House passes bills dealing with to-go alcohol, overpayment of unemployment insurance benefits, employability after incarceration, and more

On Friday, the House passed many Senate bills giving some final passage and sending them to the governor. A house bill focused on employability after incarceration also passed in the House and now moves to the Senate.

Legislation seeking to fix the issue of many Kentuckians being asked to pay back benefits they received by giving the Kentucky Labor Cabinet the ability to waive over-payment of unemployment payments passed the House 96-0.

Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem David Givens, waives the clawback of unemployment insurance benefits paid in error during the COVID-19 pandemic and ensures fraud protections, privacy of user information, and improvements for how employers use the unemployment insurance system.

The bill is in response to claims by Senate Republicans and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting in October that the Administration of Gov. Andy Beshear made an error in the overpayment of benefits early on in the pandemic and proceeded to deem those individuals retroactively ineligible to receive said payments.

Senate Bill 67, sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, would allow restaurants to sell alcohol, including cocktails, with to-go and delivery orders when purchased with a meal from that establishment.

The legislation comes after the governor issued an executive order amid the COVID-19 pandemic to allow restaurants to temporarily sell to-go alcohol, as many of them had to shut their doors to in-person dining and shift to a takeout model because of restrictions. The bill would put the language from the executive order into statute.

Senate Bill 141, sponsored by Sen. Robbie Mills, dealing with the coal workers’ pneumoconiosis fund passed the House with a 35-0 vote Monday afternoon.

The state’s pneumoconiosis fund, which has been managed by Kentucky Employers’ Mutual Insurance (KEMI), only has two outstanding claims that they believe will take 2-3 years to settle.

Money in the fund, around $20 million currently, will be paid back to coal companies who have paid in, but the cases are holding up that repayment. Senate Bill 141, Mills said, will allow for the distribution of those funds back to the coal companies to begin while also retaining the money necessary to pay out the final two claims.

Senate Bills 7, 67, and 141 now head to the governor.

House Bill 497, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, seeks to remove barriers to reentry by giving those exiting the corrections system a certificate of employability following success in programs completed while incarcerated.

Under the legislation, the Kentucky Department of Corrections would issue this certification once programs are complete, as well as partner with the Department of Transportation to ensure those leaving incarceration have necessary identification. The bill would also incentivize employers by providing limited liability protections, eliminate a ban on SNAP benefits for those convicted of a felony, and allow use of Medicaid for necessary treatments if an 1115 waiver is issued. The certification of employability will not be issued to sex offenders, and there are other exclusions in the bill as well.

Moser introduced a floor amendment adding language from Department of Corrections that specifies content in the bill pertaining to job training and contains other clarifying language.

House Bill 497 passed the House 95-0 and now moves to the Senate for consideration in committee.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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