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April 30, 2019 2:13pm

Greater Louisville lawmakers talk key public policy issues at Regional Economic Development Update

Two Greater Louisville lawmakers addressed a range of state policy issues critical to the business community at GLI’s Regional Economic Development Update event at Republic Bank this morning. Representative Jason Nemes (R-Louisville) and Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey (R-Louisville) participated in a panel discussion moderated by GLI’s Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy Iris Wilbur.

Both lawmakers stressed the need to continue pursuing workforce development efforts and removing barriers to workforce participation. Representative Nemes highlighted GLI-backed initiatives such as reforming Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system to give more support to unemployed individuals trying to find jobs and improving Kentucky’s expungement laws. He also stated that Kentucky needs “serious criminal justice reform” to refocus our criminal justice system on rehabilitation and training and to lower incarceration rates. Senator McGarvey pointed to monetary bail reform as a logical next step in improving criminal justice in Kentucky.

GLI made a major push for workforce development policies in Kentucky’s 2019 legislative session. One key GLI-backed workforce bill in 2019 was Senate Bill 57, which increases access to expungement and will help thousands of Kentuckians get jobs and explore new career opportunities. GLI also worked to pass Senate Bill 18, which supports women in the workforce. With one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the country, more bills like these two are needed in future legislative sessions to continue growing our economy.  

On education issues, Representative Nemes and Senator McGarvey called for increased funding for education. Senator McGarvey pointed out that a “qualified and educated workforce” is arguably one of the most important factors in developing our economy and competing with other regions for new businesses. He argued that Kentucky needs universal pre-K education, smaller class sizes—especially in priority schools—and a greater emphasis on wrap-around services. Representative Nemes noted that 2018-2020 gave a much-needed funding boost to K-12 education in the Commonwealth but funding levels have still been too low for too long.

Education has also been a focal point of GLI’s Advocacy efforts in recent sessions. Last year, GLI supported the increase to SEEK funding and played a key role in developing and passing Senate Bill 152, which allowed local school districts to offer incentives to attract and retain teachers at priority schools. In 2019, GLI secured passage of Senate Bill 250, which marked an important first step in giving JCPS leadership the tools it needs to deliver for students in Jefferson County.

Other topics of discussion this morning included the continuing need for pension reform, economic development incentives, medical marijuana, the urban-rural divide, and the expected difficulties of the upcoming budget session. GLI’s Iris Wilbur kicked off the panel discussion by noting several missed opportunities in the 2019 session, such as sports betting and infrastructure funding. Representative Nemes and Senator McGarvey both voiced support for these issues and expressed hope that lawmakers would act on them in 2020.

Read more about GLI’s pro-business advocacy efforts and the 2019 legislative session in our 2019 Legislative Outcomes report.