The Kentucky General Assembly kicked off the 2016 regular session this week. Besides considering hundreds of legislative proposals, the legislature’s main duty this session is to pass a two year budget before they adjourn in mid-April. That may be no easy task given the political environment that currently exists in Frankfort. The Senate is controlled by Republicans 27-11 and the Governor’s Mansion is controlled by Republican Matt Bevin. Since Bevin took office in December, the Democrat majority in the House has dwindled from 54-46 to 50-46 with four special elections to be held on March 8. Given the tight numbers in the House, if Republicans sweep these open seats, then the House would be at a 50-50 tie. Needless to say, the House could be distracted by its internal politics throughout this session.
Pensions – Kentucky’s underfunded public employees’ pensions continue to be the most debated issue facing the General Assembly. Even after several sessions of discussing the pension problem, Senate and House leaders have yet to find a consensus solution. This week Speaker Stumbo filed House Bill 1, giving the top priority bill number in the House to a proposal to shore up the KY Teachers Retirement system with $3.3 billion in bonding. This proposal does not seem to have much support in the GOP controlled State Senate or with new Republican Governor Matt Bevin. In the Senate, Sen. Joe Bowen filed Senate Bill 2 that would make the pension systems more transparent and accountable.
Education Standards – In the Senate, the top priority bill is Senate Bill 1 an omnibus education reform proposal filed by Sen. Mike Wilson. The bill sets up a process for reviewing the state’s education standards and aligning them with the assessment and accountability system to produce more college and career ready graduates. GLI will be working with our education partners to review the legislation to make sure that it doesn’t have any detrimental impact on the progress being made in Kentucky schools.
Felony Expungement – Officials from GLI and the broader business community were in Frankfort this week to show support for expungement legislation. House Bill 40, filed by Louisville Representative Daryl Owens, would allow for the expungement of some non-violent class D felonies while providing provisions that offer protection for employers. Louisville Senator Gerald Neal has filed its companion bill in the Senate, Senate Bill 77. Both pieces of legislation would permit roughly 90,000 Kentuckians to better participate in the workforce. GLI strongly supports this initiative and is working to get it passed this session. Governor Bevin has also vocalized support for expungement reform and headlined the press conference in Frankfort this week.
Right To Work – One of the Senate’s priority bills for the session is also a key bill for GLI. Senate Bill 3, filed by Senate President Robert Stivers, is this session’s Right to Work bill. The legislation would give workers a choice regarding joining a union and prevent the requirement that employees pay union dues as a condition of employment. GLI supports this legislation.
Medical Review Panels – Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Senator Ralph Alvarado, creates a system of medical review panels to address the escalating costs directly attributed to Kentucky’s uncontrolled medical liability climate. GLI supports this legislation.
Public Benefit Corporations – House Bill 50, sponsored by Representative Kelly Flood, would permit public benefit corporations in Kentucky. A public benefit corporation 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 and appreciates the member input we have received regarding the advantages of this new type of corporation.
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.
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, was also filed this week.