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2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

Renee Shaw hosts a 2024 legislative session preview. Guests: State Representative Chad Aull (D-Lexington); State Representative Stephanie Dietz (R-Edgewood); State Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville); and State Senator Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R- Lexington).
Season 30 Episode 33 Length 56:35 Premiere: 12/04/23


Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis on major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw. Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form.
For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

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Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

First-Year Lawmakers Discuss the State Budget, Gun Legislation, and Other Issues

The clock is ticking down to the start of the 2024 General Assembly session, with lawmakers concluding their interim committee work and party caucuses meeting to set their priorities for next year.

Ahead of the January 2 start date for the session, four first-year lawmakers discussed the issues they hope the legislature will tackle in the coming session. Topping the list is a new state spending plan. Unlike many years past, House and Senate members will have a surplus and a robust Rainy Day Fund to work with during their budget negotiations. But Rep. Stephanie Dietz (R-Edgewood) says just because that money is available doesn’t mean legislators should spend it.

“It’s the first time we’ve had this type of a surplus, so I think something that we need to be conscious about is how do we spend it and what do we spend it for,” says Dietz. “It’s for emergencies and opportunities.”

Dietz says House Republicans haven’t discussed any spending cuts yet, but she says their budget priorities include economic development, child care, and workforce issues. Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R-Lexington) says Senate Republicans share those priorities but she adds that conservatives are eager to control spending so the state can meet the fiscal targets that will allow another drop in the income tax rate.

“If the General Assembly’s goal is to continue to reduce the income tax, then you have to be mindful of expenses today and those expenses tomorrow and the next year,” says Bledsoe. “That’s the goal... and the question is can we get there, and that’s going to take both chambers working together.”

But Democrats argue that continuing the GOP tax cut plan, which seeks to eventually lower the state rate to zero, is unwise when there are so many critical needs facing the commonwealth.

“We have an opportunity with $3.7 billion in the Rainy Day Fund right now to invest in the people of the commonwealth,” says Rep. Chad Aull (D-Lexington). “If you would ask our families, I think a lot of them would say it’s raining right now.”

Aull contends the state should invest in pay raises for teachers, school bus drivers, criminal justice personnel, and other state employees as well as fund universal pre-kindergarten. Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville) says early childhood education is critical to addressing a range of social and workforce issues for the commonwealth. She says most states try to hold 15 percent of their budgets in an emergency reserve, but Kentucky is now approaching 35 percent.

“Our concern is how we put the money that we have to work for the people of Kentucky because it’s not solving any problems sitting in a Rainy Day Fund,” says Armstrong. “What we choose to put into our budget says something about who we are and who care about and the problems that we focus on.”

Beyond basic SEEK funding for public schools, Armstrong says lawmakers should increase bus driver pay. She says too many drivers leave public school routes for commercial driving jobs that can pay them twice as much. Aull says the state should also return to fully funding school transportation costs, which legislators are required to do by law but which has not actually happened in years. On the Republican side, Bledsoe says her caucus has discussed funding for school resource officers and mental health counselors.

The end of federal COVID relief funding for child care centers could put many of those businesses in dire financial straits. Armstrong says 20 percent of child care centers in Kentucky could close while 70 percent would have to raise their tuitions. She says support for those centers is a critical issue for working parents who rely on affordable child care services.

The state previously allocated $15 million in matching funds for businesses to help their employees with child care costs. But Bledsoe says companies have been slow to pursue that partnership. She contends lawmakers should consider how child care and universal pre-K could work together. She says that doesn’t have to depend on state funding. She points to how city and county officials in Danville along with the local chamber of commerce collaborated to purchase a vacant building and convert it into an early education center for the community.

Lawmakers may also consider a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees, which they have not received in a decade. Aull says Kentucky could adopt a plan like one instituted in Texas that provides retired public employees with an additional paycheck each year. Bledsoe says another option would be a one-time bonus to retirees that would provide them with relief against inflation without creating recurring costs for the state.

Gun Safety and Abortion Ban Exceptions

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill) is working on gun safety legislation known as crisis aversion and rights retention or CARR. It would create a judicial process for temporarily removing firearms from the possession of someone deemed to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.

Similar legislation with bipartisan support has been proposed in Frankfort before but failed over concerns about due-process rights.

“I think Sen. Westerfield has some ideas on how we might be able to do that in a better way to make sure that due process is followed,” says Bledsoe. “If they can find that, there will be more support for it.”

Aull says CARR would be a great first step that should be accompanied with other measures like implementing universal background checks and funding a state gun-violence prevention office.

A group of Senate Republicans has proposed an 18-point plan to curb violent crime that they plan to introduce in the 2024 session. The Safer Kentucky Act includes provisions for life sentences without parole for three-time violent felony offenders, murder charges for drug dealers who sell fentanyl that leads to a lethal overdose, greater rights for shopkeepers to protect their businesses, and felony charges for carjackings. A provision on wiretapping has been removed from the legislation, according to Dietz, but she says it could return as a stand-alone bill.

