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Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

Renee Shaw and guests recap the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly. Guests: State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville), Senate Majority Caucus Chair; State Rep. Suzanne Miles (R-Owensboro), House Majority Caucus Chair; State Rep. Rachel Roberts (D-Newport), House Minority Whip; and State Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson).
Season 30 Episode 7 Length 56:35 Premiere: 04/03/23

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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.

Legislators Discuss Several Bills Passed During the 2023 Session and Policy Goals for 2024

Heading into the 2023 General Assembly, Republican leaders promised a deliberative pace to the 30-day session and a focus on adjustments to previously enacted legislation.

In the end though, the session saw a last-minute rush of bills pushed to final passage as well as many new statements of policy, some bipartisan in nature and others passed by the Republican supermajorities in both chambers.

“The amount of work that took place this session was pretty remarkable,” says Rep. Suzanne Miles (R-Owensboro), who is House Majority Caucus Chair.

After years of attempts, the legislature finally approved medical marijuana legislation, sports wagering, and a phase-out of the tax on bourbon barrels in votes that revealed splits among the caucuses. Broad collaboration among Republicans and Democrats also moved crucial juvenile justice reforms, steps to address the teacher shortage, and a public health measure on fentanyl test strips.

But even with those successes and a further reduction to the personal income tax, this legislative session will likely be remembered for contentious efforts to ban gender-affirming health care for minors and tighten school policies on transgender youth.

“Even though a majority of the [newspaper] ink was on those bills, we did a whole lot of other really wonderful things to move the commonwealth forward,” says Sen. Julie Raque Adams, a Republican from Louisville. “We took care of so many issues that had been lingering for so many years.”

The Fight Over Transgender Rights

Senate Bill 150 on trans youth gained final passage on the last day before the veto period after legislative maneuvering to finesse its contents, intense debate by lawmakers, and Capitol rallies for and against the measure.

“In my three years in office, the only times I’ve really seen the Capitol absolutely packed with people is when we’re actively trying to take away their rights,” says Rep. Rachel Roberts, who is House Minority Whip.

The Newport Democrat decries both the legislation and the rapid, last-minute fashion in which it was passed by the Republican supermajorities. She describes SB 150 as a “shiny penny” bill that drew focus away from other important issues like education and affordable housing that impact the lives of everyday Kentuckians.

“I do think that government works best when it’s patient and when there’s healthy friction, and I worry there isn’t healthy friction with a supermajority in both chambers right now,” says Roberts. “Instead, there is just uber-polarization and the ability for some of the most extreme ideas to get rushed through.”

Miles says Republican leadership did not bend or break any legislative rules during the session. She adds that the issues regarding trans youth have been under discussion since the interim period last summer.

With more than two decades of service in Frankfort, Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) says she’s been on the giving and receiving ends of all kinds of legislative “shenanigans.” Regardless of the specific bills in play, she says the majority party gets to make and bend the rules, especially in the waning days of a session.

“We all have procedural issues in the 11th hour,” says Webb. “I don’t think that’s going to change regardless of who’s in the majority.”

SB 150 was sponsored by Campbellsville Sen. Max Wise, who is a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor running with Kelly Craft. That led some Democrats to argue the measure was simply a political stunt to rally GOP voters to the Craft-Wise campaign. Adams discounts that notion, saying the matter grew out of school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns by parents about how schools operate and what their children are taught in the classroom. She says the legislation saw significant revisions as it moved from interim committees to final passage. For example, she says she pushed to maintain mental health services for youth experiencing gender dysphoria even while the rest of the bill prohibited the use gender-affirming medications and procedures for minors.

“The way that the bill started is not the way the bill ended up, and I think that’s an important distinction,” says Adams. “We’ll figure out during the interim if we went too far or not far enough.”

Lawmakers could be forced to revisit the issue since legal challenges to SB 150 are expected. Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson) says she thinks the legislation needs more work to get it to a “good product.”

“That bill has constitutional issues, and the constitution requires that we protect everybody’s parental rights and we protect all the children,” says Webb.

How Medical Marijuana Finally Reached the Governor’s Desk

A tightly constructed medical cannabis bill gained final passage after similar legislation passed the House in 2020 and 2022 only to stall in the Senate. While the previous attempts had started in the House, this year’s bill started in the Senate. Adams credits the influence of six new senators in the upper chamber and frequent discussions among Republicans in the Senate and House with finally breaking the logjam.

