2024 legislative session: Road projects, education funding, and more - LINK nky (2024)

This story originally appeared in the April 26, 2024 edition of the LINK Reader. To get stories like this first, subscribe here.

Good jobs and schools, vibrant communities and decent roads are on the wish list of most communities in the U.S., and Northern Kentucky is no exception.

As Kentucky’s 2024 legislative session unfolded the past several months in Frankfort, local governments and groups worked with state lawmakers to bring home projects and policies that benefit NKY – with education, workforce and economic development, and transportation funding all part of the big picture.

On April 15, the 2024 Kentucky General Assembly put the final brushstrokes on that picture, ending a session that authorized over $1 billion in road projects and over $350 million in additional direct funding for NKY.

No one got everything they wanted. A bill (Senate Bill 349) restricting closure of aging coal-fired power plants became law over Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto and objections from both Duke Energy and the NKY Chamber of Commerce. Public school teachers didn’t receive a raise – even if lawmakers did encourage local school boards to give those raises out of a state increase in base school funding over the next two years.

House Democratic Whip Rachel Roberts of Newport called passage of the Safer Kentucky Act – the session’s major crime legislation in House Bill 5 that adds new crimes and stiffer penalties to state law at an “indeterminable” cost – “at the top of my list of disappointments.” She hit even harder against the proposal, calling it an example of why some say the General Assembly is “where sanctimony and willful ignorance come to multiply.”

There also were plenty of silver linings.

After state lawmakers passed a $128 billion, two-year state budget (HB 6) and sent it to the governor on March 28, the NKY Chamber’s vice president of public affairs, Tami Wilson, said the organization was happy with “historic levels of funding for early childhood education and postsecondary performance funding” found among the bill’s 280 pages.

LINK nky will start with education in our look at the 2024 legislative session that ended April 15.


The Republican majority in the Senate and House seemed happy to support the state budget that lawmakers sent to the governor in late March. Only eight Republicans in the House (including Reps. Steven Doan of Erlanger, Savannah Maddox of Dry Ridge, Marianne Proctor of Union and Steve Rawlings of Burlington) and one non-NKY member in the Senate voted against the bill.

When it was given final passage in the House on March 28, House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Rep. Jason Petrie (R-Elkton) called HB 6 “a strong spending plan.”

“We’ve increased per-pupil K-12 funding by 3% in the first year and 6% in the second, fully funded school transportation costs in the second year, and increased access to funds for school districts with a limited ability to raise revenue by increasing Tier 1 equalization. This budget provides for our needs and builds on the foundation,” said Petrie. (Tier 1 is a public school funding mechanism used to equalize funding between poorer and wealthier school districts.)

Included in the budget is a 9% increase in base funding for K-12 education, more than $250 million for need-based and work-ready scholarships and $25.4 million above current level for the postsecondary performance fund – a competitive funding source for state colleges and universities.

Early childhood education, teacher recruitment and the recurring topic of school choice were also addressed by state lawmakers.

Kindergarten readiness:

A push for universal pre-kindergarten for all 4 year olds didn’t make it into law this session, but other early childhood proposals did. One of those is the adaptive kindergarten readiness pilot project, a two-year program established under HB 695 to engage about 400 preschoolers and their families in age-appropriate reading and optional math and science skills. The governor signed the bill into law April 4.

Teacher retention and recruitment:

No state funds are budgeted for the kindergarten pilot project. It’s dependent on federal funds. What is included in the budget is $29.4 million, split nearly 50-50 between student teacher stipends and a teacher recruitment student loan-forgiveness pilot program. Rep. Kim Banta (R-Fort Mitchell) is the sponsor of HB 377 that created the programs. The bill was signed into law April 9.

University research collaboration:

Funding for research collaboration among all eight state universities is behind SB 1, signed into law April 4. The law will create an endowed research fund to provide seed money for collaborative projects – or consortiums – agreed to by the universities and selected by the state Council on Postsecondary Education. The catch? No funding is included in the budget for the endowment in the next budget cycle. Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) this month told LINK nky that was purposeful. The intention, he said, is to set aside the first year or two to design a framework for the endowment.

Funding may not be far away, however. Universities can expect lawmakers to consider funding of the endowment in the 2026 budget session, said the Senate leader. Interest growth on those potential appropriations plus any grants and donations received is expected to generate seed funding for the consortiums going forward.

School choice:

The debate of whether public funds should be used for private education will make its way from the Kentucky General Assembly to statewide voters this fall under a proposed constitutional amendment passed by lawmakers last session. Lawmakers who support the idea of “school choice” – allowing state funds to be used for K-12 education outside the traditional public school system – welcomed the proposed constitutional change in HB 2 after two school choice laws were found unconstitutional in consecutive recent Kentucky court rulings.

