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Hot Button Bills On The Move

Josh James

Several pieces of lightning rod legislation cleared hurdles late Thursday as the General Assembly wrapped up its last heavily scheduled day this week.

Religious Expression

Legislation codifying Kentucky public school students' right to express their religious and political opinions in classwork and on school grounds is on its way to the House of Representatives. On a 31-2 vote Thursday, Senate lawmakers agreed with the rationale behind London Republican Albert Robinson's bill.

One aye vote, Lexington's Reggie Thomas, expressed misgivings about the measure's narrow language regarding the teaching about the Bible, which neglected to include any mention of other religious texts like the Qur'an or the Torah.

"That concerns me and that's going to prove troublesome... before this bill becomes law," he told colleagues on the chamber floor.

Sen. Julian Carroll echoed the bill sponsor, saying the legislation only collects pre-existing constitutional rights under one heading, and urged the body to give teachers a roadmap for navigating controversial waters. He said moral guidance is lacking in today's classrooms, adding, "We failed to get that message across to our students because teachers have feared the potential of crossing that line."

The bill now heads to the House, where Robinson says it will pass if Democratic leaders allow an up or down vote.

Voting Rights Restoration

In the latest volley over voting rights, the Kentucky House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 70 - a perennial measure granting many nonviolent ex-felons access to ballot box. The key variable though is the Senate, which has historically resisted the bill as drafted.

In 2014, Republican Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer offered an amended version that House members found unacceptable. And while he has no plans to raise the issue this session, he says others could.

"I support a waiting period. The Senate passed a five-year waiting period two years ago and that's certainly something that I would consider supporting again," the Georgetown Republican told WUKY.

Senate President Robert Stivers said he's heard some discussion in his caucus about reviving the bill, but further debate over the specifics is needed before the legislation makes another appearance on the floor.


In what's likely the shape of things to come, House members tussled over another Senate-initiated measure on abortion - this one cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. If enacted, Senate Bill 7 would usher in a three-tiered system for allocating funds with the controversial healthcare provider occupying the bottom wrung below public health departments and non-public facilities specializing comprehensive primary and preventative care.

Thursday, at the urging of Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, the body voted to suspend the rules and give first reading to the measure. Asked if more parliamentary jockeying over abortion is in store for the chamber, Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo said, "It appears that way."

Planned Parenthood and the Bevin administration are currently locking horns over the whether the organization was authorized to launch a new clinic in Louisville offering abortion services.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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