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Lawmakers advance measures on taxes, education and TikTok

From Mike Wynn, LRC

Frankfort, KY -- The second part of the 2023 Regular Session got underway this week as lawmakers moved bills to reduce income taxes, address sensitive topics in public schools and ban TikTok on state government devices.

In a rare move, the House also voted Thursday to impeach Commonwealth's Attorney Ronnie Goldy Jr., who serves the 21st Judicial District in Eastern Kentucky. It marked only the fifth time in state history that lawmakers have adopted articles of impeachment against a public official.

The General Assembly is meeting in a short, 30-day session this year as opposed to the longer, 60-day sessions that occur in even-numbered years. Short sessions are divided into two parts, and the second part commenced Tuesday on a bipartisan note.

That's when state leaders from all three branches of government - and both political parties - gathered in the Capitol Rotunda for the annual Black History Celebration, hosted by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus.

However, as the week continued, lawmakers remained divided on two of the biggest bills moving through the General Assembly this year.

House Bill 1 drove heated debate on the Senate floor Wednesday. The legislation would reduce state income taxes from 4.5% to 4% at the start of 2024. It would also codify a reduction from 5% to 4.5% that took effect earlier this year.

The bill is part of a broad, multi-year effort to gradually reduce and eliminate income taxes while also expanding the overall tax base. Supporters say it will provide Kentuckians with needed financial relief and create a stronger environment for economic growth. But critics say the changes will harm state coffers and shift the state's tax needs to people in lower income brackets.

HB 1 cleared the Senate floor on a 30-5 vote and is now awaiting a decision from the governor.

The second measure galvanizing debate this week was Senate Bill 150, which advanced out of the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.

Supporters say the bill seeks to ensure parental communication and input on school policies and curriculum related to sensitive topics, including human sexuality, health services and the use of pronouns. Opponents have raised concerns, however, that the measure could harm student safety and mental health, especially when parents don't affirm a student's identity.

The legislation passed out of committee with an 11-1 vote and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Lawmakers moved a few additional bills during the four-day week, including measures on state scholarships and TikTok.

Senate Bill 24 would offer homeschooled students more access to the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES) based on test scores that correlate to grade point averages. It cleared the Senate Education Committee on Thursday and now moves to the full Senate.

Senate Bill 20 would ban use of the social media app TikTok on state government networks and devices. The measure moved off the Senate floor on Friday after lawmakers said the app - owned by the Chinese company ByteDance - is a threat to the state's data security. It now heads to the House.

The General Assembly is scheduled to gavel in on Tuesday for the ninth day of the session. Lawmakers have until Feb. 21 to introduce new bills in the Senate and until Feb. 22 to introduce new bills in the House. More than 300 bill have been filed in the session so far.

Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to follow a bill's progression through the chambers.

Citizens can also share their views on issues with lawmakers by calling the General Assembly's toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

This story was posted on 2023-02-11 10:12:44
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