FRANKFORT—As we find ourselves one-third of the way through the 60-day Regular Session in February, I believe it’s important to provide an update on key legislative developments and share my perspective on a couple of significant bills.
This week, I had the distinct pleasure of being accompanied on the Senate floor by a group of Senate pages from Holy Family Catholic Church in Ashland. It was an honor to welcome these bright young individuals to Frankfort, where they had the opportunity to witness the legislative process firsthand. Engaging with our youth in this way is incredibly rewarding, as it offers them a unique perspective on how their government functions and the importance of civic engagement.
I always look forward to having young people from across the commonwealth visit and learn more about the work we do here. Their energy and curiosity inspire us all and remind us of the importance of our responsibilities to future generations. For any young person interested in experiencing the legislative process up close as a Senate page, I encourage you to take the initiative and apply. The application can be found on the Legislative Research Commission’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov. This is a wonderful opportunity to deepen your understanding of state government and possibly spark a lifelong interest in public service.
Additionally, I recently had the privilege of co-chairing, alongside Representative Phil Pratt, our sixth annual “Serving Up Solutions” event under the exemplary leadership of Dr. Ryan Quarles. This event spotlights our collective commitment to combating hunger in Kentucky, a cause that remains close to my heart. The stark reality is that one in four Kentucky children will go to bed hungry, and 1 in 7 Kentuckians suffer from food insecurity. These numbers are a call to action for all of us.
We owe a great deal of gratitude to the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, Hunters for the Hungry, Feeding Kentucky, Glean, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, Kentucky Farm Bureau, Farm Credit, and all the generous sponsors for their support. This collaboration is symbolic of the power of community and the difference we can make when we come together.
Now on to our legislative developments. First and foremost, let’s address Senate Bill 80 (SB 80), which generated substantial attention in the Senate. This proposed legislation aims to eliminate college student identification cards as valid voter IDs.
In my comments on SB 80 on the Senate floor, I noted the view of the Secretary of State Michael Adams who highlighted that there have been zero instances of fraud involving the use of college IDs for voting. Secretary Adams’ perspective emphasizes the importance of data-driven decision-making when it comes to our electoral process. SB 80, in my view, introduces unnecessary barriers to voting, particularly for our young citizens who are just beginning their civic journey as engaged participants in our democracy. Despite my opposition, SB 80 passed the Senate by a vote of 26-7.
Turning to SB 75, this measure proposes reopening the road between the Capitol and the Capitol Annex, which was closed following security recommendations from federal and state law enforcement agencies. I opposed SB 75 due to their assessments, as they spotlighted the potential security implications of it being accessible to the public. While recognizing the importance of security and assessments from law enforcement, my concerns regarding this bill stem from the need to maintain a delicate balance between security and public access.
SB 50 is another measure that successfully passed in the Senate. This legislation allows craft distillers to self-distribute up to 5,000 gallons of distilled spirits per year directly to licensed retailers. The legislation passed the Senate 34-1.
Lastly, I’m pleased to share SB 46 received unanimous consent in the Senate. This bill permits the application of sun screening material with a light transmittance of not less than 70 percent to a windshield. It aims to assist individuals with astigmatism, enhance driver safety, and provide support for those who face difficulties while driving at night.
I was proud to sign on as a co-sponsor to SB 92, which was filed this week. The proposal represents a nonpartisan, comprehensive approach to addressing long-standing issues within student transportation across Kentucky. At its heart, SB 92 seeks to improve the travel experience for our students, whether they reside in urban or rural districts. By empowering school districts to expand their transportation fleets and diversify the types of vehicles available for student transport, we can make significant strides in enhancing the efficiency of our school transportation system.
A critical element of SB 92 revolves around the introduction of smaller vehicles for specialized routes. These smaller vehicles hold the potential to reduce student commuting time, enabling us to establish more efficient routes and alternate paths for specialized schools in urban districts. Simultaneously, in our rural areas, these smaller vehicles can be deployed to serve less populated routes in the county. This approach takes into account the unique needs and dynamics of our diverse communities.
Addressing the pressing issue of the bus driver shortage is another central focus of SB 92. The shortage has long plagued our current system, resulting in inefficiencies. To combat this problem head-on, SB 92 includes provisions for the use of non-CDL vehicles, which do not require a Commercial Driver’s License to operate. This innovative approach offers a flexible solution to the driver shortage, ensuring more reliable and efficient transportation for our students while significantly relieving the strain on our existing transportation infrastructure.
Nevertheless, safety remains paramount in this proposal. SB 92 sets rigorous safety standards for all vehicles used in student transport. Drivers will undergo extensive training, thorough criminal background checks, and regular reviews of their driving records. Our overarching goal is to ensure that every child, irrespective of their place of residence, is provided access to safe, efficient, and effective transportation to and from school. SB 92 embodies a collective commitment to fostering a better future for our students and our communities by addressing long-standing challenges in our transportation system.
In closing, as we move through this legislative session, it’s important to note that our work is far from over. With the conclusion of this legislative week, all bills successfully passed on the Senate floor will now embark on the next phase of their journey, proceeding to the House of Representatives for further review and consideration. This pivotal stage represents a critical juncture in our legislative process, as bills undergo additional examination and debate to ensure they align with the best interests of our constituents.
The momentum of our legislative efforts continues to gain strength as we progress further into the session. Notably, the House is actively addressing and taking action on the budget, a foundational aspect of our state’s governance. Once passed in the House, the budget proposal will reach the Senate, where we will fine-tune and adjust it before returning it. This collaborative process, involving both chambers, is designed to ensure that the budget reflects a balanced and comprehensive approach to our state’s financial priorities.
The decisions made will have far-reaching effects on our communities, and your input and advocacy play an invaluable role in the policy-making process. I strongly encourage you to stay informed and actively participate in the legislative process by accessing comprehensive information on all legislative proposals introduced thus far. Detailed legislative information can be found online at www.legislature.ky.gov.
For more information on the Kentucky General Assembly, visit www.legislature.ky.gov. If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, feel free to email me anytime at [email protected] or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711