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Seven Days in January - General Assembly slams through seven bills

Republicans controlling the Kentucky General Assembly had a busy week making good on campaign promises. This is the first time that Republicans have been in charge in 95 years.

The first seven days of the historic change in power in Kentucky was marked by the passage of seven bills by the Kentucky General Assembly:

  • Senate Bill 12 gave the Governor leave to reorganize the University of Louisville board of trustees by establishing a new, 10-member board.

The suit between the Governor and Attorney General Beshear related to the University of Louisville Board continues. It remains to be seen what effect SB 12 will have on the suit.

Following the successful passage of SB 12, Senate President Robert Stivers II (R-25) filed Senate Bill 107 which will extend SB 12 to all state universities and the community and technical college system.

The other shoe to drop is a letter due Thursday, January 12th from SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) the higher education accrediting agency, following up on putting the University of Louisville on probation because of political interference into its governance.

  • Senate Bill 3 will make information about the retirement benefits state lawmakers open to viewing by the public.

The move is in response to public dismay over pension issues on both sides of the political aisle. Legislators have for years upped their retirement benefits by jumping into the executive branch for a few years. The effect is that their retirement pay goes from figured on a part time legislator to a full time state employee. Now the public can see it coming before it happens.

  • Senate Bill 5 will prohibit a woman from having an abortion if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

There is no exception for rape or incest victims in the law. The law creates the Kentucky pain-capable unborn child protection litigation fund.

  • House Bill 1 makes Kentucky the 27th state to adopt "right to work" making union membership optional. Those who work under union contracts won't have to pay union dues.
  • 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.
  • House Bill 3 repealed the state's prevailing wage law. There will no longer be a guaranteed base wage to construction workers on certain public works projects.

HB 3 has been strongly supported by local elected and school officials who argued that prevailing wage increased their costs for public works.

Union members filled the Capitol to protest these bills. To no avail. Republicans previously tried to pass right to work county by county, a move that a court found to be illegal.

  • House Bill 2 requiring 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.

The ACLU has already filed a suit challenging its constitutionality. It has be noted that one Democratic legislator who professed support for the bill was dismayed because he thought it wouldn't pass constitutional muster.

The bills were signed by the Governor and became law on Monday, January 9, 2017.

After seven days, the General Assembly is on hiatus until the first week of February. Leaders of the majority party predict they will take up tax reform when they come back in this short session.

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