As the clock ticks on the session, Kentucky lawmakers struggle to settle on controversial gender-affirming care restrictions
Legislators engaged in highly-charged debates late into Wednesday night over a series bills dealing with parental rights and restrictions on gender-affirming care and LGBTQ-related materials.
Amid a flurry of evolving bills and amendments, lawmakers spent hours trying to decide on provisions in House Bill 470 — a collection of restrictions on gender transitioning care for minors. While an amendment scaling back some of the language narrowly passed, the bill was ultimately laid on the clerk's desk for possible further action.
Senate President Robert Stivers said that was due to confusion over the content of the bill.
"I think there was a lack of knowledge as to what all the amendments in the subject matter meant. This is not the easiest of subject matter topics."Senate President Robert Stivers
Stivers declined to predict whether the measure might have the votes to pass on Thursday, the final legislative day that would give lawmakers the chance to override a veto by the governor.
"It depends on what 470 is," he said.
Down the hall, the House was successful in passing a bill setting up a new process for parents to challenge books and other classroom materials they deem obscene or harmful. That was after repeated attempts by Irvington Republican Josh Calloway to tack on much broader language, including an anti-drag show amendment, all of which failed. Calloway said the legislature's focus on the issues is about protecting children and empowering parents.
"They say that we're just trying to pass 'Don't Say Gay' bills. That's what they've tried to portray," he said, in comments directed at media coverage. "But it's not that at all. What we're trying to pass is a 'Parents have the Say' bill."
Louisville Democrat Josie Raymond countered that many of the examples of explicit content she was given depicted serious issues students should know about, such as sexual assault and abuse.
"They address real challenges that many of our students, sadly, do need to see represented, so they know that they are not alone, they are not to blame, and they are not ruined," she argued."
Other bills landing on the governor's desk include: a measure making Kentucky a so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary state, which aims to nullify any federal firearm ban; and a bill named "Lofton's Law," after University of Kentucky student Lofton Hazelwood, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2021 while pledging at Farmhouse Fraternity. The bill ups the penalty for hazing that results in injury or death to a felony.
Thursday is the effective deadline to pass controversial measures that don't have the governor's support. Lawmakers will return to Frankfort for two more legislative days at the end of March.