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Beshear vetoes Ky. omnibus abortion bill

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear at the podium during a COVID-19 memorial service at the State Capitol in Frankfort on Nov. 14, 2021.
A committee established by Gov. Andy Beshear in June to gauge public interest on medical cannabis found strong support from residents.

Gov. Andy Beshear has vetoed a more than 70-page omnibus abortion bill passed last week by the legislature

Kentucky law already requires minors seeking abortions to get consent from a primary parent. House Bill 3, sponsored by Republican Rep. Nancy Tate of Brandenburg, would also require that parent to make a good faith effort to notify the other parent, unless there is a domestic order or a history of crimes against minors. 

Beshear said in his veto that requiring minors to seek a judicial bypass to avoid getting consent from an abusive parent was unfair and could subject the minor to more abuse. 

The bill also regulates the disposal of fetal tissue and requires the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create and maintain a certification program for providers of abortion medication. In his veto, Beshear said that would cost an estimated $1 million to get started. 

When it was passed last week, the Kentucky Senate approved a floor amendment to include language from Senate Bill 321 that bans abortions at 15 weeks.

The bill very closely mirrors the Mississippi bill under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court. That decision could overturn or weaken the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that provides constitutional protection for abortion. 

The Senate voted down an amendment to make exceptions in the bill for rape or incest. 

“Rape and incest are violent crimes,” Beshear said in the veto. “Victims of these crimes should have options, not be further scarred through a process that exposes them to more harm from their rapists or that treats them like offenders themselves.” 

He also said the bill was “likely unconstitutional,” and added that the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services does not have to comply with unfunded mandates – like the requirement for that organization to maintain the certification program. 

The bill contains an emergency clause, which means it would go into effect immediately if the veto is overridden by the legislature next week. 

Richard Nelson, executive director of conservative organization Commonwealth Policy Center, denounced Beshear’s veto. 

“The bill … required humane treatment of unborn children aborted in Kentucky abortion centers and closed loopholes for minors seeking abortion without their parents’ knowledge or input,” Nelson said in the statement. 

“Kentucky is a pro-life state. And Kentucky voters will remember this next year.”

Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates praised the governor’s move Friday afternoon, calling the bill “unconstitutional and anti-science” in a statement.

“H.B. 3 is the most dangerous package of anti-abortion policies to come out of the Kentucky General Assembly,” Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates CEO Jennifer Allen wrote. “Regardless of what the proponents of this bill have said, there is no justification for this legislation, which will, by design, stop abortion completely in our state.”

A statement from the ACLU of Kentucky Policy Strategist Jackie McGranahan also applauded Beshear for the veto and said the bill “demonstrates abject ignorance of medical science and is a dangerous effort to push important reproductive healthcare out of reach for all Kentuckians, regardless of their circumstances." 

Beshear’s veto period continues Saturday and Monday. The legislature will return next Wednesday and Thursday for the two final days of the session, where they may override any vetoes. 

Here’s some other action Beshear has taken during his veto period.

Vetoed: Public assistance restrictions

On Friday, Beshear vetoedHouse Bill 7, which would tighten requirements for public assistance like Medicaid and SNAP benefits.

The bill would require the state Health Cabinet to create a work requirement program for Medicaid beneficiaries to prove they are working, volunteering or doing community service in order to keep their health benefits. It would also create tougher penalties for people who improperly use food assistance, including escalating suspensions for repeated violations.

In hisveto message, Beshear said the measure would threaten access to important services for people in need.

“This bill will hurt our families, seniors, children, and those with disabilities, and it will disproportionately affect the regions of the Commonwealth that lack access to health care, food, child care and other assistance Kentuckians depend on,” Beshear said.

Vetoed: Tax overhaul

Beshear also vetoedHouse Bill 8, which would lower Kentucky’s income tax rate from 5% to 4.5% next year, costing the state about $1.4 billion every budget cycle, and creating a path to lower the rate even further in the future. The bill would also expand the state’s 6% sales tax to new services like ride shares, short term housing rentals and marketing services.

In hisveto message, Beshear said the bill would threaten Kentucky’s economic future.

“Other states that have drastically cut income tax have seen their economies harmed by those changes,” Beshear said, citing 2012 tax cuts in Kansas.

“The General Assembly should learn from Kansas’s mistakes. Instead, House Bill 8 repeats them.”

Vetoed: Library board governance

Beshear vetoed Senate Bill 167, which would give county judge-executives more control over who sits on local library boards. Some librarians worry it would bring partisan politics into the governance of local library systems and influence decisions about finances, personnel and what books wind up on the shelves. It does not apply to systems in Louisville, Lexington and a handful of other cities.

In his veto message, Beshear wrote that the bill “threatens the space libraries occupy in our communities as places where everyone is welcome to freely access and exchange information, regardless of political viewpoint.”

Signed: Police in schools

Beshear signed House Bill 63, which would require school districts to have an armed police officer on each school campus by August, or apply for a reprieve from the state. The bill would also allow school districts to create their own police departments.

The ACLU of Kentucky issued a statement opposing Beshear’s approval of the bill, saying it will disproportionately push children of color and children with disabilities into the criminal legal system.

“House Bill 63 may be well-intentioned, but the evidence shows this strategy for addressing school-based issues will have devastating consequences on Kentucky students. We urge lawmakers to consider alternative programs proven to positively impact children’s mental health and overall well-being, which in turn support better behavior and educational outcomes,” ACLU of Kentucky communications director Samuel Crankshaw wrote in a release.


Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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