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First day of special legislative session sees flurry of activity

Gracie Lagadinos and Kayla Carter
State of emergency extension, mask mandates, open meetings and more addressed; Governor expected to sign first piece of legislation tonight

After gaveling in the Special Session Tuesday, the House State Government Committee convened to discuss the first of a series of bills addressing COVID-19 related issues. House Joint Resolution 1 and Senate Joint Resolution 1 extend many of the emergency executive orders, administrative regulations and other directives issued by the Governor and executive branch agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic until Jan. 15, 2022

Additional bills, listed below, address COVID-19 regarding education and childcare, healthcare, appropriation of the American Rescue Plan Act dollars, and providing local officials and school districts with tools to mitigate the virus within their schools and communities. 

Below is a summary of HJR1/SJR1 with both impacting county governments. The resolution can be viewed hereThe Governor is expected to sign HJR1 tonight.

State of emergency

  • Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-215, which declared a state of emergency.

COVID-19 liability protection

  • Extends provisions of Senate Bill 5 from the 2021 General Session, which provides liability protection to the state, local governments, businesses and schools from facing frivolous lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Open meetings

  • Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-243, which allows fiscal courts to conduct meetings via video teleconference while providing a link for public viewing of the meetings.

Nicholas County flash flood damage

  • Extends Executive Order No. 2021-565 dated Aug. 3, 2021, which provides an additional 30 days to ensure any necessary emergency services that may be required are provided to residents and businesses of Nicholas County and Carlisle.
  • Rep. Matthew Koch, whose district includes Nicholas County, testified to the damage caused by the floods and the loss of businesses, emergency equipment and the resiliency of Nicholas County residents.

Kentucky Board of Emergency Management 

  • Extends several KBEMS COVID-19 Emergency Waivers and Modifications.
  • Extends 202 KAR 7:201, 202 KAR 7:301, 202 KAR 7:330, and 202 KAR 7:401, which broadens eligibility for certification for EMRs, EMTs, AEMTs and Paramedics.
  • Extends 202 KAR 7:560, suspending the requirement for having a Paramedic on duty 25 percent of the time.

First responders returning to work 

  • Extends 2020 Executive Order 2020-265, related to retired first responders returning to work during an emergency, including allowing retired county, city and state law enforcement officers, emergency medical service personnel, firefighters including volunteer firefighters, Kentucky Department of Parks park rangers and Kentucky Department of Corrections officers to return to work.

Other extensions include:

  • Executive Order 2020-220, related to health insurers waiving costs for COVID-19 screening, testing and immunizations.
  • 2020 Executive Order 2020-243 to the extent that the order:
    • Encourages social distancing among citizens; and
    • Requires state agencies to:
      • Encourage social distancing;
      • Provide and conduct services by mail, Internet, phone, and/or video conferencing;
      • Extend licenses, credentials, or certificates that require in-person appearances or education for renewal;
      • Permit education and continuing education to be satisfied online;
      • Extend deadlines for statutory or regulatory reporting; and
      • Extend deadlines for payments of fees, taxes, and assessments, and waive late payment penalties incurred.

Additional bills filed

Education and childcare - House Bill 1 and Senate Bill 1

  • Nullifies mask mandates for students and staff in schools.
  • Nullifies mask mandates for children and staff in childcare facilities.
  • Allows schools up to 20 days of remote instruction to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Healthcare - House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 2

  • Allows essential caregivers into nursing homes and long term care facilities.
  • Requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to assist and support COVID-19 antibody administration centers (CAACs), one per area development district.
  • Requires the Cabinet to assist and support hospitals, licensed healthcare providers, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, local health departments, and other entities in acquiring COVID-19 tests.
  • Allows paramedics to be employed by a hospital or nursing facility through Jan. 31, 2022.
  • Nullifies 902 KAR 2:211E and 902 KAR 2:212E requiring facial coverings across the Commonwealth and prevents an identical or substantially similar administrative regulation from being filed.

American Rescue Plan (ARP) appropriation - House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 3

  • Appropriates $69,268,300 of ARP funds in FY22 to the General Administration and Program Support budget unit within the Health and Family Services Cabinet to address the COVID-19 pandemic. 
    • Funds can be used for COVID-19 testing, assisting providers of established monoclonal antibody treatment and assisting additional providers in establishing monoclonal treatment centers, and providing for "Test and Stay" COVID-19 testing at schools.
  • Decreases ARP appropriation to the Employment Services budget unit from $575 million to $505,731,700 in FY22.

Economic development project - House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 5

  • Appropriates approximately $410 million from the state’s $1.9 billion Budget Reserve Trust Fund in FY22 for economic development incentives.
    • $350 million for the funding of Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority forgivable loans for economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
    • $10.6 million to pay off a loan made between the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, Hardin County and Elizabethtown-Hardin County Industrial Foundation.
    • $20 million to make training grants under the Bluegrass State Skills Corporation programs to support economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
    • $5 million to develop or create training grants under the KCTCS-TRAINS program to support economic development projects with a minimum investment of $2 billion.
    • $25 million to the Kentucky Community and Technical College System for a capital project to construct an onsite training center located in Hardin County.

Legislative pay - Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 4

  • Amends KRS 6.190 to not provide any compensation or expense reimbursement to any members of the General Assembly during veto days of special sessions. 
  • This will not apply to the current Special Session. 
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