In their first week with supermajorities in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly, Republicans wasted no time in passing major legislation that has long been on their wish list concerning labor unions and abortion. Here is a rundown of the seven bills that received final passage on Saturday and were signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday:
House Bill 1: “Right-to-Work”
The top priority for Republicans in the session was the so-called “right-to-work” bill, which prohibits making membership in a union or the payment of union dues a condition of employment at a workplace. Despite hundreds of union members protesting and rallying in Frankfort in opposition to the bill, it passed easily in both chambers along party-line votes. The bill also prohibits public employees in Kentucky from striking.
House Bill 3: Repeal of prevailing wage law
This bill passed by a similar margin in both chambers, repealing the state’s prevailing wage law that mandated a minimum wage for employees on large public works construction projects. The exact prevailing wage varied from county to county, but was typically above $20 per hour.
Senate Bill 6: Union dues
A companion to the “right to work” bill, this legislation codifies that employees may not have their union dues deducted from their paycheck unless they have permitted an employer to do so in writing.
Senate Bill 2: 20-week abortion ban
This new law prohibits an abortion from being performed after the 20th week of a pregnancy, with the only exception being if the procedure is necessary to save the life of the woman. There is no exception in the law for women who were impregnated due to rape and incest, and it allows the father to file a lawsuit in any case where an abortion is performed after 20 weeks. The bill passed by a much larger margin than the labor bills, as many rural and male Democrats joined Republicans to vote for it or abstained from voting.
House Bill 2: Mandatory ultrasounds before abortions
This new law requires any woman receiving an abortion to have an ultrasound prior to the procedure, and the doctor to show and explain the images to the patient. The ACLU and EMW Women’s Surgical Center — the last abortion provider in the state, in downtown Louisville — filed a lawsuit against the state on Monday, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and nearly identical to one in North Carolina that was unanimously struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals in 2014.
Senate Bill 3: Legislator pension disclosure
Under the Kentucky Open Records Act, anyone may now have access to how much former and current state legislators receive from their state pension. The legislation passed nearly unanimously in both chambers.
Senate Bill 12: University of Louisville Board of Trustees
The drawn-out saga of the UofL Board of Trustees and Gov. Matt Bevin’s executive orders attempting to abolish and recreate it now has entered the legislature with the passage of this bill. Despite accrediting agency the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placing UofL on probation — in part due to concerns over Bevin’s actions in relation to the board — SB 12 sponsor and Senate president Robert Stivers said UofL’s accreditation was not at risk due to this bill, which abolishes the board once again upon Bevin’s appointment of 10 more trustees, each of whom the Senate must confirm.
Democratic legislators — and Attorney General Andy Beshear — where united against the bill, arguing it would exacerbate the accreditation threat with SACS by removing board members without a fair process. Democrats said the bill was being rushed for no good reason, as SACS will deliver its formal letter to UofL this week laying out the steps that must be taken to end its probation.
Stivers promised a companion bill to go along with SB 12 later in the session, and filed SB 107 on Saturday, which allows the governor to abolish any educational board if he deems that it has an inability to “reach consensus among its members” in order to carry out its primary functions.