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February 22, 2016 8:02am

Halfway Home: Kentucky General Assembly has completed 32 in 60-day session

The 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly has passed the midpoint, with legislators having completed 32 of 60 available legislative days for this session. Though the legislative activity remains steady, the legislative politics and interest are focused on one thing: the BUDGET.

The House and Senate both continue to hold hearings on Governor Bevin’s proposal. This week, the focus of those hearings seems to be postsecondary education as the state’s university presidents were on the scene in Frankfort. Their message was simple: the proposed cuts to higher education in the current budget proposal will lead to higher fees and tuition for students. In the case of KCTCS, it could be upwards of 8%. President Ramsey testified that these cuts would be on top of 14 years of budget cuts.

Neither the House nor Senate have tipped their hand as to the overall decisions they will make in their various budget proposals that may impact these cuts to higher education or in other state agencies. The budget review process will continue in each chamber in the week ahead. We are still a few weeks away from when the House would traditionally pass their version of the budget.

Postsecondary Education Cuts Should Concern the Business Community

We appreciate the difficult financial challenges our state leaders face as they consider the next biennial budget. They must balance needs brought on by 14 years of budget cuts. Needs in infrastructure, health care, pension reform, education, and workforce development are all critical.

As business leaders, we must be concerned over the level of the proposed cuts to higher education. University presidents, including President Ramsey of the University of Louisville testified the proposed cuts could lead to higher fees and tuition increases for their students.  JCTCS could also face higher fees and tuition.

The Greater Louisville business community relies on our educational institutions to train and educate tomorrow’s citizens. They provide the workforce we need for this community to continue to grow and prosper.  It all starts with education.

GLI is asking that its members voice their concerns to the Jefferson County legislative delegation to protect our educational institutions and soften the blow by reducing cuts that could have long term consequences.

GLI has a comprehensive legislative agenda for 2016. Below is an update on some of the bills from the agenda:

Key Bills

Education Standards – The Kentucky State Senate passed Senate Bill 1 this week by a vote of 25-12 along party lines with one Republican voting “No.” SB 1 is an omnibus education reform proposal filed by Sen. Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green), which will set up a process for reviewing the state’s education standards and aligning them with the assessment and accountability system. GLI continues to watch this legislation and listen to its education partners as to how it may impact the significant progress Kentucky is currently making in education.

Distillery Modernization – Rep. Linda Belcher (D-Shepherdsville) and Rep. David Osborne (R-Prospect) filed House Bill 433 last week. HB 433, which focuses on distilled spirits issues, was filed with 41 members of the House signing on as co-sponsors. Senate Bill 11, filed by Sen. John Schickel (R-Boone), is a similar bill of interest to distilleries. SB 11 awaits action in the House Licensing & Occupations committee. GLI supports placing the distilled spirits industry on equal footing with wineries and brewers in the Commonwealth.

Justice Code Modernization – House Bill 412, filed by Rep. Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) revises Kentucky’s penal code to allow a new classification gross misdemeanor for some non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies. Also allows for automatic parole for some non-violent, non-sexual Class D felonies if there is not a violent history while incarcerated. The bill, if implemented, could save the state $23 million.

LIFT – The LIFT enabling legislation, House Bill 374 was filed by Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro) and the constitutional amendment, House Bill 2, allowing for a local option sales tax was filed by Speaker Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) and Minority Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown). Both await action in House committees. We appreciate the support of these important initiatives and will be working with legislators to move the legislation this session.

School Leadership – One of the key education issues for Louisville and JCPS for the 2016 Session is to give superintendents more flexibility in selection of principals within school districts. Legislation to provide that authority, House Bill 184, sponsored by Louisville Delegation Chair Jeff Donohue, awaits action in the Senate Education committee.

Pensions – Sen. Joe Bowen’s (R-Owensboro) Senate Bill 2 that would make the pension systems more transparent and accountable awaits action in the House State Government committee. There was no action this week on Speaker Stumbo’s House Bill 1, a proposal to shore up the KY Teachers Retirement system with $3.3 billion in bonding. HB 1 awaits action in the House Appropriations & Revenue committee. The state’s troubled public employee pension plans continue to be a leading issue for this session.