“We just kept tinkering around with [the bill], and then informed the caucus of where we are, where we thought we were going to tinker next,” says Adams. “So over the course of the session, we built some consensus with our members to the point where everybody felt really comfortable with the product.”

Miles says a large group of freshmen representatives also helped changed the dynamics of the debate on medicinal cannabis. Senate Bill 47 won’t actually take effect until 2025, which Miles says gives lawmakers additional time to address any concerns about the new law and to promulgate the needed regulations on growing, processing, and dispensing the marijuana to qualified patients.

“Some of the things that people may not have been happy with, we’ve got time to work on that,” says Miles. “I’m hopeful that we get there to a safe space where... the product is safe, the dispensing is safe.”

Roberts says she’s pleased Kentuckians will finally have access to medical marijuana even though she laments the current bill doesn’t go as far as she would like.

Passage of medical marijuana, sports wagering, a ban on so-called gray games, the trans youth bill, and other issues revealed splits within the Republican supermajorities. Miles says that’s a natural result of “growing pains” among the 80 GOP members in the House and 30 in the Senate. She says leadership constantly worked to engage all Republican members, let them have their say, and encourage them to collaborate on legislation.

But in the final hours of the session, House leaders removed six Republican representatives from their assigned committees. One of those members, Rep. Felicia Rabourn of Pendleton, told the Lexington Herald-Leader the move was in retaliation for their challenges to Republican leaders.

Miles, who is in House leadership, says it’s common to change committee membership heading into the interim period.

“I wouldn’t say it’s specifically retaliation as much as we have members that push back with us to say, ‘Something’s got to be done with some of the things that’s going on,’” says Miles. “So I would think most of the things that took place on the last day and some changes that took place was a direct result of our membership asking so.”

Looking Towards the Interim Period and the 2024 Session

These lawmakers say many other important bills passed during the session without fireworks or fanfare that will benefit Kentuckians. Adams points to her Senate Bill 94 that she says will improve access to health care in rural parts of the state by expanding capabilities of advanced practice registered nurses to prescribe medications. Roberts touts a measure she co-sponsored to create an urban search and rescue program, which she says will be important with the increasing number of severe weather events the state is experiencing.

Another new law will make it harder for the state’s electric utilities to retire coal-fired power plants. Webb says Senate Bill 4 is an important part of a larger discussion about reliability of electrical service in the state as well as electric grid security and energy diversification.

The legislature also came up short in several areas. Adams says since leadership opened the state budget in this non-budget year, they should’ve have considered funds for more affordable housing. Miles says she sought measures to address postpartum depression and to bolster the foster care system. She also says a proposal to allow weapons on college campuses, which failed to gain traction this year and faced opposition from higher education officials, could be the focus of an interim task force that includes representatives of the state’s colleges and universities. Roberts says she wanted exemptions to the state’s abortion ban that would at least allow the victims of rape or incest access to the procedure.

Looking ahead to the 60-day session in 2024, Adams says she will push to hold managed care organizations more responsible for the poor health of Kentuckians. Webb and Miles say they want lawmakers to explore additional recovery supports for flood victims in Appalachian communities and tornado victims in western Kentucky. Roberts says she hopes for measures to expand access to maternal health care and to make health care in general more affordable. She also the General Assembly must continue to address the shortage of fire fighters, police officers, and public school teachers. And she hopes for actions that temper recent legislation she says has been against women as well as gay and transgender Kentuckians.

“We have sent some pretty loud messages through the General Assembly the last few years that women are less valued in the state, that people who are LGBTQ are less valued in this state,” says Roberts. “I’m very hopeful that we will stop that now and start moving towards things that are more unifying and that help to grow our state and that help to entice people to live here and stay here.”

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Season 30 Episodes

Reviewing the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/15/24

Final Negotiations on the State Budget

S30 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/25/24

School Safety

S30 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/11/24

Early Childhood Education

S30 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/26/24

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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Primary Election 2024 - S31 E6

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Candidate Conversations: Dana Edwards and Shauna Rudd - S31 E5

  • Wednesday May 8, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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Housing and Homelessness - S31 E4

  • Wednesday May 1, 2024 1:00 am ET on KET
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Review of the 2024 Kentucky Lawmaking Session - S31 E3

  • Wednesday April 24, 2024 5:00 am ET on KET
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