Executive order powers, constitutional changes, liability protections and other priority bills filed as General Assembly kicks off first day of 2021 session

On the first day of the 2021 session Tuesday, new legislators were sworn in, leadership teams were formally approved, and bills were filed in both the House and the Senate.

Top House Bills were filed with key priorities of the majority caucus, including:

  • House Bill 1: AN ACT relating to Re-Opening the Economy in the Commonwealth of Kentucky in Response to the State of Emergency Declared by the Governor (Rep. Bart Rowland)
  • House Bill 2: AN ACT relating to Medical Procedures and Declaring an EMERGENCY (Rep. Joseph Fischer)
  • House Bill 3: AN ACT relating to Civil Actions and Declaring an EMERGENCY (Rep. Ed Massey)
  • House Bill 4: AN ACT amending Sections 36 and 42 of the Kentucky Constitution Relating to Sessions of the General Assembly (House Speaker David Osborne)
  • House Bill 5: AN ACT related to Reorganization and Declaring an EMERGENCY (Rep. Michael Meredith)

House Bills 1-5 were all appointed to committees and given their first readings. House Bills 2 and 3 had their postings waved and were sent to the House Judiciary Committee, which met after adjournment of the House on Tuesday.

House Bills 1 and 5 were referred to the House State Government Committee, which will meet Wednesday at noon, and House Bill 4 will be heard Wednesday at 11 in the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Sen. Matt Castlen, was filed as an act relating to emergencies which, according to the bill that was pre-filed before session, would limit the effective dates of executive orders issued by the governor to 30 days unless an extension is approved by the General Assembly and prohibit the governor from issuing a new executive order relating to the same emergency without legislative approval. This would be accomplished by amending section 39A of the state constitution.

Other Senate priorities that were filed include:

  • Senate Bill 2 AN ACT relating to Administrative Regulations (Sen. Steve West)
  • Senate Bill 3 AN ACT relating to Reorganization (Sen. Paul Hornback)
  • Senate Bill 5 AN ACT relating to Emergencies and Declaring an EMERGENCY (Senate President Robert Stivers)

On the floor, Senate President Stivers said Senate Bill 5 works to provide a safe haven for businesses in Kentucky as they have and continue to face many uncertainties in light of the pandemic. He stated the bill seeks to provide liability protections for companies to help protect against frivolous lawsuits that would force them to lose everything.

Stivers pointed to impending increases in unemployment insurance costs for businesses and the threat of lawsuits in an ever-changing environment as issues that are putting Kentucky companies at risk of closing every day which he said must be prevented if the state intends to get its economy back on track.

Sen. West said Senate Bill 2 is about fixing unconstitutional use of legislative powers that have been used by the governor throughout the pandemic and deals with section 13A of the constitution. He said it would provide more transparency for the legislature and the public and more oversight by legislative committees of proposed regulations.

Along with some of these priorities being heard beginning this week, the governor will give his State of the Commonwealth and Budget address on Wednesday night and lawmakers will begin to discuss how they will proceed with crafting the next year of the state budget.

Many other bills were also filed on Tuesday that will likely be taken up later in the session.

Changes were also made to the House and Senate rules to allow members to vote differently (from their offices and off the floor) because of COVID-19.

Legislators on the floor wore masks and access to the Capitol is still very limited to only legislators, essential staff, reporters, and specifically approved individuals” and all must have their temperatures taken at the door.

Stay tuned to The Bottom Line for more session updates as well as stories on the governor’s address and Chamber Day speeches from leaders this week.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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