General Assembly passes COVID-19 response bill, allows direct shipping of alcohol to and from Kentucky

COVID-19 Response

The General Assembly completed one of their last days in session by passing Senate Bill 150 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill initially addressed surprise billing for health care services. The legislature amended it late last week to include temporary changes in statutes in response to the disease and its impact on Kentuckians.

The bill codifies many of the actions taken by the governor through executive orders, including waiving some of the requirements for unemployment insurance eligibility, such as the 7-day waiting period and work search. It also requires the state to adhere to the same tax filing extensions set by Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury.

Today, legislators added provisions to the bill, including immunity for health care workers responding to the pandemic and for manufacturers that are switching to producing personal protective equipment to protect those workers and first responders. The legislation also expands telehealth, allows government entities to utilize online meetings without violating open meeting requirements, and extends unemployment to the self-employed.

SB 150 also requires that the Governor, in writing, declare the end of the state of emergency.  Should he fail to do so, the General Assembly, under this legislation, would be able to do so, at the start of their next session.

Direct Shipment of Alcohol

After passing the Senate Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee Thursday morning, a measure allowing direct shipment of alcohol to consumers passed the full Senate on Thursday afternoon.

Sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig, House Bill 415 allows producers of beer, wine, and spirits to ship products directly to consumers in the Commonwealth. The bill’s passage serves as a much-needed stimulus for an industry that has been negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the bill sponsor.

“We need to do all we can to support our signature industries during this economic crisis,” said Koenig in his committee testimony. “The bourbon industry has stepped up to start producing hand sanitizer for business and health care providers in this state. Kentucky needs to step up and give them the tools they need to rebound, and this bill will help.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer presented the measure to the full Senate.

“This direct-shipping bill has been in the work for many years,” he said. “It has been the subject of … a numerous number of interim committee meetings over the past few years and a lot of behind-the-scenes work to get us where we are today.”

Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, stood to explain his “yea” vote.

“This bill also corrects something that many, many, many Kentuckians are very concerned about,” said Schickel, chairman of the Senate Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee. “I hear about it all the time. That is people who want to order wine, to have wine shipped to Kentucky from various locations. This will correct that problem once and for all.”

The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

The legislature will convene on April 1 to pass a budget and again on April 15 to consider veto overrides.

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