The severe winter weather impacted the meeting schedule of the legislature this week. The House and Senate both took off Monday for the President’s Day holiday and then Tuesday and Wednesday due to winter weather. In an uncharacteristic move, the Senate convened on Thursday and Friday, but the House opted to take off the rest of the week and they did not convene at all due to the weather. Because there was no legislative activity in the House, no significant activity took place between the chambers on the high profile issues of the session.
The General Assembly has completed 15 of their 30 days for this legislative session. Here is the 2015 Session tentative calendar, but please keep in mind that this can change if the legislature decides to shift days, though they are required to adjourn by March 31.
LIFT – Local Investments For Transformation, which is legislation that would provide an option for voters to enact a 1% sales tax in order to raise revenue for specific projects. House Bill 1 and the enabling legislation House Bill 344 are both poised for action in Senate committees.
Prevention & Treatment of Heroin Abuse – One of GLI’s top legislative priorities is getting legislation in place that will address the heroin epidemic affecting Kentucky. House Bill 213, which is the House version of the anti-heroin abuse bill, and Senate Bill 5, the Senate version of this critical legislation have both passed out of their originating chamber. GLI urges lawmakers to find a compromise and get this needed legislation in place.
Roads & Infrastructure – Senate Bill 29, sponsored by Sen. Ernie Harris (R-Oldham), is legislation that raises the floor of the gas tax to a level that will maintain the gas tax at its current level. GLI supports Senate Bill 29 and recognizes the catastrophic impact our transportation system would face if the legislature fails to act. Also of interest is House Bill 289 introduced by Rep Arnold Simpson (D-Kenton) 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.
Public Private Partnerships are a critical financing component needed for the infrastructure Kentucky will need in the future. The P3 bill, HB 443, was filed by Rep. Leslie Combs (D-Pike), is poised for action in the coming week. GLI is supportive of this legislation and hopes for its swift consideration this session.
School Leadership – One of the key education issues for Louisville and JCPS for the 2015 Session is to give superintendents more flexibility in selection of principals within school districts. Legislation to provide that authority, Senate Bill 132, sponsored by Sen. Dan Seum (R-Louisville), awaits committee assignment in the House. GLI supports this legislation and is hopeful for swift consideration by the House.
Smoke-Free Kentucky – One of GLI’s top health priorities for the 2015 Session is support for statewide restrictions on smoking in certain public places. House Bill 145, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) was assigned this week to the Senate Veterans committee for action. In addition, Sen. Julie Raque Adams filed a companion bill in the Senate, SB 189. GLI joins with other HB 145 and SB 189 supporters in asking Chairman Albert Robinson (R-London) to give the bill a hearing in his committee.
Telecommunication Reform – Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelby) and House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford) would remove antiquated regulations and allow Kentucky to modernize its telecommunications system. The bills are both out of their first committees and await floor action that we hope will take place in the coming week. GLI is supportive of the House and Senate efforts to pass this important legislation.
Other Items of Note
Beer Distributors – GLI is opposed to House Bill 168, which would interfere in the free market by changing longstanding beer distributor laws in regards to who can be a distributor. This legislation, sponsored by Speaker Stumbo, will have a chilling impact on out-of-state companies which have already or may be considering a future investment in Kentucky. The bill is awaiting action on the House floor, but GLI continues to oppose and encourages House Leadership to shelve HB 168.
Crowdfunding – House Bill 76, sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs (D-Louisville), would allow Kentucky investors to participate in crowdfunding, which is a way of funding a project or venture from a large number of people. GLI is supportive of this legislation that now awaits action in the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee.
Expungements – GLI is supportive of HB 40, sponsored by Rep. Daryl Owens (D-Louisville), which would expand the scope of an expungement to include non-violent Class D felonies and prohibit the introduction of evidence for a crime that has been expunged in a suit against an employer for negligent hiring or licensing. This bill will help address the Commonwealth’s qualified workforce shortage by reducing obstacles that limit business access to over 174,000 work-ready adults. HB 40 awaits action in the House Judiciary Committee this week.
Tax Transparency – Two bills, HB 361 the Taxpayer Rights Enhancement Act of 2015 and HB 399 that strengthens the current Taxpayer Bill of Rights, is legislation that can bring much-needed transparency, efficiency, and equity to the administration of Kentucky’s tax code. GLI is supportive of these measures.