Amid continued – and heated – protest at the state Capitol in Frankfort on Thursday, lawmakers debated a pair of bills that would significantly limit women’s ability to have abortions in Kentucky.
The bills, which are likely to become law, are the first major legislative action from the new GOP majority in Frankfort, which has pledged to focus on job creation and economic development in the commonwealth.
The state House of Representatives has passed a bill requiring doctors to conduct an ultrasound on women seeking abortions and provide a detailed description of the unborn fetus.
Rep. Stan Lee, a Republican from Lexington, said he was honored that the first legislation passing out of the state House of Representatives this year is an anti-abortion bill.
“It is as it should be,” Lee said. “And I think the Lord is going to honor us in all our other work for doing this.”
The bill heads to the Senate, where it’s expected to pass.
Protesters gathered in the Capitol rotunda to show their opposition to the bill and one banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, which passed the Senate on Thursday.
“Politicians are not doctors and they have no place determining what’s best for my health care,” said Tamara Wieder, with Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. “I am scared for the future of the commonwealth and for the future of choice in America.”
A sonogram abortion requirement in North Carolina was ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in 2014, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take up the case the next year.
U of L Provision Stashed in Dog Bill
You might’ve heard about some problems at U of L.
The university has faced myriad scandals culminating in last summer’s resignation of President James Ramsey, which came alongside a move from Gov. Matt Bevin to eliminate and replace U of L’s board with one of his own choosing.
Bevin and Attorney General Andy Beshear have been fighting over the future of the board in court, and U of L is facing the loss of its accreditation because of Bevin’s tampering.
The governor is seeking approval of the board restructuring from the legislature; he says that would help alleviate concerns from the accrediting agency — the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) — about political independence at U of L.
Such legislation was scheduled to be heard in the House State Government Committee on Wednesday afternoon, but chairman Jerry Miller postponed the discussion, saying the bill wasn’t ready yet.
So here’s what lawmakers did:
The bill would mimic Bevin’s executive order — abolishing the current U of L Board of Trustees and directing the Council on Postsecondary Education to come up with a shortlist of nominees to fill a new governing panel.
Notably, the legislation would give the Senate final approval of the governor’s nominees to the U of L board — a step that didn’t exist before.
The governor’s attorney, Steve Pitt, said earlier this week that SACS officials’ accreditation concerns would be appeased if the legislature passes a bill changing the number of people on the board, as Bevin attempted to do.
“We are convinced from our conversations, review of the law and conversations with SACS officials, that legislative action changing the number of people on a board is not a violation of any SACS standard,” Pitt said.
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, said he had concerns about how the bill might affect the school’s accreditation.
“We have no assurances that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools is OK with this in terms of the accreditation of the University of Louisville,” McGarvey said. “So until we have assurances that the accreditation is not at risk by passing this bill, I can’t see how we can be for it.”
‘Right-To-Work’ and Prevailing Wage Repeal Advance
With a crowd of union activists watching from the balcony, lawmakers voted to forbid unionized companies from requiring workers to pay union dues.
The so-called right-to-work proposal has been pushed by Republicans in the state, though it is derided by union organizations as being anti-labor.
Rep. Jim Wayne, a Democrat from Louisville, criticized the proposal as propaganda.
“God must be creating a huge addition to hell to accommodate the forces behind this kind of legislation,” Wayne said. “Because these people mask their greed in the form of economic opportunity.”
Kentucky is the last state in the South that doesn’t have a right-to-work policy in place.
Rep. Chris Fugate, a Republican from Chavies, voted in favor of the bill, saying he hoped it would bring jobs back to his district.
“I’ve got 3,000 people that are without jobs,” Fugate said. “I’ve got people that are having to move to Indiana and Tennessee to get a job. I’ve got families that are having to uproot and move in order to get a job. My people at home are suffering.”
The House also voted to repeal the state’s prevailing wage — a minimum wage set on public works projects.
Both bills now heads to the Senate, where they are expected to pass.
Democrats were critical of the hurried process on Wednesday. Time limits were created for debate on legislation in the House — an unusual requirement — and bills presented in committee just yesterday were heard on the floor today.
Lawmakers are likely to pass a handful of other Republican priorities into law by the end of the week, coming in for a rare workday on Saturday to do so.
More from today's session: See Ryland Barton on Twitter
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