Armstrong says the Safer Kentucky Act simply recycles old ideas that do not work. She fears such legislation could even lead to more violence in the commonwealth. She says efforts to tackle violent crime must be driven by research.

“When you look at the data about what promotes safety in a community... the number one thing is sense of community,” says Armstrong. “Whenever people live in a community where they know their neighbors, where it is a vibrant, walkable, connected place, you see crime go down.”

As the abortion debate continues, Republican legislative leaders have signaled they are open to discussing exceptions to the state’s ban on the procedure for victims of rape and incest.

Armstrong and Aull say Kentuckians have spoken on the issue by rejecting an amendment to the state constitution that would have affirmed no right to an abortion. Democrats also argue that Gov. Andy Beshear’s victory in this year’s gubernatorial campaign, in which exceptions to the abortion ban were a prominent point of debate, also show the public’s desire for some exemptions.

“It’s the right thing to do, and so the majority party has got to figure out if they have the courage to do the will of the voters in Kentucky,” says Aull.

Bledsoe says it’s not a matter of courage for Republicans but rather finding find a policy position that works for Kentuckians as well as the personal convictions of lawmakers. Dietz says she wants to hear from her northern Kentucky constituents on the issue, but she contends that Republican support for the current ban doesn’t mean the GOP is uncaring about the plight of abused women.

“I don’t want to retraumatize a rape victim or an incest victim,” says Dietz, “but there’s also another victim and that’s the unborn child, and I think we have to weigh that.”

Legislative Procedures

A recent report from the League of Women Voters of Kentucky says state lawmakers are using legislative maneuvering to fast-track bills to passage with insufficient time for review and input by legislators and the general public. The report says less than 5 percent of bills were fast-tracked 25 years ago. By 2020, nearly a quarter of bills passed by the Senate and almost a third of legislation approved by the House was fast-tracked, according to the League.

Bledsoe acknowledges that bills can move quickly through the chambers, but she attributes that to the volume of work that legislators have to complete during their few weeks of work. She also contends that most issues receive extensive discussion in interim committee meetings that the public can follow. But she also thinks there are options for providing greater transparency around bills, amendments, and committee substitutes.

“I think we can make some better compromises to provide some stuff online,” says Bledsoe. “It will be easier and faster so you’re not feeling like there’s something being said that you can’t find quickly.”

Aull agrees that proposed legislation often does wind through interim committees, but he argues that during General Assembly sessions, final bills can still speed to passage before the public can fully digest them. He says the legislature should always adhere to its own rules, which call for passage of bills in no less than three days.

“We need to slow down and let the public have an actual meaningful opportunity to provide us feedback on these critical pieces of legislation that affects people’s lives,” says Aull.

Lawmakers might have more time to deliberate bills if Kentucky moved to a full-time legislature. That idea has been previously discussed in Frankfort, with differences of opinion. Dietz says continuous sessions could allow for a more measured legislative process, but she says lawmakers might also simply generate more bills to fill up their extra time.

Aull says the responsibilities of a full-time legislature might preclude some people from running for office. He says the General Assembly should comprise people devoted to public service, not just those who can afford to serve in Frankfort.

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Season 30 Episodes

Abortion Legislation

S30 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/19/24

School Choice and Education Issues

S30 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/12/24

State Budget Discussion

S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

S30 E37 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/29/24

Safer Kentucky Act

S30 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/22/24

Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/08/24

Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

S30 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/17/23

Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E27 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/09/23

Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

S30 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/26/23

SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

S30 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/19/23

Horse Racing Safety

S30 E16 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 06/12/23

A Discussion of Gun Laws

S30 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/05/23

Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

S30 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/22/23

2023 Primary Election Preview

S30 E13 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/15/23

Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

S30 E12 Length 15:00 Premiere Date 05/08/23

Republican Candidates for Governor

S30 E11 Length 1:29:20 Premiere Date 05/01/23

Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E10 Length 1:15:06 Premiere Date 04/24/23

Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

S30 E9 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/17/23

Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

S30 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/10/23

Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/03/23

Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

S30 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/13/23

Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/27/23

Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

S30 E2 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/13/23

Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

S30 E1 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/06/23

See All Episodes

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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

Renee Shaw and guests discuss abortion legislation. Scheduled guests: State Representative Nancy Tate (R-Brandenburg); Tamarra Wieder, state director of Planned Parenthood Alliance Advocates; Addia Wuchner, executive director of Kentucky Right to Life; and Jackie McGranahan, senior policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky. A 2024 KET production.

  • Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

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School Choice & Education Issues - S30 E40

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The State Budget - S30 E39

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at Kentucky Colleges & Universities - S30 E38

  • Wednesday January 31, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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Safer Kentucky Act - S30 E37

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