Legislature closes out 2020 session with override of budget vetoes and passage of final bills

In the final day of a whirlwind legislative session that was unlike any other because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky General Assembly overrode gubernatorial budget vetoes and passed several other measures before adjourning late Wednesday evening.

Earlier in the week, Gov. Andy Beshear issued veto messages removing parts of the budget passed by the legislature expressing the need for more spending flexibility in the governor’s office as the state deals with the coronavirus.

There was discussion about whether or not all of the governor’s vetoes in the budget should be overridden due to the unprecedented circumstances the state currently faces. However, with supermajorities in the House and Senate, GOP leaders said the General Assembly has given increased flexibility to the governor in many areas and the spending of state dollars is the job of the legislative branch of government.

House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Steven Rudy pointed to the fact that legislators used the advice of the governor’s administration when crafting the slimmed down, one-year budget. Rudy added if there is a spending issue that must be addressed before lawmakers return to Frankfort in January 2021 to craft the second half of the budget, the governor will need to bring the legislature back.

The House vote for the budget veto override was 57-33, and the Senate voted 27-7 to override.

The legislature also voted to override vetoes to the other budget bills and other bills.

Another bill passed late Wednesday was Senate Bill 99, an omnibus alcohol bill addressing needs of Kentucky’s distillers, brewers, and small farm wineries, sponsored by Senator John Schickel. SB 99 eliminates the sunset on a local option precinct election for distilleries, sets a minimum standard of production to acquire a distillery license, and allows flexibility for distillers to sell collaborative products that were manufactured off-site, among other provisions. Currently, Kentucky distilleries that are partnering with beer producers cannot sell the beer product in a distillery gift shop because a distillery can only sell what it distills.

That bill and any others passed by the General Assembly on Tuesday and Wednesday now head to the governor for his consideration. The legislature has now adjourned until January 2021 unless they are called back for a special session.

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