2020 Session: A “mixed bag” for the family

May/June 2020

All in all, we must remain grateful for what did pass and what was stopped!

The 2020 Session began with a great deal of promise, but ended with somewhat of a “thud” because of the COVID-19 shutdown. Yes, several good bills for the family were passed. And, yes, several bad bills were killed. But the overwhelming takeaway is “So much more could have been done, if COVID-19 had stayed away another few weeks.”

To be clear, pro-family legislators worked very hard and were on course to have a great Session for the family. But COVID-19 ended the paths forward for a number of very good bills, leaving them with not enough time to pass before the shortened Session came to an end.

Fortunately, on the last day, courageous legislators moved SB 9 and HB 451. Without doubt, legislators are hoping to renew their work on them in 2021. (A listing of bills we worked on is below.)

Offensive Victories: Good Bills that passed

Senate Bill 9: Born Alive Infant Protection Act Vetoed by Gov. Beshear!!!

By Sen. Whitney Westerfield: This bill protects infants, who are born alive, from being denied nourishment and reasonable medical care. SB 9 applies to infants born alive after an attempted abortion and also to infants who may be born with medical complications or who are not wanted by their parents. (This bill passed the full Senate and its House Committee in 2019, but died in the House for lack of time.)

Advocates said: All human life must be protected. There are cases across the nation where infants born alive after abortion attempts have been allowed to starve to death and have been denied any care.

Status: This bill, WITH HB 451 AMENDED INTO IT, passed the Senate on Jan. 27 with a 32 to 0 vote and the House on April 15 with a 70 to 16 vote. (See HB 451 below) Gov. Beshear vetoed SB 9 on April 24.

House Concurrent Resolution 5: Expediting Responsible Marijuana Research

By Rep. Danny Bentley: This resolution (HCR 5) urges the Federal Government to re-schedule marijuana from a Schedule I drug and then expedite the study of the possible medical benefits of marijuana, using evidence-based science. The resolution addresses several issues that prevent potential medicines from being made safely available to Kentucky citizens.

Advocates said: The Kentucky legislature should not try to do the job of the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Even though marijuana has been around a long time, it has not been studied properly. Opioids were also around a long time, but were not properly researched before doctors began routinely prescribing. (And look what happened.)

Status: HCR 5 passed the House 89 to 2 on Jan. 30 and the Senate 35 to 0 on March 3. Signed by Governor on March 9.

House Bill 451: Expands the Attorney General’s Authority to Enforce Abortion Laws

By Rep. Stan Lee: When fashioned, the Kentucky Constitution created a fairly weak Attorney General’s office, but HB 451 bolsters the Attorney General’s authority regarding the investigation of the state’s abortion industry.

Advocates said: HB 451 is critical to what is going on in Kentucky . . . consider: 1) U of L’s deep involvement with the abortion clinic in Louisville; 2) the Governor’s abortion clinic favoritism during the COVID-19 crisis; and 3) the newly-opened abortion clinic in Louisville – Planned Parenthood – right in the midst of COVID-19. These things must be looked into!

Status: This bill passed the House on March 10 with a 70 to 23 vote and passed the Senate on April 15 with a 31 to 2 vote. But it was never sent to the Governor because the essence of the bill had been amended into Senate Bill 9 (See above.)

House Bill 2: Strengthening the Human Trafficking Laws

By Rep. Suzanne Miles: HB 2 adds offenses to what qualifies as a sex crime and it affirms that a human trafficking victim’s cooperation during an offense shall not disqualify the state from having a criminal claim.

Advocates said: HB 2 is another step forward in the war to combat the plague of human trafficking that has beset the entire world and that has become a national transgression in America as well. Status: This bill passed the House on March 9 with a unanimous 87 to 0 vote and passed the Senate on March 26 with another unanimous 33 to 0 vote. Gov. Beshear signed HB 2 into law on April 2.

