A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Legislative roundup: 120 bills sent to Governor for signature — here’s a look at major legislation so far

By Jack Brammer
NKyTribune reporter
With only two days remaining in Kentucky’s 2023 General Assembly that started in January, lawmakers already have approved and sent to Gov. Andy Beshear for his consideration more than 120 bills, including a wide-ranging, controversial major bill dealing with transgender students.

But much remains to be done when lawmakers return to Frankfort March 29 and 30. The Senate last week passed its version of a bill allowing medical marijuana but the House still has to give its approval to it before it goes to the governor. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear has said he will sign it into law.

And sports betting remains up in the air, as well as several other important issues.

Any bills passed in the final two days of the legislature will not be subject to override of Beshear’s vetoes.

Here’s a look at major legislation that has come out of this year’s state law-making session.

Transgender students

The most prominent and contested of these was Senate Bill 150, which took several twists and turns before passing the legislature and sent to the governor.

It ended up as a “parents’ rights’ bill allowing teachers to misgender trans students and legislation to ban puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries for transgender minors.

It also would prohibit instruction on human sexuality in elementary school and would require written parental consent for teaching the subject in later grades. Other instruction on exploring gender identity or sexual orientation would not be allowed at any grade level.

Education Commissioner Jason Glass

Beshear is expected to veto the bill but the Republican-led legislature could easily override his veto.

The ACLU of Kentucky has indicated it will sue the state should the bill become law.

In response to the legislature’s approval of SB 150, state Education Commissioner Jason Glass said on Friday that the legislature, instead of addressing real issues impacting schools like teacher shortages and funding, “expended its time and energy on this stitched-together bill, taking aim directly at LGBTQIA+ people.
“The bill contains provisions that will put our young people at risk, have the government interfere with decisions between doctors, patients and families and puts Kentucky at the front of a series of similar hateful, ignorant and shameful efforts around the country.

“These kinds of laws are often put in place when there is (effectively) a one-party government. Minority and marginalized groups are frequently targeted, demonized and persecuted – fueling more of the misplaced rage and anger-tainment based politics that makes it nearly impossible for Kentucky to live up to our state motto of  ‘United We Stand.’

“The Kentucky legislature is following a terrifying, but sadly well-trodden path. In the long run, history does not reflect well on such regimes. And in the short-run, we should all be concerned about who will be their next target.”

Glass announced that in the fall, the state Department of Education will hold a summit in support of LGBTQIA+ people and youth.

House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, responded Monday to Glass’ comments.

“Friday’s statement by the Commissioner of Education once again makes it abundantly clear that it is not the legislature that is politicizing the state’s classrooms and curriculum,” said Meade.

“Last session, the Kentucky General Assembly funded K-12 public education at historic levels, only to see him commit to using Department of Education resources to further his patently political cause. This only further proves that lawmakers are not pushing an agenda, we are pushing back at an administration bent on shutting parents out of important conversations about their children. And, we are committed to ensuring the people and institutions our children depend upon are acting appropriately on their behalf.”

Meade added, “As the Commissioner of Education, Mr. Glass’s focus should be on improving reading and math scores in order to prepare this generation of Kentuckians for future success. He should be working with educators and policymakers to find ways to help our children regain the learning lost when the governor closed schools. Instead, he is doubling down on his support of policies that pit vulnerable children against their families and telling teachers that if they don’t like it, they can find another job.”

Kentucky hospitals

Beshear signed into law Monday House Bill 75, which supports Kentucky’s hospitals by boosting Medicaid payment rates for outpatient procedures performed at hospitals.

The law is expected to provide needed budgetary support for hospitals, especially the state’s rural health care facilities.

Parental objections to school materials

Sent to the governor for his consideration was Senate Bill 5. It calls on local school boards to create a process for reviewing and resolving parental objections over sexually explicit materials in public schools.

Juvenile justice system

The legislature has sent two major juvenile justice bills to the governor.

Senate Bill 162 would place all eight of Kentucky’s juvenile detention centers under one office with a lead supervisor who reports directly the commissioner.
Among many other changes, the bill seeks to increase staffing and training, enhance mental health interventions, and provide better segregation of violent offenders.

SB 162 was the result of a special work group lawmakers formed earlier this year following reports of problems in the state Department of Juvenile Justice. The measure cleared both chambers with unanimous support last week, and supporters said it marks the beginning of a larger revamp.

House Bill 3 would spend more than $10 million to renovate and reopen a state-run youth detention site in Louisville and give pay raises to staff in Juvenile Justice detention centers.

HB 3 also includes mandatory holds for youth charged with violent crimes.

Medical marijuana

Bipartisan consensus is also emerging on legislation related to medicinal cannabis that could potentially break a long-standing impasse in the legislature.

Senate Bill 47 calls on the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement, oversee and regulate a medicinal cannabis program, starting in January 2025.

It would allow cannabis use for those suffering with cancer, chronic and other types of pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, muscle spasms, chronic nausea or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Senate advanced the legislation on Thursday, marking newfound support for the concept in that chamber. The bill now heads to the House where medicinal cannabis has won more favor in recent years.

Gov. Beshear has said he will sign the bill into law if it gets to his desk.

Sports betting

House Bill 551 has passed the House and Senate committee. Its fate lies with the Senate, when the chamber comes back later this month. It’s not a sure bet.

Biomarker Testing

House Bill 180 would require health benefit plans to cover biomarker testing for patients who have been diagnosed with cancer and other diseases. It is on the governor’s desk.

