FRANKFORT — The Kentucky General Assembly began the process of overriding two dozen vetoes from Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday, the second-to-last day of the 2022 legislative session.
The Republican supermajority easily dispatched the Democratic governor’s vetoes of several of their high-priority bills, including a bill to severely limit access to abortion in Kentucky and one to tighten rules for the poor receiving public assistance benefits.
The legislature voted to override all but two of Beshear’s 24 full vetoes of bills, in addition to the line-item vetoes of three bills and most of the governor’s 27 line-item vetoes for House Bill 1, the state budget bill.
House Bill 690, which faced a barrage of criticism from law enforcement and court officials for a late amendment that would have let licensed attorneys carry concealed weapons in Kentucky courtrooms, was spared from a veto override.
Another veto that will stand is that of Senate Bill 167, which would have allowed county judge-executives to appoint members of local public library boards and require county fiscal court approval for capital projects of $1 million or more. The override only picked up 48 votes in the House — short of the 51 required for an override — as 20 Republicans joined Democrats in voting against.
Here’s a rundown of the legislature’s overrides on Wednesday:
Senate Bill 83 (transgender sports ban)
Both chambers voted to override the governor’s veto of SB 83 by a large majority, which will ban transgender girls and women from girls’ and women’s sports teams, beginning in sixth grade and running through college.
Beshear in his veto statement said SB 83 would violate the rights of transgender girls and set the state up for a legal challenge. He added that legislators had failed to point out a single instance of a Kentucky child gaining an unfair advantage due to being transgender, nor any examples of current Kentucky High School Athletic Association policies failing to maintain a fair playing field.
Sen. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, the main sponsor of SB 83, pointed out University of Kentucky swimmer Riley Gaines in the Senate gallery as a supporter of the bill, using her example of losing to transgender woman Lia Thomas in a national NCAA event as the type of outcome the bill would prevent.
Sen. Karen Berg, D-Louisville, who has a transgender child, said the passage of SB 83 will make a difference for transgender children as young as 12 “as to whether or not they’re going to be ostracized or accepted by their classmates and their school” — noting their high suicide rate.
Before the House gave SB 83 final passage by a 72-23 vote, Rep. Ryan Dotson, R-Winchester, said women’s sports are being “invaded by biological males,” adding that Beshear only vetoed it for “West Coast money.”
Senate Bill 1 (education)
Lawmakers overrode Beshear’s veto of Senate Bill 1 despite a recent revelation that it unintentionally opens teachers up to criminal charges for teaching history incorrectly.
Sen. Max Wise, who sponsored the portion of SB 1 dealing with history curriculum, said legislative leaders are committed to fixing what he said was an oversight. House Bill 44, a bill dealing with student mental health days, is in free conference committee and will have language correcting SB 1.
Under SB 1, principal and curriculum selection will move from school councils to superintendents.
It would move additional power from the Jefferson County school board to Superintendent Marty Pollio, as well as limit JCPS’ board to one meeting a month. Board chairwoman Diane Porter previously said she would advocate for legal action should SB 1 become law.
SB 1 also installs guardrails for how history courses are taught in Kentucky, particularly around topics of race, and mandates two dozen historical texts and documents.
House Bill 1 (executive branch budget)
Beshear issued line-item vetoes of 27 sections of HB 1 — the two-year executive branch budget appropriating roughly $16 billion in each of the next two fiscal years — with the legislature overriding 21 of them Wednesday on mostly party-line votes.
The six line-items vetoes the Republican supermajority let stand were technical in nature, but they did not spare Beshear’s veto of a provision allowing Kentucky’s six elected constitutional officers to receive the same 8% raise as other state workers in the bill.
The House also overrode Beshear’s line-item veto of House Bill 243 — the legislative branch budget bill — which struck state legislators from being eligible for the same 8% raise. The Senate is expected to override the veto Wednesday evening and give the bill final passage.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said it was shameful for the legislators to give themselves a raise, yet not mandate any raises for public K-12 teachers and staff.
House Bill 9 (charter school funding)
The legislature overrode Beshear’s veto of House Bill 9 with expectedly narrow margins.
The House overrode the veto Wednesday afternoon on a 52-46 vote, with the Senate following with a 22-15 vote Wednesday night.
If ultimately enacted, HB 9 creates a pathway for charter schools to open in Kentucky, five years after lawmakers initially legalized the school type.
Under HB 9, Kentucky would create a permanent funding mechanism for charter schools, allowing local and state tax dollars to follow a student to a charter school.