Prevailing Wage – Senate Bill 9 sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), would exempt school and university construction projects of $250,000 or more from the state’s prevailing wage laws. The bill was voted down in the House Labor & Industry committee. Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill) also filed Senate Bill 94, which awaits action in the Senate State & Local Government committee. SB 94 would allow local governments to opt out of prevailing wage for public works. GLI supports the repeal of prevailing wage laws and sees these bills as good steps toward that end.

Right To Work – Senate Bill 3, filed by Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester), is this session’s Right to Work bill. The bill awaits action in the Senate Economic Development committee. The legislation would give workers a choice regarding joining a union and remove the requirement that employees pay union dues as a condition of employment. GLI supports this legislation as one of our top priorities.

Medical Review Panels – Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester), creates a system of medical review panels to address the escalating costs directly attributed to Kentucky’s uncontrolled medical liability climate. The bill awaits consideration by the full Senate, which could occur in the coming week. GLI supports this legislation.

Felony Expungement – House Bill 40, filed by Louisville Rep. Daryl Owens (D-Louisville), would allow for the expungement of some non-violent class D felonies while providing provisions that offering protection for employers. The bill would permit roughly 90,000 Kentuckians to better participate in the workforce. The bill awaits action in the Senate Judiciary committee. 
Expanded Gaming– GLI took a leadership role in standing with Sen. Morgan McGarvey (D-Louisville) and Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-Louisville) to support Senate Bill 144 a constitutional amendment legalizing casino gaming and dedicating 90% of the proceeds to Kentucky’s public employee pensions. The bill awaits action in the Senate Veterans committee.

Road Aid Modernization – House Bill 69, introduced by Rep Arnold Simpson, reformulates the road fund revenue sharing to a formula of thirds based on population, road mileage, and land area. The bill provides a more equitable share to cities and urban areas, which GLI supports. The bill awaits action in the House Appropriations & Revenue committee.

Workers Compensation Temporary Total Disability – Senate Bill 151, sponsored by Sen. Steve West (R-Paris), was passed by the full Senate 24-9 on Friday. The bill would allow payments of temporary total disability benefits to be offset by wages paid to an employee by an employer for light duty or alternative duty work performed during a period of temporary total disability. A companion bill House Bill 311 filed by Rep. Bart Rowland (R-Tompkinsville) awaits action in House Labor & Industry.

Workforce Development – Rep. Larry Clark’s (D-Louisville) House Concurrent Resolution 97 has passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Education committee. Senate President Pro-Tem David Givens (R-Greensburg) has a similar proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 75. Both are focused on establishing a Task Force to study and develop recommendations concerning the benefits, investments, and funding of workforce education. GLI is supportive of the resolutions and efforts of Sen. Givens and Rep. Clark to bring clarity to how workforce training dollars are spent.

Public Benefit Corporations – House Bill 50, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Flood (D-Lexington), passed the House and now awaits action in the Senate Judiciary committee. HB 50 permits public benefit corporations in Kentucky, which is a corporation that allows a company’s board of directors to take “public benefit” into account, in addition to shareholder benefit, when making decisions about the company. GLI is supportive of this legislation.

Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) – House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs (D-Pikeville) passed the House by a vote of 83-11 and was sent to the Economic Development, Tourism, & Labor Committee in the Senate where it awaits action. GLI supports Kentucky permitting P3s as a critical tool for the Commonwealth accomplishing economic development projects in cooperation with private industry.

Kentucky Economic Development Partnership – House Bill 216 filed by Rep. Mike Denham (D-Maysville) passed the House and awaits action in the Senate Economic Development committee. The bill would add the chairperson of the Commission on Small Business Advocacy and a representative from the National Federation of Independent Business/Kentucky to the Kentucky Economic Development Partnership. GLI is supportive of helping small businesses let their voices be heard.

Limited Liability Entity Tax – Rep. Brent Yonts (D-Greenville) filed House Bill 292 to expand the definition of “cost of goods sold” under the LLET to include any costs allowed by the Internal Revenue Code. The bill awaits action in the House Appropriations & Revenue committee.

Landlord Liability – Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R-Winchester) filed Senate Bill 68 to correct a 2012 KY Supreme Court ruling that made a landlord strictly liable for the actions of a tenant’s dog. The bill has passed the Senate and awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee and GLI will be pushing for its consideration.

Workers Comp Subrogation – Rep. Bart Rowland (R-Tompkinsville) filed House Bill 200 that would clean up statutes related to workers compensation insurance subrogation in favor of employers. This would be a positive change. The bill awaits action in the House Labor & Industry committee.