Defensive Kills: Bad Bills that were stopped

House Bill 137: Gambling Expansion – (the so-called “Sports Wagering” Bill)

By Rep. Adam Koenig: This bill was called the “Sports Wagering” Bill because it would have expanded gambling in Kentucky beyond 1) horse racing, 2) charitable gambling, and 3) The Lottery, into the world of sports and “other” competition. Originally, the bill authorized wagering only on professional sports, but the bill’s language was expanded into college sports in Kentucky, Fantasy Sports and online Poker.

Opponents said: 1) To expand gambling you must change the Kentucky Constitution with an amendment; 2) HB 137 targets the poor and young people, setting up gambling on cell phones “24/7”; 3) The language is overbroad, giving the Racing Commission H-U-G-E control with no Executive Ethics Code; 4) The bill has been written BY gambling folks FOR gambling folks with no concern for the people; 5) No studies – ZERO – have been done to predict the impact on Kentucky families.

Status: HB 137 passed its House Committee on Jan. 15. It died there primarily because of courageous work of many House Republicans who did not want to see their majority in the House bend to serve the gambling industry. There likely were enough Democrats and Republicans together that could have secured passage. Of course, what was missing is that HB 137 was not a constitutional amendment, which many believe was required by law.

House Bill 136: Legalizing Medical Marijuana (in an arbitrary way)

By Rep. Jason Nemes: This bill is almost exactly the opposite of House Concurrent Resolution 5 (see left on page 2). It legalizes medical marijuana in Kentucky and sets up Kentucky’s own efforts to regulate and study the plant. The question is whether this law will do what the FDA can do.

Opponents said: Kentucky cannot do as thorough a job researching the plant as the FDA.

Status: HB 136 passed its House Committee on Feb. 12 and the full House on Feb. 20 with a vote of 65 to 30. It died in the Senate with the Senate choosing, instead, to pass HCR 5. HCR 5 calls for the FDA to expedite its research so that no one would by hurt by a premature authorization of marijuana. Every drug has bad interactions with other medications. Marijuana is no exception; it just hasn’t been researched to find its vulnerabilities.

Good Bills that failed (by COVID-19 pressure or opposition

House Bill 67: The Human Life Amendment – By Rep. Joe Fischer:
This bill was a Constitutional Amendment that affirms that the Kentucky Constitution does not guarantee the right to abortion funding or to have abortion.

House Bill 281: Educating on Pornography – By Rep. Nancy Tate:
This bill requires the KY Dept. of Education to develop informational materials on the public health risks and potential harms of sexually explicit internet content and to distribute the informational materials to parents and guardians of students.

House Bill 321: Youth Health Protection Act – By Rep. Savannah Maddox:
This bill prohibits the attempts to surgically or hormonally change the biological sex of any child under the age of 18.

House Bill 370: Dignified Disposal of Human (Fetal) Remains – By Rep. Nancy Tate:
This bill would ensure that the bodies of pre-viability babies, and babies whose lives are terminated by abortion or by natural causes, would be treated in a manner that respects the dignity of human life.

House Bill 447: “Safe Haven Baby Boxes” Act – By Rep. Nancy Tate:
For mothers who are tempted to abandon their newborn child, specially designed, medically safe boxes are installed in participating fire stations or hospitals, which are manned 24/7.

Senate Bill 90: The Medical Ethics and Diversity Act – By Sen. Stephen Meredith:
This bill provides religious liberty and conscience protections for medical professionals regarding controversial medical technologies and practices.

Senate Bill 114: “Save Women’s Sports” Act – By Sen. Robby Mills:
This bill would prohibit biological males from competing in girls’ athletic events at the college and high school level in Kentucky schools.

Senate Bill 116: Parents’ Rights Protection Act – By Sen. Stephen West:
This bill affirms the rights of parents as “fundamental rights,” directing the courts to honor them before they infringe on the upbringing of children.

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