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Kentucky lawmakers spent Wednesday toppling the governor's vetoes, and drawing their first promised court challenge

FRANKFORT, March 30, -- Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, comments on House Bill 1, the state budget, in the Senate.
LRC Public Information
FRANKFORT, March 30, -- Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, comments on House Bill 1, the state budget, in the Senate.

The Republican-dominated legislature blew through Gov. Andy Beshear's vetoes on day 59 of the 60-day session, reviving a number of hotly-contested measures.

The day contained few surprises, with GOP supermajorities easily reversing the Democratic governor's vetoes on bills ranging from sweeping new abortion restrictions to a ban affecting transgender women and girls in athletics to a measure aimed at whittling away at the state's personal income tax.

The lone close call was House Bill 9, a charter school funding bill, which survived on a narrow 52-46 vote in the House.

Also overturned was a veto on a controversial public benefits reform bill Republican Senate leader Damon Thayer said is designed "to encourage work and minimize fraud, ensuring that benefits are provided to the truly needy and eligible."

The chamber's leading Democrat, Morgan McGarvey, predicted the bill will backfire at the expense of the state's most at-risk residents.

"We are going to spend more money to take food away from people who need it most than we will by saving any minuscule amount of fraud there is," the Louisville legislator said.

Lawmakers did allow a handful of smaller vetoes of technical language in the budget to stand, but reinstated raises for the state's constitutional officers.

The legislature's actions have already drawn one promise of a court challenge. Planned Parenthood says it's set to sue over an omnibus anti-abortion rights measure, arguing the 72 pages of the bill would amount to an abortion ban in the state.

Protesters with signs reading "Protect safe, legal abortion" gathered in the Capitol ahead of an expected vote to override the governor's veto of the broad-ranging package of anti-abortion rights measures.

House Bill 3 includes a 15-week abortion ban modeled after a Mississippi law before the U.S. Supreme Court, added restrictions for minors seeking an abortion, and tighter controls on medication abortion.

"House Bill 3 will not end abortion in Kentucky," Sen. Ralph Alvarado argued, adding it "reflects the General Assembly's commitment to Kentucky's most vulnerable citizens, advocating for justice and safe healthcare practices for the child and their mother."

Yet opponents see the raft of new restrictions, written to take effect immediately, as so cumbersome clinics won't be able to comply. Sen. Karen Berg took aim at new rules applying to medication abortion, charging that they will ultimately raise maternal mortality rates.

"We are going to regulate that to the point where it cannot be provided in this state," she said.

Planned Parenthood went further, tweeting that the bill will effectively make it "impossible to provide abortion care." The organization's message to the General Assembly: "We'll see you in court."

The legislature has one more working day this session and is scheduled to adjourn for the year by midnight Thursday.

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.