CCK sees two wins in 2024 session

The Catholic Conference of Kentucky counts two victories amid a few disappointments in the wake of the Kentucky General Assembly’s busy 2024 session.

“House Bill 2 is huge and that’s something we’ll talk about a lot over the next couple of months,” said Jason Hall, executive director of the CCK, which represents the state’s four bishops on matters of public policy. “It will advance educational opportunities in the coming years.”

The measure will put a referendum before Kentucky voters in November, asking them about amending the state constitution to allow public money to be used for private education.

The referendum will ask voters:

“To give parents choices in educational opportunities for their children, are you in favor of enabling the General Assembly to provide financial support for the education costs of students in kindergarten through 12th grade who are outside the system of common (public) schools by amending the Constitution of Kentucky as stated 8 below? The General Assembly may provide financial support for the education of students outside the system of common schools.”

The measure comes after the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down bipartisan school-choice legislation passed in 2021, finding the law violated the section of the Kentucky Constitution that prohibits the state from raising money for non-public schools.

The CCK supported the school-choice program, which would have provided tax credits — capped at $25 million — to individuals and businesses that help fund Education Opportunity Accounts for low-income students. The funds could be used for a variety of educational services, including tuition for non-public schools.

“House Bill 2 is very straightforward, and if it is passed by the voters, a program like that can be implemented,” said Hall. “It’s a necessary step to move forward and have this debate and talk about the good this can do for low-income families that do not have the resources that higher-income families do.”

Hall said the conference also welcomed new provisions approved by lawmakers that aim to improve maternal health. Senate Bill 74, a bill that aims to track and improve maternal health outcomes in Kentucky, was passed after provisions from House Bill 10 — the so-called “momnibus” bill — were tacked onto it.

The CCK supported both bills, calling House Bill 10’s provisions a “wish list of a lot of the things we could do to help economically vulnerable people.” 

“Kentucky is in a situation where abortion is banned, but it’s available in other states,” said Hall. “We have a moral obligation to help women in vulnerable circumstances. Kentucky lags other states in maternal health outcomes. They came up with a number of solid proposals. It’s a huge victory.”

Several efforts the conference supported did not fare so well.

Additional measures designed to help mothers, such as a proposal that would expand family leave for state employees, failed to advance. Hall also lamented outcomes related to affordable housing and criminal justice.

“On criminal justice legislation, I was very disappointed,” he said. “For about 10 years, we’ve supported the Smart on Crime coalition. We’ve had some successes when it comes to helping folks have opportunities after release. But none of our bills on the penal code have passed.”

Yet, he said, “there were speeches on the floor” against the Smart on Crime coalition and promoting “the idea that crime rates are really high and the only way to stop it is to incarcerate people. We have been expanding penalties for 50 years. If that were going to help, we would have seen that by now.”

Hall also expressed disappointment in a last-minute bill that affects charitable gaming. The measure creates a new corporation and board to regulate sports gaming and charitable gaming

in Kentucky, governed primarily by representatives of the horse-racing industry. On a board of 14, charitable gaming will have two representatives.

“On any question where charitable gaming and horse racing don’t align, charitable gaming will be outvoted every time,” said Hall, noting that he did not have the opportunity to testify against on the record.

Reflecting on the session, Hall said, “The national political winds and trends are seeping into state-level politics in Kentucky to a greater extent — for better or worse.”

Marnie McAllister
Written By
Marnie McAllister
More from Marnie McAllister
Catholic community
extends love to seniors
with Christmas cards
After what may have been the most isolated 22 months of their...
Read More
0 replies on “CCK sees two wins in 2024 session”