Both the ballot question and proposed new constitutional language will appear on the ballot on Nov. 5. NKY lawmakers Reps. Stephanie Dietz (R-Edgewood) and Kimberly Poore Moser (R-Taylor Mill) were both co-sponsors of the bill. House Minority Whip Rachel Roberts (D-Newport) was the only NKY lawmaker to vote against the legislation; Rep. Kim Banta (R-Fort Mitchell) abstained.

Economic Development

Education ties into another priority for NKY – economic development. Hundreds of millions in funding for regional building and road infrastructure projects are wrapped into the $128 billion, two-year budget for the region, including over $159 million for NKU. There is also over $193 million for NKY in a supplemental budget bill that draws from the state’s record budget reserves of more than $3.7 billion.

Because state lawmakers drew on budget reserves to fund one-time projects like $125 million for the new Commonwealth Center for Biomedical Excellence at the old IRS site and $10 million for the Covington Central Riverfront, those appropriations don’t factor into spending under the budget bill. That means they aren’t expected to have an impact on the General Assembly’s goal of reducing state income tax (now at 4%) by another half percentage point in future tax years.

Funding and policies to stem Kentucky’s growing child care crisis also made the economic development list.

Child care assistance:

Child care assistance is a priority for Kentucky workers, employers and child care providers as federal child care assistance has turned from a multimillion dollar funding stream to a trickle. The 2022 statewide survey “A Fragile Ecosystem IV” found that over 50% of Kentucky child care providers would have permanently closed without stabilization payments from federal pandemic aid.

HB 6 includes $2 million in each of the next two years for matching contributions to the state employee child care assistance program. It also increases funding for the state child care assistance program by $49 million.

State lawmakers put new child care policies into law, too, like HB 561. Signed into law April 5, it will encourage local governments to be more child-care friendly. A “certified child care community” designation will be available for communities that work to remove zoning and other regulatory barriers that limit child care services.


Once again, commercial airport growth was on the Kentucky General Assembly’s radar. In January, the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport announced its annual economic impact has increased $6 billion in the past decade to $9.3 billion in NKY. To build on that lawmakers approved $20 million in one-time funds for the airport’s growing commercial travel and air cargo hub.

Controversy in Frankfort

There were controversial bills that came to the fore during the session, too. Two of them were bills to crack down on DEI – diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state colleges and universities that by definition are focused on building community among students from diverse backgrounds. The bills surfaced at a time when the NKY Chamber was voicing its support for a “diverse, inclusive, and skilled workforce” in a policy statement before the start of the session.

Defeat of anti-DEI legislation:

Pushback on both bills (SB 6 and HB 9) came locally from students at NKU that are members of historically marginalized LGBTQ groups, as well as NKY Faculty Senate President John Farrar, who told LINK nky earlier this year that the legislation has the potential to “severely curtail academic freedom.”

The beginning of the end of the legislation came when SB 6 was gutted and replaced with provisions in what some felt was a more draconian proposal in HB 9. That changed SB 6 from an anti-DEI bill outlawing teaching of defined “discriminatory concepts” on race and gender and limiting the role of DEI offices, to an outright ban on DEI at public colleges and universities under HB 9. The amended bill would have also prohibited hiring or school spending with any basis on protected class (religion, race, sex, color or national origin).

Not that anti-DEI legislation is gone for good in Kentucky. After a failed attempt April 15 to move the legislation in the Senate, the Kentucky Lantern reported that Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer expects the issue to resurface.


Perhaps no bill generated more controversy during the 2024 session than the Safer Kentucky Act, or HB 5, which became law without the governor’s signature in April. Democrats dubbed the bill the “suffer Kentucky act” for its crackdown on homeless encampments, theft and penalties for violent crime. Others say it is what Kentucky needs.

Those who support the bill say it will improve public safety, specifically in higher crime areas of Kentucky like Jefferson County (which HB 5 Republican sponsor Rep. Jared Bauman calls home). They cite gang crime like carjackings and vandalism. Then there are those who cite data showing violent crime decreasing in Kentucky, as reported by Louisville Public Media last month.

Several Democrats have called out HB 5’s “indeterminable” fiscal impact as a cause for concern. The legislation could end up costing the state $1 billion, according to one Lexington Herald-Leader report.

Beshear vetoed the bill April 9, saying in his veto message that “despite the tremendous fiscal impact House Bill 5 would have on the Department of Corrections (state prisons) and county governments, the General Assembly provided no fiscal impact analysis with the bill.

“House Bill 5 includes some good points,” the governor said, mentioning its required destruction of firearms used in murders and making carjacking its own crime, as well as violence-reduction programming for parolees. “The General Assembly could and should have put these provisions in standalone bills, which likely would have passed with unanimous support.”

More to see

This is just a snapshot of notable bills that did (or didn’t) succeed last session. Some bills – like an attempt to carve out exemptions for rape and incest in Kentucky’s near-total abortion ban – never completely got off the ground. Other health legislation like the “momnibus” proposal to expand health insurance access to pregnant and postpartum women (among other provisions) made it to the governor in the session’s 11th hour.


2024 legislative session: Road projects, education funding, and more - LINK nky (2024)
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