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This Week at the Capitol: Immigration, public assistance reform highlight busy opening week


There’s always a guessing game among Capitol observers in the early days of a Kentucky General Assembly session over which issues will be designated as Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1 – honorifics reserved for matters considered to be among top priorities by legislative leaders.

Part of that answer was unveiled last week when legislation on immigration was filed in the Senate as Senate Bill 1. The rest of the answer revealed itself this week as House leaders announced that public assistance reform will be the focus of House Bill 1.

Senate Bill 1, which is currently awaiting consideration by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would call upon law enforcement officials and public agencies to use their best efforts, considering available resources, to support the enforcement of federal immigration law.

(KyForward file)

Senate Bill 1 would also prohibit “sanctuary” policies in Kentucky, such as a measure to block officials from cooperating with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws.

Some fine-tuning on the measure is still occurring to make sure the intent of the bill is clear, one of its sponsors said this week. The bill already states that school districts would be exempt from provisions in the legislation. Others who would also be exempt under changes that will be proposed to the legislation include domestic violence centers, child advocacy centers, rape crisis centers, public defenders, and health departments.

While House Bill 1 has not yet officially been filed for consideration in the House, legislative leaders say the bill is coming soon and will be aimed at helping people moving from public assistance into the workforce.

During a Jan. 13 appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, House Speaker David Osborne said House Bill 1 is “pro-worker” legislation. The measure’s supporters say it would help move people into the workforce by making sure those transitioning off of public assistance don’t face “benefit cliffs,” situations in which a small increase in earned income could trigger a significant drop in child care assistance or some other form of assistance that sets back a struggling family’s attempt to achieve financial stability.

In another highlight of last week’s legislative action, the Senate and House met in a joint session on Jan. 14 to listen to Gov. Andy Beshear’s first State of the Commonwealth Address. The governor urged policymakers to look beyond partisanship and national divisions to focus on matters that most directly affect Kentuckians.

After the speech, legislative leaders praised the cooperative tone. They also noted that some of the most difficult work of governing lies ahead. The governor will offer his budget proposal in a couple weeks at a time when revenue increases are outpaced by cost increases in areas like education, criminal justice, public pensions, and Medicaid. Once the governor delivers his two-year spending proposal, it will be up to lawmakers to craft a budget that they feel best suits the needs of the state.

Already, more than 350 bills have been filed in the House and Senate on issues including human trafficking, hemp, gun rights, vaping, voting rights and sports betting. Citizens can share their input with lawmakers on the issues under consideration by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

From Legislative Research Commission


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