Short session will bring few bills, new legislative make up
Kentucky School Advocate
By Brenna R. Kelly
(Editor's Note: A detailed breakout of KSBA’s legislative priorities is available at ksba.org/Advocacy.aspx..)
The new year means a new legislative session. This session that begins in Frankfort on Jan. 3 is a 30-day session – or short session – that does not include passing a new state budget.
But there will be plenty of work for legislators and opportunities for locally elected school board members to advocate for public education before the legislature adjourns on March 30.
After the November election, the newly constituted legislature will be made up of an even stronger Republican supermajority. Republicans flipped five seats in the House and will now have 80 out of 100 seats in that chamber. In the Senate, Republicans gained one seat, increasing the majority to 31 of 38 seats.
The new numbers will make it even easier for Republican legislators to override potential vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.
One of the new Republican members of the Senate is former Warren County school board member Kevin Jackson. Jackson defeated Democrat Patti Minter by 9 percentage points.
Several familiar faces will be missing from the Capitol this session including Ed Massey, former KSBA president and Boone County school board member, who lost his House seat in the Republican primary. Massey will be replaced by Rep. Steve Rawlings, R-Burlington.
Regina Huff, who had been chair of the House education committee, chose not to run for re-election. The Republican House leadership announced that Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, will chair the education committee and vice chairs will be Rep. Timmy Truett, R-McKee, a Jackson Co. Schools principal, and Rep. Shane Baker, R-Somerset.
Rep. Kim Banta, R-Independence, will chair the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Education, taking over for Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow, who will become vice-chair of the new Family Services Committee.
In the Senate, Sen. Steve West, R-Paris will chair the Education Committee. The vice-chair will be newly elected Sen. Gex Williams, R-Verona, while Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who had been the committee chair will remain on the committee and will become the chair of the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee.
Top issues this session
After the legislators convene on Jan 3., they plan to work for four days and then break until Feb. 7.
“Legislative leaders in the House and the Senate have widely announced that they intend for this short session to truly be what short sessions were intended to be when they began years ago,” said KSBA’s Director of Advocacy Eric Kennedy, “which means taking up only a few higher priority bills on urgent topics that cannot wait for the budget session in 2024.”
Though he notes some legislators have said that before and, nonetheless, passed a flurry of bills, Kennedy said most people expect fewer bills to be taken up this session.
Kennedy said he does not expect legislators to open the current state budget to appropriate a significant amount of funding, but could open the budget for a few targeted expenditures.
“We expect that among the high priorities for both chambers will be taking action to approve a reduction in the state individual income tax rate,” Kennedy said.
In the 2022 legislative session, lawmakers passed House Bill 8, which cut the state income tax rate from 5% to 4.5% beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and, based on benchmarks, also allows the legislature to further cut the rate to 4% this session.
House Majority Leader Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, recently told the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce that the rate reduction bill would be the House’s first order of business this session.
While some may applaud a reduced state income tax, many worry that state coffers will suffer. KSBA expressed concerns about state revenue when the bill passed this past year, Kennedy said.
“For many years, KSBA has advocated for tax reform to increase revenues,” he said. “We would therefore be concerned any time they reduce a tax rate, that it might have a negative impact, long term, on the overall amount of revenues collected, when so much of the revenue supports public education.”
In addition to tax reform, Kennedy expects some legislation this session focused on parental rights.
“We know that other state legislatures have enacted various forms of parents rights legislation such as Florida,” he said. “We expect to see potentially several bills proposed here this session along those same lines, but the devil is in the details because parents’ rights means different things to different people and it’s not clear yet what exactly we may see discussed or enacted this session here in Kentucky.”
Baker, one of the House Education Committee vice chairs, said he is looking forward to strengthening parents’ rights.
“Restoring parental rights in the classroom has been a long-standing priority of mine. I look forward to tackling this and the many critical issues facing our Commonwealth,” he recently told the Commonwealth Journal.
Kennedy expects the requirements of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and how Kentucky’s law conforms to that federal law to be part of the parental rights discussion during the session.
“School boards already have in their local board policies and procedures, rules for implementing FERPA, including annual notices to parents detailing their long-standing rights,” he said. “Ahead of session, it would be good for board members to take a look at their policies and their annual notice forms and procedures to refresh everyone’s understanding of the rules, in order to know how they might change if new legislation was passed.”
Bourbon barrel tax up in the air
During the interim, legislators have been reviewing Kentucky’s state and local property tax on bourbon aging in barrels. A task force met several times and heard testimony from Kennedy, on behalf of KSBA, and also several superintendents about how the tax impacts school districts.
The Distillers Association says that eliminating the tax would allow the bourbon industry to continue to grow in the state. Public schools are the biggest beneficiaries of the tax, taking in $26 million a year by the distillers’ estimate.
Currently, 29 school boards receive revenue from this property tax, up from just 14 boards eight years ago, due to the expansion of the industry into new areas of the state. Those 29 boards now receive $18.5 million a year in local revenue from the tax. Some of that revenue is already obligated to bond payments for already completed school facility projects.
On Dec. 15, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that in 2022 Kentucky recorded its best year for growth in the bourbon and spirits industry with over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs in the state.
The bourbon barrel task force did not make a recommendation at the end of its work and it’s unclear whether a bill to eliminate the tax will be filed this session.
2023 Regular Session Calendar
Jan. 3 – Legislature convenes for Part 1
Jan. 6 – Part 1 ends
Feb. 7 – Legislature reconvenes for Part 2
Feb. 21 – Last day to file Senate bills
Feb. 22 – Last day to file House bills
March 17 – March 28 – Veto recess
March 30 – Sine die (final day of session)
Follow the legislature
Follow the 2023 legislative session by watching KET’s livestream of House and Senate education committee meetings at ket.org/legislature and following @KSBAnews on Twitter. KSBA will also send its Legislative Update email every Friday during the session to all board members and superintendents.