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Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

Renee Shaw hosts a discussion about the 2024 Kentucky General Assembly. Guests: State Representative David Osborne (R-Prospect), Speaker of the House; State Senator Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), President of the Senate; State Representative Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort), House Minority Floor Leader; and State Senator Gerald Neal (D-Louisville), Senate Minority Floor Leader.
Season 30 Episode 35 Length 56:34 Premiere: 01/08/24

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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 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.

Republican and Democratic Leaders Discuss the State Budget, Education Funding, Abortion, and Other Issues

With the 2024 General Assembly now into its second week, debates are already swirling around key issues including a new state budget, education spending and school choice, public safety, and exemptions to the state’s abortion ban. Legislative leaders gathered on Kentucky Tonight to discuss those topics and other priorities for the session.

The State Budget

Gov. Andy Beshear released his spending plan in late December – two weeks before the legislature even convened. House Minority Floor Leader Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort) says the governor’s budget, which is embodied in House Bill 114, includes $172 million in each year of the biennium for universal pre-kindergarten, full funding for Medicaid expansion, money for an Ohio River bridge at Henderson and to complete expansion of the Mountain Parkway, and pay increases for state employees and public school personnel. But it’s uncertain how warmly Republican leaders will embrace the Democratic governor’s ideas.

“In his speech, he highlighted a cooperative spirit between his office and the Kentucky General Assembly,” says Graham. “I hope we can work together so that we can take on the challenges that this commonwealth is having.”

In his review of the governor’s proposal, Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) says there are items GOP legislators agree on, such as infrastructure spending, and additional recovery funds for communities damaged by tornados in 2021 and floods in 2022.

But Stivers says he’s unconvinced about pre-K, saying the data is mixed on how it benefits young children. Instead, he says wants to fund daycare options, which he contends would help get parents back into the workforce. Stivers says Beshear’s expenditures would also impede Republican plans to eliminate the state income tax.

“The budget he’s got proposed probably won’t allow us to hit triggers ever to try to relieve the burden on Kentucky taxpayers and working-class people,” says Stivers.

That push to cut the income tax to 0 percent could hurt the state’s ability to pay its recurring bills, according to Senate Minority Floor Leader Gerald Neal of Louisville. He calls Beshear’s proposal “sound” and “rational” and contends that with historic budget surpluses and a strong economy, lawmakers should seriously consider new investments.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity here,” says Neal. “I would encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle that we need to look very carefully at how we lay the foundation of the future.”

Republicans are wary of tapping the Budget Reserve Trust Fund (also known as the Rainy Day Fund) for investments that will result in recurring expenses. House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) says that money, if it’s used, should only be for one-time investments such as an infrastructure project or to pay down public pension debts.

As for the budget proposal from House Republicans, Osborne says that document is still a week or two away. He says a late salary report from the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet required the budget committee to rework their figures.

Regarding pay raises for state employees, Osborne says it’s not as simple as giving an across-the-board percentage increase. Instead, he says those raises need to consider employee recruitment and retention issues for new and long-term workers as well as regional cost-of-living variations.

“We need to be more thoughtful about how we give those raises,” says Osborne. “Everybody acknowledges that we need to adequately compensate our state employees, but as part of that we need to make the entire pay scale more competitive up and down the ranks.”

Osborne is also unable to say whether a cost-of-living adjustment for state retirees will be in the House budget. He says lawmakers understand the inflation pressures on retirees who haven’t had a COLA in more than a decade, but he says it’s a difficult increase to apply across the various public pension systems.

Education Issues

The Speaker says the House budget crafted by Republicans will continue to emphasize public education.

“We can certainly have the debate... about whether It is enough or whether it should be more,” the Speaker says, “but it’s not debatable that we’ve committed record funding every single year to education.”

Teacher pay remains a critical issue, though. While overall education funding has increased, Osborne says teacher pay has lost ground in inflation-adjusted dollars. That’s led to teacher shortages across the commonwealth, and pay rates that aren’t competitive with neighboring states.

