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Lawmakers override vetoes on controversial education bills, including school choice bill

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 11:03 AM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - It’s been a busy night at the Kentucky State Capitol after the General Assembly reconvened to vote to override vetoes by the governor.

Earlier this evening the House voted to override the governor’s veto on House Bill 563, also known as the school choice bill. It sets up tax credits which would pay for vouchers so students in some of Kentucky’s largest counties could attend private school.

Two weeks ago, this bill just barely passed with a very narrow 48-47 vote, and earlier Monday evening it passed 51-42. One lawmaker, Rep. Regina Huff, switched up her vote to pass this bill and reach the 51 votes needed. The Republican lawmaker is a middle school special education teacher. We’ve reached out to her for an interview or statement but have not yet heard back.

In the Senate, a lengthy discussion took place about the bill. Those against it said it would take $25 million away from funding public education.

Senator Ralph Alvarado, who supports this bill, argues this gives students from lower income families an opportunity to attend a school their parents could not afford and this levels the playing field.

“We once again see public education with its neck inside a guillotine getting ready to have its head cut off. Let’s make no mistake about it, what House Bill 563 does, is it takes $25 million away from public education and gives it to private schools,” Senator Reginald Thomas said.

“So let’s make that clear, this isn’t just for private schools. I would think I’ve heard so much from private schools asking for more funding, they can bypass the budgetary process completely, set up 401c3 accounts, raise money for pre-k, for textbooks, for any equipment they need in their public school systems right there at home. I don’t see why there is opposition to that factor because both public and private are eligible for that money,” Senator Alvarado said.

The other education bill, House Bill 258, was also passed. It requires teachers hired after Jan. 1 2022, to work 30 years before they can draw from their retirement. Those who were against this bill said it would push quality teachers away from Kentucky.

The Senate also voted to override vetoes the governor made on the executive budgets. This includes how the state will spend its share of the American Rescue Plan. The governor line-item vetoed a portion that said he had to get approval from lawmakers on how to spend the money.

There are several more new laws after lawmakers’ actions today. Senate Bill 228 changes how Kentucky fills U.S. Senate vacancies, taking power from the governor. House Bill 312 now makes it more difficult to get records from the General Assembly, and the Legislative Research Commission.

House Bill 231 and 275 shift power to the state treasurer. House Bill 475 prevents the state’s Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt any regulations stricter than federal ones.

And House Bill 272 allows water districts to charge customers 10% late fees.

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