FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On January 4th, the Kentucky General Assembly gavels in for the beginning of the 2022 legislative session.
Republicans hold supermajorities in both the Kentucky House and Senate, so they get to set the agenda for the session. However, democrats are still hoping to get some of their priority bills through.
In a joint press conference on Monday, House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins and Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey said democrats are prioritizing many big issues like healthcare, universal pre-k, medical marijuana, voting, and sports wagering.
"We have the ability with these bills to protect access to healthcare, to improve access to education for all our little preschoolers - making sure we have affordable childcare for those returning to the workforce," said Sen. McGarvey. "It's past time to join the other states who have sports wagering, who have medical marijuana - that can provide additional revenue for the commonwealth."
Democrats also hope to revisit executive power.
"The executive branch needs certain powers to serve the people of Kentucky," said McGarvey.
In 2021, in response to the governor's COVID-19 orders, republicans passed several bills that made changes to the governor's emergency powers. For example, the governor can only issue emergency orders for 30 days. If those orders need to be extended, lawmakers must act. If they're not in session, a special session must be called.
Democrats say the recent tornado devastation in Western Kentucky proves that the system is inefficient in emergencies.
"When we were debating these political bills last year, this is the type of scenario we laid out that could happen. It has happened and we've seen why it has to change," McGarvey said.
"This tornado happens in November instead of December, you have to call a special session of the General Assembly to allow the governor to act on behalf of the Commonwealth after 30 days," added McGarvey.
"We have a letter in our inbox from President Stiver and Speaker Osborne asking us as leaders to sign onto a letter, sent from legislative leadership to the President of the United States, saying 30 days is not a long enough time for a disaster. Less than a year ago, we rammed through a bill that said the governor should be stripped of executive power after 30 days in a disaster. We need to revisit that in light of recent events."