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Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

Renee Shaw talks with guests about the upcoming 2022 Kentucky General Assembly. Guests: State Sen. Jason Howell, a Republican from Murray; State Rep. Josie Raymond, a Democrat from Louisville; Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy; and Kate Shanks, senior vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Season 29 Episode 1 Length 56:35 Premiere: 12/06/21

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Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis of 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.

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.

Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions in real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form. Viewers with questions and comments may send an email 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 800-494-7605.

After the 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.

Redistricting, Spending Federal Money, Tax Reform on the Table for Active 2022 Session

The 2022 Kentucky General Assembly is just weeks away, and legislators are busily preparing their priorities for the 60-day session. In addition to crafting a biennial budget, lawmakers are also expected to tackle allocation of COVID relief funds, additional tax code changes, updates to the state’s unemployment system, medical marijuana, and legislative redistricting.

“It would have been much more responsible to be called in to a special session to do it,” Sen. Jason Howell (R-Murray) says of the redistricting process. “Since it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen, the sooner we can deal with it and get it to the governor’s desk, the better it will be for everyone.”

Now in control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Republicans have their first shot at redrawing all the state and federal legislative districts. Republican leaders wanted Gov. Andy Beshear to call lawmakers into special session before January so they could approve the new districts. Beshear said he wanted a completed plan that he could review before calling the session.

Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) and House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) nixed that idea, saying a governor has no role in redistricting. Now lawmakers plan to address redistricting in the opening days of the session, which starts on Jan. 4. Beshear could still veto whatever plan gets passed by the General Assembly, but the Republican supermajorities in both chambers could easily override it.

Meanwhile Democratic lawmakers are eager to review the new maps.

“I just can’t wait to see what they cook up,” says Rep. Josie Raymond, (D-Louisville). “What I think we need to do is make sure we’ve got a fair and transparent process that’s not rushed.”

The challenge for Republicans is how to redraw maps to account for population growth in urban areas and depopulation in rural eastern and western Kentucky while not pitting too many incumbents against one another.

What to Do with COVID Relief Funds

In addition to crafting a new two-year budget for the commonwealth, lawmakers will also have millions of dollars in federal pandemic assistance to allocate. Kentucky Center for Economic Policy Executive Director Jason Bailey says the state still has about $1.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act available to spend.

“The surplus is really a once in a generation, maybe once in a lifetime opportunity to begin to reinvest in the core services that we have, frankly, depleted as a state through 20 rounds of budget cuts since 2008,” he says.

Bailey’s priorities for that money include education, child care, government employee raises, and food and housing assistance for struggling families. He contends making those kinds of investments will help Kentuckians and put the state’s overall economy on a stronger trajectory.

Raymond says House Democrats share those priorities. She says her goal is to help those Kentuckians who have been hurt most by COVID disruptions.

“What can we to do strengthen and stabilize families in Kentucky so we all come out of this stronger, not just [those at] the top,” says Raymond.

From the view of the business community, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice President Kate Shanks says lawmakers should use those funds to restore the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, boost the state’s rainy day fund, pay down public pension liabilities, create initiatives to improve workforce participation, and expand child care options.

“We think the time is right, the time is now to just focus on bold policies for Kentucky,” says Shanks. “It’s a great opportunity to make investments in new programs.”

Republicans are likely to take a more conservative approach, however. Howell says just because state coffers are full now thanks largely to federal largesse doesn’t mean that will continue into the future.

“A lot of what we’re taking about is investing one-time money into something that’s going to have a recurring cost to it,” says Howell. “We don’t know what the economy is going to look like in the future and we’ve got to be sure that we don’t overrun our fundraising capabilities.”

Howell says he could see applying some of the ARPA dollars to the state’s pension debts, which he says would free up other regular budget money to fund something like early childhood development. Bailey contends a better approach to the pension crisis is to hire more employees and give current workers raises so that more employee contributions will be going into the retirement systems.

Time for More Tax Reform?

