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Bill targeting Kentucky DEI programs sputters ahead of key session deadline, likely taking it off the table in 2024

A handful of controversial measures that gained momentum during Kentucky’s legislative session appear to be dead as legislators break for the governor’s veto window. One took aim at diversity programs that have been on the end of a red state backlash this year.

The 2024 regular session isn’t over, but Thursday night was the last chance for the GOP-dominated General Assembly to pass bills with the expectation of overturning vetoes by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear.

One push that faltered in the final hours before the break was the effort to curb DEI, or Diversity Equity, and Inclusion, programs in public universities by closing down and defunding DEI offices. The attempt to place new restrictions on – or directly target – DEI evolved throughout the session, with a narrow bill passing the Senate and a more far-reaching bill gaining steam in the House.

At the time, lawmakers, such as Republican Sen. Lindsey Tichenor, argued DEI was actively limiting at least one kind of diversity – diversity of opinion.

"There's been a mission creep," Sen. Lindsey Tichenor said in a committee hearing. "We have not allowed for diversity of thought and we've chilled free speech because of that."

But the main DEI bill that ultimately came together as Senate Bill 6 wasn’t called up on Thursday. That means it’s last chance for revival would come in the final two days of the session in mid-April – a time after which the governor has made it clear what would happen.

"If they get to me, I'll veto them," he said earlier in the session.

And with the legislature adjourned at that point, the veto would stand.

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.