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Kentucky lawmakers send spending measures, other bills to Beshear as veto period begins

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(The Center Square) – It was a busy end of the week in Frankfort as the Kentucky General Assembly sent several measures to Gov. Andy Beshear before the start of the 10-day veto period.

Among the measures approved as lawmakers worked late into the evening was House Bill 1, which calls for utilizing more than $2.7 billion from the state’s reserves. That money will go toward several initiatives, including bolstering the road fund, improving schools and providing training for law enforcement.

It also sets aside $100 million for large-scale economic development projects, $62 million in Medicaid funding and $60 million for a new veterinary technician program building at Murray State University.

“Let’s be clear: We have this opportunity because of the General Assembly’s commitment to growing the state’s budget reserve trust fund,” House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, said. “When we began, we had only enough in the fund to provide for the state for three to four days. Today, we have $3.7 billion, far more than even best practice requires. This provides us with an opportunity to make a big impact in several areas of opportunity and need.”

The General Assembly also reached a consensus on a $128 billion two-year budget. It includes increases in public school funding, a nearly $550 million increase in Medicaid spending over the biennium and an annual 3% raise for each state employee.

While the House approved the final budget on a near party-line 72-26 vote, it received near unanimous support in the Senate as only one member there opposed it.

“It is not everything that we all want,” said state Sen. David Yates, D-Louisville. “But I think that we have done tremendous work and improvements. This came over to us, and piece by piece, it got better and better. I think that’s from the open dialogue.”

Beshear will have the opportunity to issue line-item vetoes on both spending bills.

Lawmakers also sent the Safer Kentucky Act to the governor’s desk. The omnibus bill includes prohibitions on charitable bail organizations from posting bonds for alleged violent offenders. It creates a “three-strike” law giving life sentences to third-time violent felons who had previously been convicted of two separate violent felonies. It also added convictions of carjacking, first-degree arson, first-degree burglary and first-degree strangulation or the attempt of any of those crimes to the violent felon list.

Further, it allows business owners and employees to “use a reasonable amount of force” to protect themselves during a robbery and to detain anyone trying to steal from the store.

Beshear will have until April 9 to veto bills he received from the General Assembly. Republicans hold large majorities in both chambers, meaning they can override any Democratic governor’s vetoes.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return on April 12 and 15 to wrap up the session. They may pass additional bills during those two days, but they will not be able to override a veto of them.

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