In 2018, lawmakers simplified the state’s income and corporate tax brackets to a single 5 percent rate. Shanks says that helped make the commonwealth’s business climate more competitive. But with neighboring states continuing to drop their tax rates, she says it’s time for Kentucky to go even lower.

“If we sit where we are today at 5 percent, we’re going to start losing ground,” says Shanks. “We’re going to look less and less competitive relative to other states.”

For a state that needs more regular revenue, Bailey says a further tax cut is the wrong idea.

“If you cut the income tax 1 point, that costs about $1.2 billion – that is far more than we spend on our entire higher education system in Kentucky,” says Bailey. “So if you want to do that, you’ve got to look at ways to pay for it.”

That could mean higher sales taxes, or applying the tax to more items, including groceries. Bailey says the net result will be greater inequality as corporations and wealthy individuals see their taxes reduced and middle- and working-class families experience a greater tax burden.

Raymond says a lower income tax rate isn’t going to suddenly transform her hometown of Louisville into the next Nashville, nor will it drive significant relocations to Kentucky.

“I’m not going to move my family across state lines to save 1 percent on my income tax,” Raymond says, “but I might for pre-K and paid family leave and other investments that we could make.”

Howell says the state needs a tax system and other policies that better match today’s more service-driven economy. He contends consumption-based taxes, right to work and prevailing wage laws help Kentucky stay competitive and relevant.

“We need to try to build on our pro-job creation policies,” says Howell. “It’s important that the income tax reforms wouldn’t be focused on raising the amount of taxes that people pay, but it’s growing the number of taxpayers in our system by improving our overall business environment.”

Updating the Unemployment Insurance System

Beyond addressing the financial needs of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, lawmakers will likely debate ways to overhaul the unemployment system. Massive numbers of unemployment claims during the early months of the COVID pandemic overwhelmed the state unemployment office, which was already saddled with outdated technology, limited staffing, and arcane eligibility rules.

Republicans and employers hope to put more emphasis on helping people move off assistance and into meaningful work more quickly. Shanks says the Chamber recommends stronger job search requirements, redefining what is considered “suitable work,” and creating a pipeline of available workers for businesses.

“People stay on unemployment longer in Kentucky than states that have more robust work-search requirements,” says Shanks. “So this isn’t about penalizing people, it’s about helping people find work.”

Howell says people will experience greater self-confidence and pride by returning to work sooner.

“A lot of what we’re doing with the unemployment benefits is not just stopping benefits, but enabling them to move from benefits to being back out as a dynamic part of the workforce,” says Howell.

Bailey says families and businesses stayed afloat during the pandemic because people received and spent unemployment payments. He argues that ending benefits sooner will only force people to take lower-wage jobs that aren’t a good match for their skills, which he says will end up hurting families and the economy.

“If anything, we should be looking back at the lessons of this [pandemic] and figuring out how we strengthen the program,” says Bailey.

Raymond says it’s unfair to demonize people who need unemployment since benefits amount to less than half of what they were making at their last job.

“We also demonize unemployment, which is not a giveaway. It is a social insurance system,” says Raymond. “These are people who are in a situation where they need some help and they deserve it.”

Another Push for Medical Marijuana

Look for another vigorous discussion about medical marijuana this session. Raymond says the House supports the idea, but Senate Republicans remain the roadblock. She says she’s baffled that a state that embraces bourbon and tobacco can’t get on board with marijuana prescribed for specific medical conditions.

Howell agrees that state senators have proven more reluctant to support previous bills. But he says Rep. Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) and Sen. Whitney Westerfield (R-Crofton) have collaborated during the interim on a proposal that could garner the necessary votes in the Senate.

Shanks says the Chamber worked with Nemes on earlier versions of medical marijuana legislation to include language to help employers. Otherwise, she says the Chamber will be neutral on any new proposals. With three dozen states already allowing some form of medicinal use, Bailey says it’s past time for Kentucky to permit it.

