The Kentucky House of Representatives is comprised of 100 representatives, 59 of which are Democrats and 41 of which are Republicans. The Kentucky Senate contains 38 senators, with 15 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and 1 Independent. Kentucky's Governor is Democrat Steven Beshear. The Speaker of the House is Democrat Gregory Stumbo of District 95 and the Speaker Pro Tempore is Democrat Lawrence Clark of District 46. The President of the Kentucky Senate is Republican David Williams of District 16 and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate is Republican Katie Stine of District 24. The legislature passed 160 bills this session that were then signed by Governor Beshear. The 2012 regular session convened on January 3rd and adjourned on April 12th.
Two of the bills introduced this session establish requirements for women seeking abortions. SB 102 requires patients to have a face-to-face meeting with a physician, licensed nurse or social worker about the procedure in order to give informed consent before it is performed. SB 103 requires physicians to perform an ultrasound and display the ultrasound image to the woman prior to an abortion. In the 2009 session, Kentucky had previously tried to pass a bill requiring an ultrasound prior to an abortion; however, SB 79 ultimately died in the house Health and Welfare Committee. SB 103 and SB 102 from the 2012 legislative session also faced the same fate in the House Health and Welfare Committee. Seven states, including Texas and Virginia, currently require an ultrasound prior to an abortion and require the abortion provider to offer the woman the opportunity to view the ultrasound image. Texas is the only state that has passed a bill similar to SB 103 that requires an abortion provider to display and describe the ultrasound image prior to performing an abortion.
The Kentucky legislature also introduced a bill that is aimed at limiting the amount of over the counter cold medicine an individual may purchase. SB 3 limits the amount of medicine with ephedrine, pseudoephedrine or phenylpropanolamine because these ingredients are used to make certain drugs. Representative Stan Lee, Republican of District 45, opposed the bill arguing that the legislation limits an individual's freedom, “I’m going to draw a line, and I believe in the American people, and I’m not going to penalize the American people, I’m going to penalize criminals.” Representative Linda Belcher, Democrat of District 49, spoke out in support of the bill stating that “closing our eyes and ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away...hopefully, we can start eradicating these meth labs.” SB 3 was signed into law by Governor Beshear on April 11th. States such as Alabama, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oregon have passed similar legislation.
HB 70 concerns extending the right to vote to certain convicted felons including those who have not committed a felony involving the intentional killing of human being, a sexual crime involving a minor or bribery in an election. HB 70 was passed by the Kentucky House of Representatives but later died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Kentucky Senate also addressed the issue of gambling in the state. The Senate failed to pass SB 151 on a vote of 16-21. The bill would submit a constitutional amendment to the voters to authorize gambling in Kentucky. Because the bill is a constitutional amendment, it requires a three-fifths majority of the Senate for passage.
SB 18 was another attempt to submit a constitutional amendment to the voters, but to amend the requirements for redistricting. The bill requires that a county be given as many whole districts as sustainable by the population. Additionally, the bill would require the legislature to complete redistricting by April 15th or continue working without pay to complete the redistricting. SB 18 passed the Senate but died in committee in the House.
As the end of the session approached, the legislature scrambled to pass a transportation budget but was unsuccessful and Governor Beshear called a special session on April 16th. During the special session the legislature passed HB 2 which appropriates funds for the transportation cabinet budget. The special session adjourned April 20th.
Sophia Luby is a student at Emory University majoring in Political Science and Spanish and a former intern with Project Vote Smart. For more information on internship opportunities with Project Vote Smart, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1-888-VOTE-SMART.