After a packed first week followed by several weeks off, the Kentucky General Assembly will return on Tuesday for the remainder of this short, odd year session. Of the bills that have been filled, or are going to be filled, these are five that we are watching*.
1) HB 103- Charter School Legislation: Several interesting and important debates will unfold over the remainder of this session, but none are more intriguing than the charter school legislation. The number of authorizers that are permitted will be a topic of debate (states with multiple authorizers are shown to produce higher quality charter schools and higher student performance by numerous metrics) and questions of local funding following a child even if they leave a district, among other things, will ultimately determine the direction of the legislation. We have been examining several of these questions and have a Kentucky specific policy brief that is forthcoming.
2) SB20- Criminal Justice PAC Reform Bill: This lengthly bill (219 pages) is set to be the most substantive reform package to Kentucky's criminal justice system since HB463 in 2010. It is packed with changes including; probation and parole reform, reentry programs, jail reforms, changes in drug policy, and data sharing. Senator Whitney Westerfield (R), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the Courier-Journal, "The first objective of the bill is to keep our communities safe, and I invite any opponents to offer any data-driven approach they believe would work better." Next week, Pegasus Co-Executive Director Josh Crawford will begin releasing a series of blog posts that unpack this bill.
3) SB1- Education Accountability: This bill is flying under the radar some, thanks in part to the pending charter school legislation, but has been called the Senate's top-priority. If passed, it could spell big changes for the state's education system. The bill would give more local control over teacher evaluations, which could be a good thing, and more local control over academic standards, which may not.
4) HB 126 & 127- Students Rights Bills: The Student and Administration Equality Act (126) allows students to hire lawyers for representation during campus proceedings. The Campus Free Expression Act prohibits schools from forming "free speech zones."
5) HB110- Review for Deaths in Jail: Representative Jim Wayne's (D) bill would create a panel tasked with reviewing any death that occurs in a Kentucky prison, jail, or juvenile facility. Kentucky has numerous challenging criminal justice issues and could benefit from additional measure of oversight and transparency.
Extras: Tax Reform and Pension Reform are expected in a special session. For that reason, they are not included on this list, but will be a big focus for Pegasus Institute moving forward this year.
*As a 501(c)3, and as matter of academic independence, we do not lobby on behalf of any piece of legislation. We work to assess the policies attached to bills and the impact that they will have on the people of Kentucky. A bills inclusion in this list is not an endorsement of its contents.