hoover, backed by officials
from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as he gave his testimony,
said data shows the economy is stronger in right-to-work states.
“Economic development is not only my primary, but my sole
motivation in proposing this legislation,” said Hoover.
HB 1 would also prohibit public employees in Kentucky from
engaging in work strikes. The bill now goes to the full House