As we have after each legislative session since 1984, we present “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly” - the highs and lows of the 2021 General Assembly in Regular Session.
When looking for “the good,” KRC considers both bills that advance environmental equity and justice, public health, and progressive energy and environmental policies; and those bills that would take Kentucky in the opposite direction that did not become law. In the first category, we have
HB 4 (Osborne and others), a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2022 that would allow the General Assembly to spread its days across the calendar year and allow extending the length of its legislative sessions by 10 days upon the vote of 3/5 of the membership of each House.
HB 236 (McPherson and Heath), a comprehensive reform of pesticide laws affecting regulation and licensing of pesticide companies and applicators.
HB 236 incorporates KRC language directing the Department to develop a regulatory program for notification and application of pesticides for lawn care and mosquito control.
HB 320 (Reed and others) encourages expansion of rural broadband and provides matching funds to encourage projects to serve underserved and unserved areas. As enacted, it includes language sought by KRC and the PSC that the Public Service Commission (PSC) has authority to review any proposal by electric co-ops to pledge regulated assets to capitalize affiliated broadband ventures.
HB 328 (Johnson) repeals and reenacts laws to restore effective control over spacing of billboards while addressing an issue regarding the on-site and off-site distinction that resulted in a judicial decision voiding the Billboard Act. KRC successfully opposed an effort to grandfather billboards erected without permits.
HB 392 (Gooch) broadens the eligibility threshold for voluntary energy cost assistance funds from 110% of the federal poverty guidelines to the percentage of the federal poverty guidelines to 130%.
HB 465 (Koenig) allows a utility to request the PSC to set a value for acquired water and sewer utility assets higher than at the depreciated cost, incorporating so-called “Delta” test developed by the Public Service Commission.
HB 574 (Decker and others) is a comprehensive election reform addressing ballots and voting and providing for early voting.
HJR 11 (Osborne) is a joint resolution would direct the Energy and Environment Cabinet to study the economic impact and feasibility of adopting an electronic waste disposal program in Kentucky. Did not pass, but is expected to be refiled in 2022.
SB 36 (Westerfield) allocates of $250 million dollars of Federal Funds in fiscal year 2021- 2022 from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority for the Drinking Water and Wastewater Grant Program.
SB 86 (Wheeler) will designate 100 percent of a new open dumping fine to be paid to the county where the violation occurred.
In the latter category, HB 47 which would have allowed doubling in size of less-than oneacre off-site construction and demolition debris landfills that lack leachate collection systems and surface and groundwater monitoring, didn’t become law. KRC was also successful in restoring current funding levels for the Office of Nature Preserves. A number of other bills that KRC opposed either received no hearing, or were not assigned to a committee, including bills to allow local exemptions from fluoridation of public water supplies, and to prohibit emergency bans on evictions.
A number of bills in the “bad” category reflected efforts by the legislative branch to curtail the exercise of emergency powers of the Governor: HB 1 (Rowland and others) became law over the Governor’s veto and would allow reopening of businesses and schools if they adopt a plan consistent with CDC guidelines, with no agency review of the sufficiency of the plans.
HB 1 is among the COVID-related bills that have been temporarily enjoined by the Franklin Circuit Court in pending litigation between the Governor and the General Assembly.
SB 1 (Castlen and others) limits the effective dates of executive orders.
SB 2 (West) further restricts adoption of emergency administrative regulations.
SB 5 (Stivers and others), which became law without the Governor’s signature, would provide liability protection for owners of premises during a declared emergency and refine the immunity of the state, private persons, volunteers, professional engineers and architects, and persons providing essential services during an emergency.
HB 3 (Massey), enacted over the Governor’s veto, seeks to move constitutional challenges to laws, regulations, and orders, out of Franklin Circuit Court by making the venue for such challenges the county where the Plaintiff resides rather than the defendant. The bill is special legislation that presents a solution to a non-existent problem, since KRC’s analysis found that of the 261 cases filed in 2020 in state and federal court and before the Board of Worker’s Claims, alleging Kentucky statutes to be unconstitutional, only 11 of those were cases against state officials or agencies, and only 2 were filed in Franklin Circuit Court. KRC provided an analysis of those cases and testified against the original and amended bill.
HB 207 (Gooch) is intended to preclude local governments from enacting ordinances to limit or prohibit new construction using natural gas for heating and electrification, by prohibiting local ordinances that restrict or limit access to regulate utility services. Many local governments across the country have used these strategies to help achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals.
HB 312 (Rowland) weakens transparency in government matters relating to public access to open records. KRC supported the Kentucky Open Government Coalition’s Amye Bensenhaver, former Attorney General office employee and expert on Kentucky Open Records Act issues, and with Senator Adrienne Southworth, in opposing the bill.
HB 386 (Freeland, DuPlessis) is intended to provide a legislative remedy for discharge issues with hexachlorobenzene from the Westlake Vinyl facility in western Kentucky, would weaken Kentucky water quality standards implementation by interfering with the Cabinet’s exercise of best professional judgment regarding whether to grant a “mixing zone” for bioaccumulative chemicals of concern (BCCs); mandating that any change or elimination of a mixing zone for a bioaccumulative chemical of concern that was in effect in 2004 be done by regulation rather than on permit-by-permit basis. Kentucky has banned such mixing zones since 2004, and no current discharger in Kentucky has a mixing zone for BCCs.
SB 8 (Wilson and others) broadens exemptions from mandatory immunization during an epidemic for any adult who submits a written sworn statement objecting to the immunization based on conscientiously held beliefs, a term that is undefined. No matter how outlandish or delusional the belief, a person could be exempted from a mandatory health order to receive a vaccination if the belief is “conscientiously held.”
AND ONE REALLY UGLY BILL
HB 272 (Bray and others) would allow a water district or water association to impose a 10% late fee on a customer who fails to pay a water or sewer bill and would prevent the Public Service Commission from suspending or disallowing such a fee and would bar the Governor from suspending disconnections or late fees for all city-owned electric, gas, water, or sewer utilities even during a declared emergency.
Thank you for your interest in Kentucky's environmental and public health. Individual contributions from donors across the Commonwealth make it possible for KRC to do its work every day, including advancing environmental, energy, and public health policies in Kentucky. If you're interested in making an investment in KRC, visit https://www.kyrc.org/get-involved/donate