SENATOR PHILLIP WHEELER’S LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Week 5 of the 2024 Regular Session
In the Kentucky Senate, our role is unique, particularly during the 60-day budget session. The Constitution of Kentucky clearly outlines any revenue-raising and appropriation measures must originate with the state House of Representatives. Traditionally, before the House submits a two-year state budget proposal, the executive branch provides its recommendations. After these initial proposals, the Senate then makes its contribution.
This process is beneficial as it allows the Senate to thoroughly analyze and gain an understanding of the proposals. Crucially, it allows us to define our priorities and establish a clear vision for the allocation of taxpayer dollars. This constitutionally-mandated budgeting approach ensures the Senate remains focused on a disciplined and well-informed assessment. You can expect a thoughtful and sound approach from me and my colleagues as we craft our version of the commonwealth’s two-year state budget, road plan, and other related appropriation and revenue bills.
The House has presented its version of the 2024-2026 biennial budget. Although it does not include everything that I would like, it does represent a responsible spending plan to make sure that the progress that we have achieved under Republican leadership in the General Assembly continues forward. Likewise, Governor Andy Beshear’s spending plan contains many things that I support but other things that I do not. I suspect that I will have similar likes and dislikes with the Senate budget, which is currently being worked on. We must remember that every one of these budgets is only a suggestion on spending by their respective authors. They do not represent the final budget, which will be a compromise that will likely contain elements of all three budgetary proposals.
The Senate passed a variety of bills this week, covering topics such as elections, bourbon industry regulations, and transportation reforms. The following bills were approved and now move to the House for consideration:
SB 46 – Windshield Tinting: Brings relief to Kentucky drivers by allowing tinting on front windshields, benefiting those who spend long hours in vehicles. The measure, following federal safety standards, aims to potentially reduce cancer rates caused by UV rays and enhance driver comfort.
SB 50 – Bourbon Industry Regulations: Implements changes to strengthen Kentucky’s bourbon industry, addressing retail sales, private events, and distribution of distilled spirits. Notably, it allows distillers with a Class B license to sell and deliver up to 5,000 gallons annually to licensed retailers.
SB 75 – Capitol Access: Reopens a portion of Capital Avenue in Frankfort, providing access to residents and tourists. The bill allows emergency responders and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to manage traffic on state Capitol grounds, addressing security concerns and reducing the risk of pedestrian injury.
SB 80 – Election Integrity: Strengthens election integrity by refining Kentucky’s voter ID laws. The bill removes student or employee IDs and credit or debit cards as identification options, aligning with previous legislation focused on reasonable voter access.
SB 81 – Higher Education Boards Alteration: Alters the makeup of KHEAA and KHESLC to meet out-of-state regulations, ensuring continued support for student loans. The bill addresses fingerprinting and financial disclosure requirements for board members, preventing ex-officio members from meeting stringent out-of-state security requirements.
SB 107 – Transportation Reforms: Introduces transportation reforms, including restrictions on semi-trucks in the leftmost lane and simplification of commercial vehicle registration. The bill also applies state property tax revenue from electric and hybrid vehicles to the state road fund.
SB 125 – Off-Highway Vehicle Programs creates greater economic opportunity for eastern Kentucky by extending the ability for local governments to start off-highway vehicle (OHV) pilot programs to July 1, 2027, and expands the definition of local government to include any local government that operates a public OHV trail system. This will open the program to the entire state, not just eastern Kentucky. The original pilot program was set to expire June 30, but there was a delay in the necessary regulations to set up the program. This legislation, once it passes the House, will ensure that this important economic development tool for rural Kentucky will continue for another three years so that we can obtain the necessary information to make the law permanent.
SR 123 – Resolution in support of Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the state of Texas in defense of its borders against invasion. This is an official challenge from the Kentucky state Senate to Governor Beshear calling upon him to use all the resources that he has available to support Governor Abbott and Texas against the invasion by illegal aliens on the southern border. President Joe Biden and his traitorous Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas have intentionally opened the southern border to an invsaion by foreign nationals – several of whom are on the terrorist watch list and present an imminent danger to the United States – and deadly drugs like fentanyl to flow across the southern border without any consequences whatsoever. Their ations have resulted in human trafficking, billions of dollars being sent to drug cartels, and countless American deaths. Enough is enough. When the federal government fails in its duty to defend the borders of the United States, Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 reserves that right to the states. Governor Abbott has bravely stood up to the Biden administration, and Kentuckians from across the commonwealth stand with him.
As the legislative session continues, let me assure you that I will be fighting hard for budgetary appropriations and investments in eastern Kentucky and the 31st Senate District.
Thank you for your continued engagement in the 2024 Regular Session. It is a privilege to represent you in Frankfort.
I’m excited for this session and take my responsibilities representing you seriously, and will continue to ensure that legislation is passed with eastern Kentucky’s best interest in mind. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I or my staff can assist you by emailing me at Phillip.Wheeler@lrc.ky.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-372-7181.
Sen. Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, represents Kentucky’s 31st Senate District, including Elliott, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin, and Pike Counties. Wheeler is vice chair of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor, and the Senate Judiciary committees. He is also Capital Planning Advisory Board co-chair. Additionally, Wheeler serves as a member of the Senate Transportation, Natural Resources and Energy, State and Local Government, and Transportation committees.