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Kentucky lawmakers patched up a troubling loophole in an education bill while sports betting fumbled. Here's a look back at the last legislative day

Josh James

The final 24 hours of the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly saw lawmakers punt on sports betting, clean up language that could have backfired in a major education bill, and revive a measure that will affect libraries across the state.

With a slew of veto overrides and most major legislation out of the way, Day 60 may have generated fewer headlines, but the final hours did produce a few twists.

Lawmakers revisited Senate Bill 1 — a controversial education reform package viewed by opponents as a reaction to critical race theory — after concerns were raised that it could result in criminal penalties for teachers who run afoul of the new provisions. Portions of the bill lay out a framework for how to teach history in Kentucky classrooms.

Also, a measure handing more control over library leadership and spending to local county officials — which appeared dead after a House vote failed to override a veto Wednesday — received an unexpected second shot on Thursday and passed.

"What this bill does is it creates the likelihood or the possibility that library boards now are going to be highly political, highly partisan in nature."
Sen. Reggie Thomas

"What (the boards) definitely are now is not accountable," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Phillip Wheeler, countered. "This bill by the General Assembly brings accountability to the appointment process."

Among the measures that didn't make it to the finish line were bills that would have legalized sports betting and medical marijuana. While the wagering measure failed to garner enough support in the Kentucky Senate, the chamber did opt to create and fund a new Kentucky Center for Cannabis Research at the University of Kentucky.

Some proponents were betting 2022 might be the year Kentucky legalized sports wagering, with a bill clearing the House and a governor and Republican leader in the Senate friendly to the cause. House Bill 606, which would have opened up Kentucky to sports wagering, including online poker and betting on fantasy sports, fumbled near the goal line Thursday — leaving the popular issue on the field for another legislative session.

Asked about the bill's failure to budge in the Senate, Gov. Andy Beshear said this about GOP floor leader in the chamber.

"My thought is if Damon Thayer wanted to get sports betting passed, he'd get it passed," he told reporters during his weekly briefing.

Thayer said the votes simply weren't there, and it wasn't for lack of trying on his end.

"I'm for sports betting," he reiterated. "I think it's a natural extension of our history and tradition of betting on horses."

Some lawmakers object to an expansion of gambling on moral grounds, worrying the industry would hurt low-income Kentuckians.

For supporters, it's back to the drawing board.

Thursday marked the end of the 60-day budget session, which saw sizable pay raises for state workers and police, renewed investment in higher education, and more money for social workers.

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.