As we approach the midpoint of the Kentucky General Assembly's 2020 Regular Session, legislators continue engaging with stakeholders, organizations and constituents who are making their way to Frankfort.
Last week, many of them were visiting for Kentucky Advocacy Day and to celebrate African American achievements in the military. The General Assembly continues to chug along as members absorb information on measures that will have lasting effects throughout Kentucky.
In the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting, members heard from Tom Modrowski of Braidy Industries. Modrowski told state lawmakers the company needs to raise another $500 million in financing to build the roughly $1.7 billion aluminum mill in northeastern Kentucky. He testified to the committee that the company expects to have the full funding by the fourth quarter of 2020.
He also updated the committee concerning the recent leadership changes, which removed founder Craig Bouchard as CEO. He added that changes were made because board members want to see more progress.
Under former Gov. Matt Bevin, the state invested a substantial tax expenditure, totaling $15 million, into the project. This investment was made with your money, and as a legislator, a priority is being a taxpayer watchdog for citizens across the state.
I appreciate Braidy Industries’ willingness to come before the committee and clear the air. However, there are still many concerns and lingering questions that will need to be answered if the financial obligations and project deadlines are not met.
A bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky passed with a vote of 17-1 in the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 136 would set policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution and use of medicinal marijuana, should it become law.
The bill would prohibit smoking of medicinal marijuana and possession or use of medical marijuana in specific public buildings. Users of the substance would have to be registered and possess a medical cannabis card. Cannabis businesses would have to be licensed.
Local governments and their citizens would have the authority to decide whether medical marijuana businesses can operate locally. The legislation will now go to the House floor for a vote. There has been major progress made on this issue, considering just last year the bill was never even brought to either chamber for a vote.
As the House hammers out a budget, the General Assembly continues to vote a steady stream of bills off the floor, and during committee meetings. Over the coming weeks, the pace will only increase.
Other legislation that passed in the Senate last week:
- SB 30 limits the number of Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) within our state to three. There is a systematic problem with how MCOs operate in Kentucky. Further reforms do need to be made. However, this proposal restricts the executive branch’s power to appropriate the Medicaid budget by limiting how many MCOs are in the state. For these reasons, I voted no. The bill passed 29-7.
- SB 101 requires public postsecondary institutions to accept dual credits from high schools. With dual credit, a student is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously. The legislation seeks to give Kentucky students financial relief while also getting a head start when transitioning from high school to a university. The idea is that it’s more cost-effective for students to earn credits in high school than at a college or university. The measure passed 38-0.
- SB 82 establishes the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It passed unanimously.
- SB 122 permits a person to be court-ordered into assisted outpatient mental health treatment if the person has been involuntarily hospitalized at least twice in the past 24 months instead of twice in the past 12 months. The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 33-1.
- SB 123 deals with reorganization of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and establishes the Division of Telehealth Services. The proposal passed unanimously.
Bills that passed in the Senate last week will now go to the House for further consideration.
Stay up to date on legislation by logging on to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at www.legislature.ky.gov. The site provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service and committee meeting schedules.