e extended the first week of the 2022 Regular Session into last weekend that allowed for the passage of time-sensitive legislation. This week was, on the other hand, an abbreviated one— only four days—ahead of Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. This allows for a four-day weekend for members of the western Kentucky delegation who are eager to be home as rebuilding our communities continue.
Although I have not been able to respond to each and every one of you, I have been reading your email and listening to your concerns I have heard from many of you regarding the Finance Cabinet’s plan to raise the assessments on used vehicles by as much as 40%. Many Americans are currently suffering from record inflation and cannot afford basic necessities let alone a new car. They have been forced to pay increased maintenance costs and other expenses associated with keeping their older cars on the road. Given these circumstances, I feel it is unconscionable to ask Kentucky’s working class and citizens on a fixed income to pay additional money to license their older vehicles. Senate Bill 75, which was filed this week by my colleague Senator Jimmy Higdon, will halt the Finance Cabinet’s directive to raise tax assessments on used vehicles by 40% and freeze them at 2021 assessed rate. I have proudly co-sponsored this bill and am confident that it will pass this session and bring needed relief to Kentucky’s citizens.
In week two, the General Assembly passed important legislation pertaining to disaster relief for western Kentucky and ensures schools maintain in-person education for as many students as possible amid COVID-19 mitigation efforts remain in place.
Members of the western Kentucky delegation championed Senate Bill (SB) 5—which ultimately passed as House Bill (HB) 5—and all Senators signed on as co-sponsors in a clear show of unity for western Kentucky.
HB 5 provides western Kentucky communities devastated by the recent tornadoes with $200 million in general aid. The Western Kentucky State Aid Funding for Emergencies (SAFE) fund will immediately allocate $45 million, with $15 million of the funds going specifically to temporary housing for displaced families. The remaining $30 million will assist with education needs, bringing a sense of normalcy and much needed stability to children’s lives.
Additionally, the General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution (HJR) 29, which extends the state of emergency declaration for western Kentucky. Lawmakers contend the governor did not need an extension to continue that state of emergency declared in December, but out of an abundance of caution, passed HJR 29 as yet another display of the legislature’s commitment to our part of the Commonwealth.
SB 25 extends and clarifies COVID-19 provisions from the 2021 Special Session as it relates to schools. It also extends some of the more agreeable orders to allow for further mitigation of COVID-19. The bill continues to prioritize in-person learning by providing each school with their own remote instruction days, as opposed to a district-wide allotment. These non-traditional instruction (NTI) days may be used by the school in a way that suits their particular situation, ensuring the fewest students are impacted when an outbreak occurs. To address staffing shortages, the bill also loosens regulations around state retirement benefits enabling schools to rehire previously retired staff without putting their pensions in jeopardy.
SB 25 maintains legislative remedies first enacted in the 2021 Special Session’s SB 1, which initiates a more balanced approach to mitigating COVID-19 in schools, a result of the dedicated collaboration of lawmakers, as opposed to unilateral actions by the governor.
Note: Senator Phillip Wheeler (R-Pikeville) represents Kentucky’s 31st State Senate District, which includes Elliott, Lawrence, Martin, Morgan, and Pike Counties. Senator Wheeler is vice- chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor. He also serves as a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Transportation, Natural Resources and Energy, Judiciary, and State and Local Government. Additionally, he is a member of the Capital Planning and Bond Oversight Committee and the County Clerk Office Modernization Task Force. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Wheeler, please visit: https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate131.jpg