Just hours ago, the General Assembly brought the 2015 Regular Session to a close – adjourning sine die until 2016 unless called into special session by the governor. While scheduled to adjourn by midnight on the 24th, last minute negotiations pushed the legislature past midnight, utilizing the wee hours of this morning as the 29th and final legislative day.
Several of GLI’s top legislative priorities remained in limbo yesterday as committees began the session’s final negotiations. Ultimately, the legislature did pass legislation addressing the commonwealth’s heroin epidemic and stabilizing the state Road Fund.
Prevention and Treatment of Heroin Abuse
Negotiations between House and Senate leadership in a conference committee on SB 192, ultimately yielded a compromise. The final bill combines many provisions that were found in each chamber’s original versions, including $24 million to fund treatment programs; a “Good Samaritan” clause, which protects individuals who report an overdose from prosecution on drug charges; expanded use of the anti-overdose drug Naloxone by first-responders; and provisions that allow local governments to establish needle exchange programs, which help prevent the spread of blood-borne disease. The final legislation also includes tougher penalties for heroin dealers. An individual caught with a kilogram of heroin or more now faces a Class B felony but someone with less than two grams would not be considered a dealer unless they are found with other paraphernalia or with two grams over 90 days. Gov. Steve Beshear indicated he will sign the bill “first thing.”
Road Fund Stabilization
After months of debate and a last-minute flurry of proposals, the House and Senate reached a compromise to stabilize the Road Fund through changes in the calculation of the gas tax. The conference committee report on HB 299 was successfully passed and will set a new gas tax floor at 26 cents per gallon and limit the amount the tax can decrease to 10 percent annually. This change will save the Road Fund more than $120 million that it would have lost if the tax dropped from 27.6 cents per gallon to 22.1 cents on April 1st. The bill also changes the calculation to an annual timeframe from quarterly.
One GLI priority that reached an impasse in conference committee was legislation that would have enabled superintendents to select principals in the lowest performing schools. GLI believes that superintendents, as the “CEOs” of the school system, can best match the strengths of principals with the needs of individual schools. SB 132, sponsored by Senate Majority Caucus Chairman Dan Seum, would have enabled superintendents to select principals in the bottom quartile of school performance rather than the bottom ten percent, in consultation with the site-based decision making council.
Despite continued advocacy efforts, LIFT, a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to enact up to a 1% sales tax, did not see movement in the final days of the General Assembly. Greater Louisville Inc. and 47 other prominent business, civic, and government groups across the Commonwealth have endorsed LIFT, which supports local control and increased economic development. The most recent Bluegrass Poll shows that 63% of Kentuckians favor LIFT.
While many of the Commonwealth’s major issues remain unresolved, GLI commends the legislature for its commitment to compromise in passing legislation to meet Kentucky’s most pressing needs. In addition to the issues mentioned above, GLI saw progress on a host of priorities, including crowdfunding, early childhood education, pensions, and telecom reform. A look back at the 2015 Regular Session will be available Monday at GLIAdvocacy.com and in the GLI Advocacy Update. To subscribe, click here.
GLI Advocacy committees are now focused on ensuring the voice of the business community is also heard when it comes to national issues that impact the Louisville region. The GLI D.C. Fly In is scheduled for May 13 and 14. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to participate in the discussion and build important relationships with elected officials that represent our region.
>>To get more information and to register contact GLI registration at 502-625-0156, firstname.lastname@example.org.
>>For more information about GLI’s advocacy efforts, contact Sarah Davasher-Wisdom, VP, Government Affairs and Public Policy, 502 625.0073, email@example.com.