Child Abuse

Senate Bill 229, sent to the governor, seeks to ensure that law enforcement, social services and other authorities are properly notified and communicating in cases of child abuse. It would also require agencies under investigation to cooperate with authorities.
Child Murder

House Bill 249, sent to the governor, would make the intentional killing of a child under 12 an aggravating circumstance. That would ensure that a person who is guilty of killing a child would either be subject to life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Coal Power

Senate Bill 4 would require utility companies to receive permission from the Kentucky Public Service Commission before retiring a fossil fuel-fired electric generating unit. The unit could not be retired if the move would compromise the quality of service to customers or negatively impact the electric grid. The bill is on the governor’s desk.

Delta-8 THC

House Bill 544, on the governor’s desk, would direct the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to establish regulations related to delta-8 THC by Aug. 1. That would include product testing and labeling along with prohibitions on the sale of delta-8 products to people under age 21.

Pension investing

House Bill 236, sent to the governor, would require that the state’s public pension investments be based on financial risks and returns and not on environmental, social and governance factors, commonly known as ESG.

Federal Firearms Bans

House Bill 153 would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies and other public officials from enforcing any federal firearm bans or regulations enacted after Jan. 1, 2021. Violators could be charged with a misdemeanor and face termination from their job. The legislation awaits action from the governor.

Gray Machines

House Bill 594 clarifies that certain gambling machines, often called “gray machines” or “skill games,” are illegal in Kentucky. The devices are called gray machines because they have operated in gray area in the state’s gambling laws while growing more prevalent at gas stations and convenience stores over the past two years.

Anyone who manages or owns the machines would be subject to a $25,000 fine per device. The governor signed HB 594 into law on Thursday.


Senate Bill 9, known as “Lofton’s Law,” would elevate reckless or dangerous acts of hazing to a crime. First-degree hazing would qualify as a Class D felony, while second-degree hazing would be a Class A misdemeanor. The bill is on the governor’s desk.

Health Care Workers 

House Bill 200, sent to the governor, aims to address a shortage in health care workers by creating the Kentucky Health Care Workforce Investment Fund.

It would use both public and private money to increase scholarship opportunities in the field.


House Bill 78, sent to the governor, would more narrowly define Kentucky’s incest laws by prohibiting a person from having sexual intercourse with his or her parent, child, grandparent, grandchild, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, brother, sister or ancestor or descendant.

Juvenile detention

House Bill 3 would require that juveniles charged a violent felony offense be detained up to 48 hours pending a detention hearing with a judge beginning July 1, 2024.

The bill, on the governor’s desk, also seeks to improve parent accountability, expand mental health interventions and enhance options for restorative justice. Other provisions would reopen the Jefferson County Youth Detention Center.

KEES for Workforce Training

Senate Bill 54, sent to the governor, would allow students to use a Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship to attend certain propriety school programs and workforce training programs that are focused on high-demand work sectors. Students could also use KEES funds at an eligible college of art and design.

Physician Wellness

Senate Bill 12 would allow physicians to participate in wellness and career fatigue programs without disclosing their participation to employers.

Supporters say it will help physicians deal with job-related burnout without fear of retaliation. The bill was signed by the governor on Friday.

Postpartum Depression

Senate Bill 135 calls on the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create a panel focused on perinatal mental health disorders and provide related information and assessment tools online. It is on the governor’s desk.

Postsecondary Education Study

Senate Joint Resolution 98 would direct the state Council on Postsecondary Education to study the placement and services of public colleges and universities in Kentucky. It also would study the need for a four-year state university in southeastern Kentucky. It has been delivered to the governor.

Public Employee Payroll Deductions

Senate Bill 7, sent to the governor, would cease most automatic payroll deductions that public employees might use for paying union dues or dues to other organizations.

Religious Freedom in Schools

House Bill 547, sent to the governor, would codify religious freedoms for public school teachers, faculty and staff, including the right to engage in religious expression and prayer during breaks and to display religious items in personal spaces.

School Staffing

House Bill 32, on the governor’s desk, would allow school districts to hire classified personnel, such as cafeteria workers and bus drivers, without a high school diploma or GED. The school district must provide those employees an opportunity obtain a GED or earn relevant licenses or credentials at no cost.

Sex Offenders

Senate Bill 80 would prohibit registered sex offenders from loitering or operating a mobile business within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares, and public playgrounds or swimming pools. It is on Beshear’s desk.

State Education Commissioner

Under Senate Bill 107, sent to the governor, the state education commissioner would be subject to Senate confirmation before taking office. The bill also sets a four-year term for the position.

Student Discipline

Under House Bill 538, school boards would be required to adopt policies related to expelling students who pose a threat to the safety and wellbeing of others and disciplining students who have physically assaulted, battered or abused personnel or other students off school property – if the incident is likely to disrupt the educational process.

It would also provide more flexibility to place students into alternative learning programs. The bill has been delivered to the governor.

TikTok Ban

Senate Bill 20, sent to the governor, would ban nearly all employees in the state executive and legislative branches from using the social media app TikTok on government-owned networks and devices.

The app – owned by the Chinese company ByteDance – is considered a threat to the state’s data security.

Unemployment Insurance

House Bill 146, sent to the governor, would make technical updates to an overhaul of unemployment insurance that lawmakers passed last year. Among the changes, the measure sets the minimum duration of benefits to 16 weeks, instead of 12, and calls on state unemployment officials to advise claimants on educational and training opportunities.

Income tax rate

Early in the session, the legislature approved House Bill 1 to cut the individual income tax rate from 4.5 percent to 4 percent next year. Beshear has signed it into law.

Bourbon barrel tax

The House has passed House Bill 5, which would phase out a local property tax on the value of barrels of bourbon ­­­­by 2039 over the objections of local governments and school districts where they are stored.

The bill is stuck in the Senate, but may be jarred loose when lawmakers return to Frankfort.

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