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2024 Legislative Preview

Renee Shaw hosts a 2024 legislative preview. Guests: State Senator Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), Senate Majority Caucus Chair; State Representative Suzanne Miles (R-Owensboro), House Majority Caucus Chair; State Senator Robin Webb (D-Grayson); and State Representative Lindsey Burke (D-Lexington).
Season 30 Episode 32 Length 56:35 Premiere: 11/20/23

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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.

Viewers with questions and comments may send e-mail to kytonight@ket.org or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 1-800-494-7605.

After broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

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 Moderator and Director of Public Affairs for Kentucky Educational Television, currently serving as host of KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Connections, election coverage, Legislative Update and KET Forums.

Since joining KET in 1997, Shaw has produced numerous KET public affairs series and specials, including KET’s nationally recognized legislative coverage. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, town hall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

As an award-winning journalist, Shaw has earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, earning two regional Emmy awards, and an award from the Kentucky Associated Press for political coverage of the state legislature. She was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame in 2017. 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; earned the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform in 2014; and, in 2015, received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking.  

In 2018, KET earned a national media award from Mental Health America for its multi-dimensional content on the opioid epidemic shepherded by Shaw. That same year, she co-produced and moderated a six-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. In 2019, Shaw was recognized by The Kentucky Gazette as one of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government. In addition, Renee was awarded the Charles W. Anderson Laureate Award by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet which recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues.

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

Lawmakers Discuss Priorities for the State Budget, Education Policy, Social Issues, and More

New Year’s celebrations will barely be finished when lawmakers convene for the 2024 General Assembly on January 2. Once again, the session will play out in a divided government of Republican super-majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate, and a Democratic governor.

Relations between the legislative and executive branches are likely to remain frosty despite Gov. Andy Beshear’s five-point reelection victory earlier this month. Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) recently said he sees no reason for lawmakers to work with the governor.

Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) says good public policy depends on communication and cooperation among the branches of government, yet she says she expects “business as usual” between legislators and Beshear.

“I look forward to the administration engaging with us,” says Adams. “Do I think that they will? I’m not sure but I hope they will.”

Even Sen. Robin Webb, a Grayson Democrat, acknowledges that other governors have done a better job working with the legislature than Beshear. She says a good rapport between the branches of government shouldn’t be partisan.

“Most people in Kentucky... want us to work together the best we can,” says Webb.

State Budget and Education Spending

Even though social and cultural issues dominated much of the 2023 General Assembly, House Majority Caucus Chair Suzanne Miles says the 2024 session will concentrate on fiscal matters.

“Our focus right now is on the budget,” says the Owensboro Republican. “I look at that as our number one responsibility.”

That could include overhauling SEEK, the formula that allocates per-pupil funding to Kentucky public schools. That calculation was created by the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act to address funding disparities among the state’s wealthier and poorer school districts. But recent reports indicate those financial inequities have arisen again.

“The (Kentucky) Supreme Court’s eventually going to make us change it if we don’t take proactive action because of the disparity at present,” says Webb.

Adams says a one-size-fits-all solution may not work in a state with such diverse school districts. She admits the SEEK formula may be outdated but she cautions that changing it would be “quite a hurdle to climb.”

“When you get into those conversations, you have to be really careful because there’s going to be winners and losers when you adjust anything,” says Adams.

She adds that lawmakers must continue to fund public schools at levels that enable students to thrive and adequately compensate teachers.

Governor Beshear has called for an 11 percent pay raise for all public school teachers, but Republicans prefer letting individual school districts set their own pay rates. Miles says school officials appreciate that kind of flexibility rather than having an across-the-board increase mandated by Frankfort.

Even though SEEK dollars have increased over the years, lawmakers have reduced other aspects of education funding with cuts to services like professional development and student transportation. Rep. Lindsey Burke, a freshman Democrat from Lexington, says the General Assembly hasn’t fully funded school busing costs, as is required by law, for 20 years, which she says has resulted in problems for students and parents.