But there’s no consensus on the best way to provide those raises. Gov. Beshear wants an across-the-board increase of 11 percent. Senate President Stivers contends that will exacerbate pay disparities that already exist between the state’s wealthier and poorer school districts. He says any pay raises should be handled through the per-pupil funding known as SEEK that goes to public schools.

Osborne disagrees with the SEEK approach, saying that only addresses state dollars flowing to schools. He says some districts are better able to leverage federal education moneys, which can allow them to pay their teachers more regardless of what happens with SEEK appropriations.

As school funding disparities reach levels not seen since the historic court challenge that led to the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, lawmakers may need to overhaul the SEEK formula itself. Stivers says he’s not sure the General Assembly can tackle that issue this session, but he acknowledges it will have to be addressed in the future.

After the state Supreme Court struck down a scholarship tax credit to help fund charter schools and other education options, Republicans are calling for an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would allow public dollars to flow to private schools. Osborne and Stivers say they believe such a bill would have the requisite two-thirds majority support for a proposed constitutional amendment to pass both chambers.

Democrats Neal and Graham oppose that idea, saying that sending tax dollars to private institutions would compromise the state’s ability to adequately educate youth in public schools.

“[It] would be wrong and it would go against all the things in which the constitution of Kentucky establishes that we must have public education and it must be provided by the public in terms of taxes,” says Graham, a former public school history teacher.

Abortion, Public Safety, and Medical Marijuana

This week Sen. David Yates, a Louisville Democrat, filed legislation to create exceptions to the state’s abortion ban for the victims of rape and incest, and in cases where the life of the mother is at risk or the pregnancy is nonviable. Such exemptions were a key issue during last year’s governor’s race.

Stivers says an exemption to protect the life of the mother already exists in state law. He says Yates’ bill will be assigned to a committee, but he isn’t sure how it might fare. He says determining the cut-off point for these exceptions will be a difficult choice for lawmakers.

“You have to look down inside your heart and your soul and you have to make a decision,” says Stivers. “I’m not going to be judgmental no matter what the decision is.”

Neal agrees that determining viability of a fetus is a tough question. But he adds that the state should not be involved in personal medical decisions

“My position on that is that a state government should not be directing a woman how she controls her body and health choices,” says Neal.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Whitney Westerfield (R-Fruit Hill) has proposed legislation to provide extensive social service supports to pregnant women and new mothers that would cost the state more than $500 million over the next two years. Stivers says he’s not read the bill yet, but he agrees the General Assembly should provide better wrap-around services for mothers.

Among the House priorities this year, according to Osborne, is a 16-point anti-crime bill that includes tougher penalties for attempted murder, vandalism, those who commit multiple violent offenses, or knowingly sell fentanyl-laced drugs that contribute to an overdose death.

Osborne describes the Safer Kentucky Act as a well-thought-out, bipartisan bill. But some Democrats, including Neal, are concerned the legislation may lead to unintended consequences for the state. Stivers says he hopes lawmakers will address the root causes of crime in the commonwealth, including, he says, inadequate education, poor mental health supports, and drug addiction.

The General Assembly approved the use of medical marijuana last year, but it will still be another year before Kentucky doctors can prescribe the drug to patients with seven qualifying conditions. Now, Gov. Beshear wants to expand the number of qualifying conditions to 21. Stivers, who opposes medical marijuana, says a growing number of studies indicate adverse health and mental health impacts from marijuana use.

Osborne does support medicinal cannabis, but he argues that the state needs to fix a number of administrative issues with the current law before allowing people with additional conditions to seek a prescription. Neal also supports medical marijuana, but says that any expansion of the program should be done carefully and based on solid research.

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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

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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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Kentucky Tonight - S30 E42

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Abortion Legislation - S30 E41

  • Wednesday February 21, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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School Choice & Education Issues - S30 E40

  • Wednesday February 14, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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The State Budget - S30 E39

  • Wednesday February 7, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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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
  • Wednesday January 31, 2024 5:00 pm CT on KETKY
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Safer Kentucky Act - S30 E37

  • Wednesday January 24, 2024 6:00 pm ET on KETKY
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