Legislature approves measures for schools, businesses

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House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, speaks on Senate Bill 177, a bill that was amended to provide schools more options to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) — The Kentucky General Assembly has approved emergency relief for local school districts and for businesses, especially small businesses, that have been impacted by the novel coronavirus since March 6, when the governor declared a state of emergency to address the pandemic.

The changes do everything from protect school districts from having to make up days to easing the items businesses can sell, including liquor-by-the-drink without new licensing requirements.

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The relief measure, approved Thursday by a vote of 84-0 in the House and 30-0 in the Senate, will become effective immediately should it be signed by the governor or otherwise become law in coming days.

Approved in an amended version of Senate Bill 177, a bill sponsored by Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, the educational relief found in SB 177 would:

– Allow local school districts to use 2018-19 school year data to determine average daily attendance for funding under the state’s SEEK formula, which is the main source of K-12 education funding for Kentucky’s public schools;



– Include language in amended House Bill 461, sponsored by Rep. Mark Hart, R-Falmouth, which extends the number of nontraditional instructional days available to school districts to help them make up school days lost due to COVID-19.

– Allow school districts to request unlimited nontraditional instruction days throughout the current pandemic—a provision that House Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, said would help districts that may not be able to return to the traditional classroom until well into May.

– Permit distance and tutorial learning, while allowing districts seeking additional instructional hours this year to work with the state on extended scheduling options or, in certain circumstances, request that hours be waived.

The measure would also require school districts to approve emergency leave for teachers or classified employees with COVID-19 health or related concerns, as well as allow districts to continue to provide free lunch in accordance with established emergency procedures, among other provisions.

Economic relief for workers and many businesses in Kentucky was also approved by the House today under SB 150, a bill sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, that originally dealt with out-of-network billing by insurers. The amended bill – which would sunset once the governor’s declared COVID-19 state of emergency is over—now awaits a vote in the Senate. The bill in its current form would do the following:

–  Allow government agencies or appropriate boards or commissions to waive license fees for businesses forced to close or significantly impacted;

–  Allow displaced workers to collect benefits quickly;

–  Protect small business owners forced to lay off workers by preventing an increase in the calculated unemployment rate;

– Allow restaurants to repurpose their business plans to allow retail sale of items out the door without requiring new licensing; and,

– Allow liquor by the drink to be sold at eligible establishments, among other provisions.

Like SB 177, SB 150 was passed by the House on a vote of 84-0 and contains an emergency clause that would make the legislation effective immediately after the legislation passes the General Assembly and is signed by the governor, or otherwise becomes law.