School Choice-Kentucky

School choice advocates rally at the Kentucky Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on Monday, Jan. 27, 2020. They are supporting legislation that would give tax credits to people who donate to scholarship funds for special-needs children or those in low-income homes to attend private schools.

(The Center Square) – Kentucky lawmakers played beat the clock Tuesday night, seeking to pass as many bills as they could before midnight struck and a 10-day veto consideration period began for Gov. Andy Beshear. 

Among the items approved during the late-night session included a school choice bill, a measure that reforms pension plans for future teachers and a resolution that puts time limits on COVID-19 emergency orders enacted by Beshear. 

Members of the Republican-led General Assembly will return to Frankfort on March 29 for the final two days of the session. They can override any veto from Beshear, a Democrat, with majorities in both chambers. 

House Bill 563 creates education opportunity accounts that families can use to send a child to a non-district school or buy supplies or services needed for educational purposes. Last week, the House approved the measure and included a provision allowing funds to be used for private schools in the three most-populous counties.  

House members needed to vote again on the measure after the Senate on Tuesday expanded the private school provision to include any county with a population of 90,000 or more. Tuesday night, the measure passed by a 48-47 margin. 

State Rep. Al Gentry, D-Louisville, was the lone Democrat to vote for the measure, citing the support the bill had from Catholic school families in his district overrode his personal concerns. 

In a statement, EdChoice Kentucky President Charles Leis said families will soon have more choices regarding their children’s education than ever before. 

“We are excited to see what the future of educational opportunity will look like in the Commonwealth,” he said. 

If Beshear vetoes the bill, Republicans would need 51 votes to override it. The initial school choice bill passed the House by a 51-45 vote last week. 

The House also concurred with changes the Senate made to House Joint Resolution 77. The resolution selects certain resolutions the governor has put in place during the year-long emergency and given them specific time frames for expiration. Some orders would be extended by either 60 or 90 days. 

Beshear and Republican legislative leaders are currently embroiled in a lawsuit over whether the General Assembly has the power to curtail his authority during the pandemic. House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, told colleagues on the floor Tuesday night there were some orders, such as one on price gouging and waving copays for vaccines, that leadership wanted to extend regardless of how the lawsuit plays out.  

However, orders on mask mandates and restaurant restrictions would not be extended. 

The measure passed 74-22, with Democrats questioning the need for it. 

“I think this is second guessing and fails to appreciate the really good work that was done,” Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, said. 

Another bill House members voted to agree with changes the Senate made included House Bill 258, which gives teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2022 a new hybrid pension plan. Changes the Senate made include extending the minimum retirement age for teachers under the new plan to 57 from 55. 

Not all the bills ended up making it out of the legislature Tuesday night. State Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Florence, was trying to get passage on a road plan less than 10 minutes before midnight. However, he pulled the bill after GOP leaders told him there would not be enough time for debate and a vote. 

Lawmakers can still pass bills when they reconvene in two weeks, but the governor will be able to reject them without the threat of a legislative override after the session ends.