by Julie Berry, Contributing Writer
Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers descended on Frankfort for the 2017 General Assembly, passing an unprecedented seven bills during their first week in office. The whirlwind legislative session convened on Jan. 3, marking the first time in Kentucky’s history that Republicans have enjoyed an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress, as well as a Republican governor.
According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, the House and Senate cast votes on multiple pro-life and right-to-work bills, as well as controversial legislation aimed at reorganizing the scandal-plagued University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Congress officially passed the legislation during a rare Saturday session.
“Today is about celebrating the fact that Robert Stivers as the Senate President [and] Jeff Hoover as the Speaker of the House did something that’s never been done … they actually got a lot done,” Governor Matt Bevin said. “Seven substantive, meaningful, impactful, generationally changing bills came through the House and Senate. And again I think it’s a testament to the fact that good governance looks like this.”
Several Democratic congressmen voiced concern that the bills were pushed through the legislative process too quickly, without time for adequate review. “Moving so much volume with complexity is a dangerous thing,” House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins said.
Some Kentucky residents were displeased with the legislation. According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the Capitol as the Senate voted for right-to-work bills, legislation which prohibits companies from requiring their employees to join a labor union. Protesters labeled the measures “unfair,” alleging that those who choose not to join unions will receive the same benefits as those who do, despite not paying union membership fees.
Protesters also decried the passage of pro-life legislation. The first of these bills requires women to be shown an ultrasound and listen to their unborn child’s heartbeat before receiving an abortion. The second bill bans abortions after a fetus reaches 20 weeks, unless the mother’s life or “major bodily functions” are endangered by continuing the pregnancy.
According to CNN, Bevin officially signed the bills into law on Monday, Jan. 9. Due to an emergency provision included in the text of the legislation, the bills were declared effective immediately after receiving the governor’s signature.