The Kentucky state legislative session ended in March.
The legislators representing Fort Wright in Frankfort shared their thoughts on the session at a May council meeting.
Kentucky State Sen. Christian ‘Chris’ McDaniel has been representing Kentucky’s 23rd legislative district, which includes Fort Wright, since 2013. On May 3, McDaniel spoke at a Fort Wright City Council meeting.
After greeting the council and the citizens in attendance, McDaniel started by highlighting the bills that he indicated would be the most impactful and relevant to council members and the city.
The senator called HB 1 the “biggest issue of the session.” This bill set in motion a gradual decrease of income tax in Kentucky.
“You’ll recall that last year, we passed a change to the Commonwealth’s tax code that set in place a series of triggers to reduce the income tax,” McDaniel explained.
The trigger he is referring to was the reduction of individual income tax in the state from 5% in 2022 to 4.5%, starting in January of 2023. The next decrease will be to 4% in January 2024.
McDaniel said he is proud of what the legislature was able to accomplish with this bill.
“We’re very happy to be able to do that,” McDaniel said. “To get to a fiscal spot where we can begin to return to the citizens, that’s a good thing.”
McDaniel also commented on SB 47, the bill which legalizes medical marijuana.
“I frankly didn’t think it was going to pass this time around,” McDaniel said.
The senator went on to explain some of the finer points of SB 47.
“It will go into effect on Jan. 1 of 2025 and doesn’t allow for any kind of smoking,” McDaniel said. “There are six categories of medical conditions that allow for it.”
He also made clear that employers in the state are not required to recognize the legitimacy of cannabis as a medical treatment.
“Basically, if you’re an employer, you have no obligation to allow for this on the job or off the job,” he said.
Mayor Dave Hatter said he was pleased to hear this, as the belief that marijuana should be completely legalized is part of his personal political philosophy.
“The commonwealth’s juvenile justice system, really in the last three years, has turned into an absolute mess,” McDaniel lamented.
He is supported by Governor Andy Beshear’s assertion that “our juvenile detention centers have seen violent outbursts. This has threatened the safety of staff and residents and resulted in substantial property damage to some of our centers.”
McDaniel detailed some of the changes that HB 3/SB 162 made to Kentucky’s juvenile justice system.
The state has made the decision to open up a female-only juvenile detention center in Campbell County, to raise the pay of Department of Juvenile Justice workers, and to return to a regional model for centers. This includes reopening a center in Louisville.
“The kids that were coming from Louisville, frankly just simply had much different circumstances than a lot of the other kids that ended up in juvenile detention elsewhere around the state,” McDaniel said. “So, we reopened that center there.”
“The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission will be the regulatory authority,” he said. “I initially had some heartburn with the fact that it’s all running through the tracks. But ultimately, it became apparent that they are the only folks really set up to handle gaming.”
Another piece of legislation that McDaniel deemed important enough to summarize to Council is SB 112. This bill allows refugees to receive Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) in Kentucky. McDaniel explained the thought-process behind the crafting of this bill.
“Kentucky was one of only two states in the union where you [had] to be a resident or a citizen to get a commercial driver’s license. But there are other legal statuses to be here. Particularly, in this case, refugees,” McDaniel added.
According to McDaniel, this bill was inspired, in part, by the conflict in the Ukraine which has brought many Ukrainian refugees to the United States. Refugees could already get an American driver’s license and are legally allowed to work in the country. However, they were barred from getting a CDL.
McDaniel sees this as a way to help refugees.
“We got [SB 112] in the Senate so that we can start to help [refugees find work]. I mean, we’ve got a driver shortage anyway. It’s ridiculous to exclude anybody who can legally meet the requirements. So that’s what we did,” McDaniels said.
Before departing from the meeting, Senator McDaniel took comments and questions from the Council.
Mayor Dave Hatter commended the work that McDaniel had done in the Senate and for how he represented Fort Wright. “Thank you for being a great friend to the city,” Hatter said.
Councilmember Justin ‘Jay’ Weber was also grateful for McDaniel’s work. Weber said to McDaniel, “You’re very knowledgeable about what happens and you’re very engaged with what’s going on down there [in Frankfort]. Thank you very much. We appreciate that.”
Weber also asked McDaniel about the certificate of need issue and where he saw that process going.
McDaniel recognized the concern in the community over certificates of need and warned against black-and-white thinking around this issue.
“Certificate of need is a very complicated thing. It’s not as binary as people necessarily want to make it,” McDaniel maintained.
McDaniel concluded by thanking Council for having him.
After his briefing, LINK caught up to McDaniel with some questions about SB 150, also known as the anti-trans bill.
Fort Wright is in the unique position of being represented by two of the three Kentucky Republicans to vote against the veto override on SB 150 (Stephanie Dietz and Kim Banta). Dietz defended her decision to vote against the veto override during her briefing on April 5, 2023. LINK asked McDaniel his thoughts on the issue in order to represent both perspectives.
McDaniel said that in cases of bills like this one, which deal with social issues, a balance must be struck.
“It’s important to balance the will of the majority and the rights of the minority,” McDaniel said.
He also said that in the process of getting to the final version of SB 150, there is a lot of give and take. He believes that the legislature did a good job of listening to the people both for and against the bill.
In a legislative update on McDaniel’s website, he said that “the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 150 came as no surprise as he put his party’s politics over the people of Kentucky.” He also reiterated his position that “SB 150 is not a license to demean, harass, or impugn another person’s dignity. On either side of the issue, it does not give people the right to harm another person or their property.”
The next Kentucky state legislative session will begin in January 2024.