NKY senator is center stage in push to pass ‘anti-trans’ bill in Senate

Mark Payne
Mark Payne
Mark Payne is the government and politics reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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A NKY senator is at the center of the strategy to push House Bill 470 — an evolving bill that at its core seeks to ban gender-affirming care for children in Kentucky — through the Kentucky Senate.

Standing on the Senate steps late Wednesday night, Sen. Gex Williams (R-Verona) strategized with David Walls, the executive director of the Family Foundation — a Christian organization that lobbies the legislature to follow “biblical values” — Sen. Adrienne Southworth (R-Lawrenceburg), and Sen. Lindsey Tichenor (R-Smithfield), about how to push through the bill.

Southworth mentioned to Williams he did a good job on the floor and Williams said he lives for this type of stuff.

The impromptu strategy session came moments after Williams motioned to table the bill to the Senate clerk’s desk — a temporary strategy to delay the vote and give the Senate time to potentially get enough votes to pass the legislation.

The Senate only needs a simple majority to bring the bill back to the floor.

The motion came after Williams filed two amendments — one early in the evening and the other later in the evening — that are the exact same but were filed to the committee substitute and the bill.

Williams’ amendments mirror a law passed in South Dakota and signed into law by Gov. Kristi Noem in February that bans puberty blockers, gender-affirming surgery, and cross-sex hormones.

The amendments provide exceptions for those who must take hormones for health reasons but would ban gender-affirming surgery and or medication.

Both amendments — which more closely resemble the original bill introduced in the legislature — are the same, but one was filed directly to the bill and one to the committee substitute.

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The committee substitute drastically changed the bill from just banning gender-affirming care to putting in bathroom bans on transgender kids in schools and preventing teaching children of any grade level from learning about gender identity.

“South Dakota has passed essentially a two-page bill,” Williams said of the amendment, which wasn’t on the floor because it was filed too late. “We drafted ours, and it’s just a very straightforward, clean, without pejorative language.”

Williams said that many people are for South Dakota’s law and have to talk to the House and see if they concur.

Williams wouldn’t share his strategy or reasoning for filing both amendments.

“Not gonna tell you why I filed it,” Williams said. “However, I will tell you the original is filed to the committee sub, and this was filed to the original bill.”

He elaborated that this is a standard operating procedure from 25 years ago when he previously served in the legislature.

“Back in the day when I used to do things, and there’s parliamentary stuff happening, and you never know what’s going on, you file to the committee sub, so that’s my standard operating procedure from 25 years ago,” Williams said.

All the maneuvering came after the Senate voted in favor of Sen. Danny Carroll’s (R-Benton) amendment filed late Tuesday night, which would drastically change the original bill to simply ban puberty blockers and any other medication used for gender-affirming care.

Due to the smell of smoke that interrupted Senate proceedings and the Frankfort Fire Department arriving at the capitol, Williams motioned to table the bill to the clerk’s desk — a temporary postponement and something Williams said, is “all about getting around ‘no.'”

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“I think we’ll work through this as a body and figure it out,” Williams said.

The legislature convenes for the last time Thursday before it goes into veto period, where Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has signaled he’ll veto any ‘anti-trans’ legislation.

Then there are two days for the legislature to reconvene after the veto period to override any of the governor’s vetoes — leaving them without much time to pass this legislation. If they pass after the veto period, the governor can veto and the legislature won’t be in session to override the veto.

The legislation narrowly passed the Senate Families and Children committee Tuesday by a 6-3 margin, with Carroll and two other Republicans showing disdain for the bill, leading Carroll to file his amendment.

“I’m extremely uncomfortable putting myself in the place where a doctor should be,” Carroll said before voting yes in the committee. “I don’t have the training. I don’t have the knowledge to make decisions.”

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said the Senate GOP had multiple discussions throughout the day Wednesday to discuss amendments — they caucused twice and recessed numerous times.

“I think there was a lack of knowledge as to what all the amendments in the subject matter meant,” Stivers said. “This is not the easiest of subject matter topics.”

After the strategy session with Williams, David Walls of the Family Foundation stood on the second floor of the capitol, pacing, and talking on the phone.

When questioned about the impromptu strategy session on the Senate steps, he declined to answer questions and said he didn’t know enough about the bill.

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The legislature has until midnight today to pass the bill, or it’s likely to die this session.

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