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Charter school bill becomes law in Kentucky following veto override

Bills on abortion, transgender athletes and charter schools were all addressed during the final days of the legislative session.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Lawmakers in Kentucky started overriding Gov. Beshear's vetoes Wednesday as this year's legislative session comes to a close.

The House and Senate faced a long day taking votes to override a long list of Beshear vetoes. They'll also decide the fate of a number of measures still awaiting final votes.


With a vote of 28-9 in the Senate, both chambers voted to override Beshear's veto of the budget.

After scrutinizing the legislature's budget work, Gov. Andy Beshear's biggest complaints were about K-12 education funding, saying lawmakers failed to “meet the moment” during a time of unprecedented revenue surpluses.

The governor praised several priorities in the two-year state spending plan crafted by the GOP-dominated legislature. He pointed to pay raises for state workers and bolstered funding for infrastructure projects, higher education, economic development and workforce training.

His sharpest criticisms were aimed at the levels of K-12 education funding — or what was left out — as he revealed his line-item budget vetoes. Beshear's targeted vetoes included proposed pay raises for lawmakers and statewide constitutional officers, including himself.

Charter Schools

The House took the first step toward overriding Beshear's veto of a charter schools bill — one of the most contentious issues of the 2022 session. The measure aims to launch charter schools in the Bluegrass State and supply them with funding. 

The House narrowly overrode the veto on a 52-46 vote, sending the bill to the Senate for final action.

The measure has drawn strong pushback from many in public education, and opponents continued to warn that it would take money from traditional public schools if it becomes law.

RELATED: Beshear says charter schools are 'wrong for our Commonwealth,' vetoes bill to fund them

The bill would set up a long-term funding method for charter schools. Public charters, like traditional public schools, would receive a mix of local and state tax support.

The proposal also would require that at least two charter schools be created under pilot projects — one in Louisville within Jefferson County Public Schools and one in northern Kentucky. 

Opponents said that would only be the start, warning that charters would spread.


The legislature completed sweeping aside the governor's veto of another GOP priority — a bill shifting key school governance decisions to superintendents and away from school-based decision-making councils. The override votes won by wide margins in both chambers.

The education bill also would designate a set of historical documents and speeches to incorporate into classroom work — a response to the national debate over critical race theory.


Demonstrators' chants echoed through Kentucky's Capitol as lawmakers started pushing aside Beshear's veto of a bill putting new restrictions on abortion — including banning the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

The House overrode the veto on a 76-21 vote. That sent the measure to the Senate for a final vote to sweep aside the veto that could come later in the day.

RELATED: 'Victims of these crimes should have options': Kentucky governor vetoes proposed 15-week abortion ban

Opponents are expected to challenge the abortion measure in court on constitutional grounds, but that effort could hinge on deliberations already underway in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The proposed 15-week ban is modeled after a Mississippi law the Supreme Court is considering in a case that could dramatically limit abortion rights. By taking the preemptive action, the bill’s supporters say Kentucky’s stricter ban would be in place if the Mississippi law is upheld.

Kentucky law currently bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Opponents condemned the bill for failing to exclude pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

“Those are violent crimes," Rep. Rachel Roberts said. "This bill forces those women to be violated again.”

Another key part of the bill would set regulations for the dispensing of abortion pills. It would require women to be examined in person by a doctor before receiving the medication.

That section of the bill is part of a nationwide push by anti-abortion groups to limit the ability of physicians to prescribe abortion pills by telemedicine, and comes in response to the increased use of pills rather than surgery to terminate early pregnancies.

About half of all abortions performed in Kentucky are the result of medication procedures.

Transgender women and sports

The strict limits on abortion weren’t the only social issues legislation taken up by lawmakers during the veto session. They also used their majorities to finish overriding a Beshear veto of their effort to ban transgender athletes from participating in sports. The override votes won by wide margins in both chambers over the objections of opponents.

“This bill is discrimination in search of children,” Rep. Josie Raymond said.

The measure would bar transgender girls and women from playing on sports teams matching their gender identity from sixth grade through college. Supporters say it would ensure girls and women compete against other “biological females.”

“The athlete wants a fair playing field," Sen. Donald Douglas said. "They don’t care about all this other social stuff.”

Republican-led states increasingly have adopted such prohibitions on transgender girls or women, though the culture war-related bans have been challenged in several states as violations of federal law. Opponents of the Kentucky measure predicted the measure also will end up in court.

“The fight won’t stop here,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign.

Public Assistance

Opponents of the bill tightening rules for public assistance benefits claimed it would threaten access to food and health care benefits. Supporters said it wouldn’t hurt people in need of help.

“The only way that you get these benefits taken from you is if you are doing something illegal or if you refuse to be a part of the community engagement program,” said Republican House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, a leading sponsor of the measure.

The bill would add new rules for such benefits as food stamps and Medicaid. In some cases, it will require “able-bodied” Medicaid recipients without dependents to participate in “community engagement” activities, such as jobs or volunteering.

The House overrode the veto of the public assistance-related bill, sending it to the Senate.

Other bills

Lawmakers started the process of overriding vetoes of other high-profile bills that would tighten rules for public assistance and revamp the state’s tax code. Those override votes cleared one chamber and moved to the other chamber. Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers.


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