Hundreds of Kentucky laws take effect on Thursday, including charter schools, public assistance restrictions
Most of the 234 bills that passed during Kentucky’s 2022 legislative session will take effect on Thursday. The measures include major legislation dealing with criminal justice, public assistance, school police and transgender student athletes.
Laws take effect 90 days after the end of each annual legislative session, unless they have special effective dates. Since this year’s General Assembly wrapped up on April 14, most new laws will take effect on July 14.
But several major bills featured an “emergency clause” that triggered them immediately, including measures ending the coronavirus-related state of emergency, setting requirements for how teachers talk about race and history in the classroom and overhauling the state’s tax code.
The legislature also passed a handful of bills with emergency clauses that have been temporarily blocked amid legal challenges – Republican-drawn redistricting plans and a sweeping anti-abortion billthat bans the mailing of abortion medication.
Here are some of the laws that will take effect on Thursday:
Charter schools: House Bill 9 establishes a funding model for charter schools. Kentucky first passed a charter schools bill in 2017, but lawmakers never passed a permanent funding mechanism.
Charter schools have been especially controversial in rural areas, amid worries that the publicly funded but privately managed schools would sap public funds from traditional public schools and cripple local districts.
The act also mandates the creation of two pilot charter school projects in Louisville and northern Kentucky and changes the appeals process if education officials deny an application for a new charter school.
Tightening public benefits: House Bill 7 creates new requirements for people who receive public benefits like food assistance or Medicaid. The bill instructs Kentucky’s health cabinet to create a system of work requirements for people to prove they are working, volunteering or doing community service in order to keep benefits. It also creates tougher penalties for people who improperly use food assistance.
Kentucky has more than 1.6 million people on Medicaid and 544,000 people who receive food assistance, also known as SNAP.
Banning trans girls from girls sports: Under Senate Bill 83, transgender girls fromas sixth grade through college will be banned from competing in girls and women’s sports teams. Similar laws have been blocked in other states, but no one has challenged Kentucky’s new measure yet.
School public comment requirements House Bill 121 requires a public comment period of at least 15 minutes at local school board meetings. The bill was filed in response to heated discussions at school board meetings over COVID-19 mitigation and so-called “critical race theory” policies.
School police: House Bill 63 calls on local school districts to place a school resource officer in each campus by August, though the policy doesn’t set aside funding for schools who can’t afford one.
Anti “Critical Race Theory”: Senate Bill 1 would shift power from local school-based decision making councils to district superintendents when making curriculum and personnel decisions. The bill was amended late in the legislative session, adding language to dictate how teachers talk about race and U.S. history in the classroom. It requires teachers to instruct from a list of speeches and documents, including Ronald Reagan’s 1964 “A Time For Choosing” speech, in which he rails against welfare programs. And it also admonishes teachers “that defining racial disparities solely on the legacy of [slavery and Jim Crow] is destructive to the unification of our nation.”
Drug overdoses: In a bid to crack down on fentanyl overdoses and use in the state, Dalton’s Law increases jail time for those convicted of trafficking fentanyl and makes importation of the drug a felony.
Drug treatment: Senate Bill 90 sets up pilot programs in 10 counties that would give people convicted of some low-level drug charges options to stay out of jail. The bill allows courts to mitigate sentences or dismiss charges for low-level offenders based on their participation in drug treatment and vocational services.
Banning death penalty for some mentally ill: House Bill 269 adds serious mental illness to the list of disabilities that disqualify offenders from execution. The death penalty ban would apply to people diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder or delusional disorder.
Anti-SLAPP bill: House Bill 222 is a bipartisan effort that gives judges more discretion to dismiss frivolous lawsuits that limit critics’ free speech. Supporters of the bill say the legal challenges, dubbed “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” are often filed by wealthy businesses or individuals to intimidate critics.