Governor signs bills that will build better schools, expand broadband, provide clean drinking water, expand voting
(Frankfort, Ky.) - On Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear joined legislative leaders from both parties to sign bipartisan legislation appropriating funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to create jobs, build better schools, expand broadband and invest in infrastructure, including clean drinking water. The Governor also signed House Bill 574, which expands voting opportunities in Kentucky.
“While points of friction often get more attention, it’s important to note that on this crucial matter – at this profoundly consequential moment in history – everyone put their politics aside and instead put their shoulders to the grindstone to get this done for our people,” Gov. Beshear said. “We consulted with one another, and everyone agreed the right thing to do right now is to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in our people and our future.”
Elected officials of both parties, including Senate President Robert Stivers, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins and Secretary of State Michael Adams, joined Gov. Beshear in the Capitol Rotunda for today’s bill signings.
“To all the people involved in passing these bills, I have a great deal of respect and appreciation for what they’ve done,” said President Stivers. “It truly does set the table for brighter days.”
“The bills are a confirmation of what is possible when government is working together,” said Sen. McGarvey. “What you saw was Democrats and Republicans coming together and saying, ‘How can we help Kentuckians?’ We were affirming the idea that we’re all in this together is better than the idea that you’re on your own.”
“When we’re talking about doing what’s right for Kentucky, we can all come together, and this is a great show of that,” said Rep. Jenkins. “Expanding broadband, making sure that throughout Kentucky everyone has clean drinking water, making sure our schools are the best they can be – whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, House or Senate member, we all agree that that’s what we want for Kentucky.”
“Last year, Gov. Beshear and I worked across party lines to accommodate our elections process to the pandemic, and that resulted in the most secure and successful election Kentucky has ever had,” said Secretary Adams. “This year, the General Assembly has followed suit, working across party lines to enact the most significant reform of our elections system since 1891. This is a triumph of both policy and process.”
The Governor signed four bills related to American Rescue Plan Act funds:
House Bill 320 and House Bill 382
Reliable, high-speed internet access has proven critical to achieving successes in education, health care outcomes and economic development. Currently, the state’s broadband infrastructure does not extend to every community, resulting in unequal opportunities among Kentuckians. House Bill 320 and House Bill 382 provides $300 million to the Broadband Deployment Fund to begin addressing unserved and underserved communities.
“At a minimum, $600 million will go toward broadband expansion. This investment is estimated to create over 10,000 direct and indirect jobs,” said Gov. Beshear. “Coupled with our recent speed test, access mapping and the KentuckyWired project, HB 320 has the potential to push Kentucky to the forefront of broadband expansion nationwide.”
“I want people to think of this – this bill will help us when you have the opportunity to meet somebody who comes to rural Kentucky and says, ‘I don’t want to be in the city anymore, but the one thing I want to know is, do I have broadband?’” said President Stivers. “These bills can also help the underserved areas in the metropolitan portions of our state.”
“These bills help us address the stories we’ve heard about kids sitting in the parking lot of a McDonald’s so they can complete their schoolwork during this incredibly difficult year,” said Sen. McGarvey. “The infrastructure that’s coming to Kentucky, the building we’re going to do, is not just for today, it’s for tomorrow.”
House Bill 382 will fund a range of vital initiatives, including full-day kindergarten and the reopening of a medical examiner’s office in Northern Kentucky, which has been without an office since March 2018.
“Everyone knows my administration is an education first administration, and this is a key component,” Gov. Beshear said of state funding for full-day kindergarten. “Education helps break cycles of poverty, and early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make for Kentucky’s future.”
The bill also directs $575 million of the American Rescue Plan funds to the repayment of a federal unemployment insurance loan.
House Bill 556
The Governor supports the much-needed investment in education funding in House Bill 556, which provides $127 million for school construction and $75 million for renovation costs for local vocational schools, which will support building the well-trained local workforce of the future.
The $127 million allocated for renovating and replacing school facilities will accelerate the much-needed improvements of schools that have been designated as the highest ranked on the Department of Education’s Facilities Inventory and Classification System report.
Kentucky schools currently have $7 billion in facilities needs beyond what they can pay for. Along with creating the quality learning environment our children and educators deserve, this funding will also create 1,000 jobs.
This legislation includes $20 million of funding to rural hospitals.
“My administration believes that health care is a basic human right, and it should be affordable and accessible to every Kentuckian,” the Governor said. “This funding will help to support our rural hospitals to ensure they continue to provide quality health care across the state.”
The bill is law with the exception of two line item vetoes, one requested by the General Assembly and one ensuring compliance with the American Rescue Plan Act.
Senate Bill 36
Every Kentucky family deserves access to a modern, reliable water system, and businesses looking to expand in Kentucky expect it. Senate Bill 36 allocates $250 million in grant funds to provide crucial upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure in communities across the commonwealth.
“I believe that clean drinking water is a basic human right,” said Gov. Beshear. “In addition to laying new pipelines and improving sanitary water systems and modernizing infrastructure we are going to do this without raising rates and while creating 3,800 to 5,800 direct and indirect jobs.”
The Better Kentucky Recovery Fund will replace or lay new pipelines to provide clean drinking water and improve sanitary water systems, modernizing infrastructure without raising rates while creating 3,800 to 5,800 direct and indirect jobs.
House Bill 574
Voting is the bedrock of American democracy. House Bill 574 makes it easier for Kentuckians to participate in the electoral process while creating security measures intended to preserve election integrity. Among the provisions of the bill, it allows for early voting, voting centers and an online portal for requesting absentee ballots. The bill also requires drop boxes, establishes recount procedures and requires voting machines to create a paper trail of votes cast.
“I firmly believe that we should be making it easier for Kentuckians to vote and participate in the democratic process,” said Gov. Beshear. “This new law represents important first steps to preserve and protect every individual’s right to make their voice heard.”
“While other states are caught up in partisan division, Kentucky is leading the nation in making it both easier to vote and harder to cheat,” said Secretary Adams.