“If we would step up and pay our part, we wouldn’t have so many kids coming home late,” says Burke. “So the General Assembly really needs to step up their game and do less talk and more action in this budget cycle.”

Other budget priorities for Adams include raising Medicaid reimbursement rates, some of which she says haven’t been adjusted in more than two decades. She also hopes allocations for mental health services will increase as well as funding for childcare.

Charter Schools Versus Public Education

After the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down a Republican plan to give state tax credits to donors who contribute to private school scholarship funds, GOP leaders have floated the idea of a constitutional amendment that would specifically allow tax dollars to flow to charter schools and other alternative education options.

Legislation to amend the state constitution must gain the approval of two-thirds of the House and Senate, which could be difficult to attain given that the tax credit plan had trouble winning a simple majority.

Adams says school choice already exists in Jefferson County and other districts where there are public, private, and religious-affiliated schools. She says many other public schools around the state are excellent and shouldn’t be undercut.

“I don’t think that we should take any money away from public education in this vein of having educational choice,” says Adams. “I don’t think that’s anyone’s objective.”

Burke says she opposes such a constitutional amendment. She contends that states which have implemented voucher programs similar to what’s been discussed here end up awarding most of those vouchers to students who are already in an alternative school.

“I want everyone to succeed, not just the people who already have a leg up,” says Burke. “So we need to make sure that we don’t waste the very precious tax dollars that we do have on something that’s not going to help Kentucky students.”

In addition to the issue of public dollars going to private education, Webb says she’s worried about the management of charter schools under the Republican-backed legislation.

“I’ve got legitimate concerns about losing oversight and accountability,” says Webb. “There’s just many layers of that policy that you need to be concerned about.”

Miles praises the public schools in Owensboro, including an innovation academy for middle and high school students from Daviess and surrounding counties that focuses on the sciences, technology, and entrepreneurship.

“They really fought hard… to do what they did and I would hope that at some point in time our Department of Education would make it a little bit easier to give every child an opportunity,” says Miles. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Social Issues

Tensions linger among lawmakers over measures from previous sessions dealing with reproductive rights, human sexuality, and LGBTQ issues. Burke says she wants all children to feel welcome in schools and all employees to be welcomed in their workplaces, but she fears that may not be the case after passage of Senate Bill 150, which included provisions impacting transgender youth. She wants lawmakers to consider new legislation to address that.

“We ought to be looking at things like statewide fairness to show the world that we are not backward and bigoted,” says Burke.

Miles says SB 150 was not meant to make anyone feel targeted or marginalized. She contends it was simply meant to help parents know what’s happening in their children’s schools. Miles also says the media focuses too much on controversial bills and too little on important, bipartisan legislation that can benefit the commonwealth.

“It’s just unfortunate that we’ve got so many great things that take place where we all get along and we all agree on things,” says Miles, “It seems like the media doesn’t pay attention to that, and it’s just kind of disheartening sometimes.”

Another hot-button topic that could arise in the 2024 session is whether lawmakers will enact exemptions to the state’s ban on abortion to cover victims of rape or incest. Abortion exemptions were a key topic in the gubernatorial race, and House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) have signaled that they are open to discussing such legislation.

Miles says there is room for that conversation in the House, but she thinks it won’t be a significant focus of the legislative session. Adams says Senate Republicans have very diverse opinions on the issue, which she says will likely generate robust debate during their upcoming caucus retreat.

Burke, who says she lost an unborn child last year, says Kentuckians deserve a full rollback of the state’s abortion ban, but adds she would settle for the exemptions. Webb says she also faced a difficult pregnancy in her life and believes lawmakers should have no role in what should be a private decision among women, their families, their doctors, and God.

A different approach to the abortion debate could come from Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill), who plans to file a bill that would offer a range of supports to pregnant women, including free college tuition, housing assistance, and mental health services. Burke says the proposed bill is “phenomenal” and deserves bipartisan support.

“If we want women to make informed decisions about how to live their lives and for them to succeed and raise families, then that’s exactly the type of legislation we need,” says Burke.

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Season 30 Episodes

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

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