Following the General Assembly's constitutionally required recess during a 30-day session, lawmakers returned to Frankfort last Tuesday to begin the second half of the 2021 Session.

During the recess period, the governor vetoed six priority bills that the legislature sent him. I outlined those bills in my previous legislative update. They included Senate Bills (SB) 1 and 2, and House Bills (HB) 1, 2, 3, and 5. The policy measures disapproved by the governor consist of language to implement a 30-day expiration of executive orders concerning restrictions placed on schools, businesses, and nonprofits — unless extended by the approval of the General Assembly. The same would go for executive orders that regulate political, religious, and social gatherings or impose mandatory isolation or quarantine requirements.  Many of the vetoes came as no surprise. However, I am grateful to say that SB 9, the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, became enacted into law without the governor's signature.

Fellow lawmakers and I wasted no time upon returning to Frankfort last Tuesday. The House and Senate overrode each of the vetoes mentioned above. These bills had an emergency clause, which means they became immediate law upon the General Assembly's override of the veto and a signature from the Secretary of State.

The governor filed litigation challenging HB 1 and SBs 1 and 2. As of the drafting of this legislative update, Judge Sheppard of the Franklin Circuit Court has unfortunately issued a temporary injunction on HB 1, enjoining it for 30 days. The governor's challenges to these bills are almost certain to end up before the Supreme Court of Kentucky.

Important legislative work continued through the recess. The budget conference committee, including members from both the House and Senate, began meeting to work out an agreed-upon budget bill. This vital work will continue into the second part of the session and includes efforts to determine an agreed-upon transportation budget bill. I will be keeping you informed on developments.

The Senate passed several additional bills this week, sending them to the House for consideration, including:

SB 8 — Senate priority legislation that provides exemptions to mandatory immunization requirements during an epidemic based on religious grounds or conscientiously held beliefs. If enacted into law, it would require the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to develop and make available on its website a standardized form relating to exemptions from immunization requirements.

SB 11 — provides recourse for property owners to pursue legal action for intentional damages done to rental property. The bill would classify the deliberate or wanton destruction, defacement, and damage to residential rental property as criminal mischief. It also strives to provide landlords with notifications on background checks if a prospective applicant has previously been charged with causing substantial and intentional damage to rental property.

SB 21 — allows originating hospitals to voluntarily transport mental health patients to a different hospital or facility upon staff authorization and a patient's signed written agreement. It would prevent an adult or child patient who has voluntarily been transported from being released during the transport to a receiving facility. The bill would also establish that a qualified mutual health professional may provide outpatient counseling to any child who is age 16 or older.

SB 38 — requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to implement regulations requiring health facilities to use a smoke evacuation system during any surgical procedure that is likely to produce surgical smoke.  It defines "surgical smoke" to mean the by-product resulting from tissue contact by an energy generating device. The bill's primary intent is to protect operating room nurses and other personnel, along with patients, from the hazards of surgical smoke.

SB 61 — establishes training standards for the staff of personal services agencies and home health agencies that serve patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. If enacted into law, the bill would improve the care provided to these patients. The hope is that it would also address retention of direct-care staff by better preparing them for job duties — resulting in less stress and dissatisfaction.

I continue to work on other important issues for the 31st Senate District, including SB 75, to further develop recreational off-highway vehicle trails in Eastern Kentucky.  We have had several meetings with various stakeholders, and hope committee members vote to approve the bill in the coming week.  Eastern Kentucky, with the Red River Gorge and the Breaks Interstate Park, is one of the nation's most beautiful regions.  I believe that Adventure Tourism can bring economic revival and make Eastern Kentucky a destination for people from across the country.     

I have also filed Senate Bill 110 to create an emergency insulin fund to help working-class diabetics gain access to life-saving medications.  My unshakeable belief that the lives of fellow Kentuckians should not depend on whether or not they can afford their medications, especially when the same product is available in Canada and other first-world countries for less than a third of what it costs Americans.     

Finally, I am a proud primary co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 63. It encourages President Joe Biden to rescind his Executive Order canceling the Keystone XL Pipeline. This project employs thousands of people across the United States, including many welders and tradesmen from Eastern Kentucky.  The Keystone XL Pipeline is an environmentally safe and necessary project to protect America's energy independence. It should not be a victim to the dangerous agenda of the radical left in Washington.

There is still much work to be done. I will continue to keep you updated and informed in the weeks ahead through these legislative updates. I want to thank media outlets throughout the 31st District who work diligently to keep communities aware of important stories here in the Commonwealth.

It is an honor to represent you in the Kentucky State Senate. Should you have any comments or concerns about these issues or any other public policy issue, please do not hesitate to contact my office. You can reach my office at, (502) 564-8100, Ext: 714, or by emailing me at, phillip.wheeler@lrc.ky.gov. God bless.

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