Beshear previously said the proposed funding stream is likely unconstitutional, as is a provision in the bill requiring Louisville and Northern Kentucky — but no other area — to open charter schools.
House Bill 7 (public benefits bill)
HB 7 is a far reaching measure to add more rules and restrictions to the state’s public benefits program that advocates have said would force many people to lose aid from programs such as Medicaid or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, formerly known as food stamps.
The House overrode the veto by a vote of 70-24 and the Senate, 28-9.
Rep. David Meade, R-Stanford, the sponsor, says it would improve accountability and reduce fraud.
In vetoing HB 7, Beshear said “it will hurt Kentuckians by threatening access to health care and making it harder for those in need to access crucial benefits.”
“This bill will hurt our families, seniors, children and those with disabilities and it will disproportionately affect the regions of the commonwealth that lack access to health care, food, child care and other assistance,” Beshear said in a veto message.
In the Senate, Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, called the bill “cruel” and urged lawmakers to reconsider, saying it was likely to hurt the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents.
House Bill 3 (omnibus abortion bill)
HB 3 is a bill with so many new restrictions on abortion that it would effectively eliminate access to the procedure in Kentucky, according to opponents who have pledged to challenge it in court.
The House overrode the veto 76-21 and the Senate, 31-6.
It bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, outlaws receiving abortion medication by mail, imposes new restrictions for girls under 18 seeking abortions, and required that fetal remains be disposed of by burial or cremation.
Beshear, in vetoing HB 3, listed what he said are multiple flaws, leading with the fact the bill makes no exemption for those who become pregnant by rape or incest, while at the same time making it harder for girls under 18 to end a pregnancy without notification to both parents. He also said it is likely unconstitutional.
Opponents including the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood said they will file immediate legal challenges and ask a judge to temporarily block the law while the case is pending,
But it likely will temporarily disrupt abortion services in Kentucky, they said.
House Bill 8 (tax cuts)
Both chambers voted on a mostly party-line to override Beshear’s veto of HB 8, which lowers the individual income tax rate from 5% to 4.5% next year and sets up triggers to lower it incrementally in future years until it is eliminated.
Though the bill also ends the state sales tax exemption for more than a dozen services and adds new fees on electric vehicles, a fiscal note for HB 8 still projects it would decrease tax revenue by nearly $1.1 billion over the biennium.
Republican proponents of the bill say moving to a system taxing consumption instead of production will lead to economic growth, while Democratic critics have said it would move toward a more regressive tax that hurts low income people and disproportionately helps the wealthy.
In his veto statement, Beshear focused on the “new taxes” in the bill that “weaken public safety, harm vital industries, undermine economic development incentives, and threaten Kentucky’s future economic security.”
Beshear also criticized the new taxes on hybrid and electric vehicles, which come “at a time when Kentucky is poised to become a world leader in manufacturing those vehicles and their batteries.”
Other notable veto overrides
Senate Bill 216, an election security bill, doubles the number of counties subjected to a post-election audit, moves up the full transition to paper ballots to 2024 and requires video surveillance of voting machines and ballot boxes when not in operation for the general election. Beshear had vetoed it over one sentence allowing legislative candidates to file annual fundraising reports instead of quarterly fundraising reports in off-election years.
House Bill 248, which states the Kentucky Attorney General is the only statewide constitutional officer who is allowed to expend taxpayer funds on litigation challenging the constitutionality of a bill — a direct response to several of Beshear’s lawsuits as governor.
House Bill 314, which would allow a new city or annexation request in Jefferson County to be approved if at least 66% of residents in the area signed a petition to do so, while the maximum number of terms a Louisville mayor could serve would be reduced from three to two. Beshear and Democrats said this would undermine the will of Louisville voters who approved the city-county merger, while Republicans said it would give more local control to South End residents.
House Bill 334, which removes the governor’s ability to make all appointments to the Executive Branch Ethics Commission and instead gives the majority of appointments to other statewide constitutional officers — who are all currently Republicans.
House Bill 740, which allows legislative candidates to file annual fundraising reports with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance instead of quarterly fundraising reports in off-election years, strikes the requirement of reporting the spousal information of contributors in such reports and allows legislators running for a statewide constitutional office to raise PAC money from employers of legislative lobbyists during a legislative session. Beshear and Democrats argued the bill reduces transparency in elections.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky legislature runs through overrides of Andy Beshear vetoes