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Season 29 Episodes

Medical Marijuana Legalization in Kentucky

S29 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/30/23

Kentucky's Juvenile Justice System

S29 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/23/23

Legislation Introduced in the 2023 General Assembly

S29 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/09/23

2023 Legislative Session Preview

S29 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 12/19/22

National Politics

S29 E40 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 12/05/22

2022 Election Preview

S29 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/07/22

Inflation and the Economy

S29 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/31/22

Constitutional Amendments 1 & 2

S29 E37 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 10/24/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part Two

S29 E36 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 10/17/22

Candidates for U.S. House of Representatives: Part One

S29 E35 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/10/22

U.S. Senate Candidate Charles Booker

S29 E34 Length 26:31 Premiere Date 10/03/22

Discussing Flooding's Impact on Eastern Kentucky Schools

S29 E33 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/26/22

COVID-19, Monkeypox and Influenza

S29 E32 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/12/22

Eastern Kentucky Flooding and Legislative Relief Package

S29 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/29/22

Child Care in Kentucky

S29 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/22/22

School Safety: Debating State Policies

S29 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/01/22

Work, Wages and Welfare

S29 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/25/22

50 Years of Title IX

S29 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/18/22

The Impact of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

S29 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/11/22

Kentucky's Ban on Abortion

S29 E23 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/27/22

Discussing New Developments in the COVID-19 Pandemic

S29 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/20/22

Reducing Opioid Addiction Rates in Kentucky

S29 E21 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 06/13/22

Mass Shootings and Gun Laws

S29 E20 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/06/22

Discussing the Rise in Gas Prices and Inflation

S29 E19 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/23/22

Previewing Kentucky's 2022 Primary Election

S29 E18 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/16/22

Third Congressional District Democratic Primary

S29 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/09/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part Two

S29 E16 Length 58:33 Premiere Date 05/02/22

Candidates in the 2022 Primary Election: Part One

S29 E15 Length 58:40 Premiere Date 04/25/22

Lawmakers Review the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/18/22

Recap of the 2022 Legislative Session

S29 E13 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/11/22

Public Assistance and Jobless Benefits

S29 E12 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/28/22

Abortion Legislation in the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E11 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 03/21/22

State Budget, Taxes, and Other 2022 General Assembly Topics

S29 E10 Length 57:42 Premiere Date 03/14/22

Critical Race Theory and Approaches to Teaching History

S29 E9 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/28/22

2022 Legislative Session at the Midpoint

S29 E8 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/21/22

Name, Image and Likeness Compensation

S29 E7 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/14/22

Child Abuse and Neglect

S29 E6 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/07/22

Debating School Choice in Kentucky

S29 E5 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/01/22

Debating Provisions in the Proposed State Budget

S29 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/24/22

Redistricting, State Budget, and Other Legislative Issues

S29 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/10/22

Discussing Legislative Goals for the 2022 General Assembly

S29 E2 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/03/22

Previewing the 2022 Kentucky General Assembly

S29 E1 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/06/21

See All Episodes

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Early Childhood Education - S30 E42

Renee Shaw and guests discuss early childhood education. Scheduled guests: State Senator Danny Carroll (R-Benton), chair of the Senate Families and Children Committee and sponsor of the Horizons Act, SB 203, that addresses the child-care industry needs in Kentucky; State Senator Cassie Chambers Armstrong (D-Louisville), member of the Senate Families and Children Committee; Sarah Vanover, Ed.D., author of America's Child-Care Crisis: Rethinking an Essential Business, and policy and research director for Kentucky Youth Advocates; Kate Shanks, vice president of public affairs at the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; Brigitte Blom, president & CEO of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence; and Andrew McNeill, president of Kentucky Forum for Rights, Economics & Education (KYFREE). A 2024 KET production.

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Kentucky Tonight - S30 E44

  • Monday March 25, 2024 8:00 pm ET on KET
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Early Childhood Education - S30 E42

  • Tuesday February 27, 2024 2:30 pm ET on KETKY
  • Tuesday February 27, 2024 1:30 pm CT on KETKY
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  • Tuesday February 27, 2024 5:00 am CT 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

  • 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

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