The General Assembly completed the second week of the 2016 session and was off yesterday for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with no legislative activity. Things continue to come to life in each chamber, though there are still several committees in each chamber that have yet to meet and some have already announced their intentions not to meet next week. This is not uncommon in even year sessions as legislators and the legislative leadership wait out the candidate filing deadline on January 26. Political tensions in the House did subside this week as Republicans and Democrats agreed on committee assignments. There were several committee membership changes, all of which can be viewed HERE.
GLI has a comprehensive legislative agenda for 2016. Below are some of the major bills from the agenda that had action this week:
Felony Expungement – One of GLI’s top legislative priorities this session moved from committee and successfully passed the House 80-11 this week. 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. GLI strongly supports this initiative and is working to get it passed this session as it would permit roughly 90,000 Kentuckians to better participate in the workforce. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
Prevailing Wage – The Senate considered one of their priority bills, Senate Bill 9 sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), which exempts school and university construction projects of $250,000 or more from the state’s prevailing wage laws. The bill passed the Senate 26-11 along a mostly party line vote. This has been a perennial favorite for Senate Republicans who hope the bill will get traction in the House with the narrower Democrat majority. Senator McDaniel also filed Senate Bill 9 this week, which would allow local governments to opt out of prevailing wage for public works. GLI supports the repeal of prevailing wage laws and sees Senate Bill 9 as a good step forward.
Distillery Modernization – Senate Bill 11, filed by Senator Schickel, is an omnibus alcohol bill intended to increase the Commonwealth’s opportunity for tourism. The bill passed through the Senate Licensing and Occupations committee this week and then on Thursday became the first bill of the 2016 session to pass the full Senate with a 29-8 vote. It now heads to the House. Specifically, this bill will allow distilleries to sell by the drink and will increase the potential volume of souvenir package sales. GLI supports placing the distilled spirits industry on equal footing with wineries and brewers in the Commonwealth.
Below are some of the major bills from the agenda that have been filed, but didn’t have specific legislative activity this week:
Pension – 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, nor on Sen. Joe Bowen’s Senate Bill 2 that would make the pension systems more transparent and accountable. The state’s troubled public employee pension plans continue to be a leading issue for this session, but due to their high-profile nature of the pension issue it is likely these bills will not move quickly until the candidate filing deadline has passed on January 26.
Education Standards – Senate Bill 1, an omnibus education reform proposal filed by Sen. Mike Wilson, continues to be on the radar of education and business interests that are trying to understand its full impact. 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.
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 and penned an Op-Ed last week that ran in the Courier-Journal.
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, should be considered early this session.
In Indianapolis, GLI has begun legislative efforts to achieve the initiatives outlined in our Legislative Agenda.
Bridge Tolling – In Senate Bills 228 and 229, Sen. Ron Grooms has proposed a tax credit or tax deduction from Southern Indiana residents who incur sizeable non-reimbursed toll expenses crossing the new bridges. Both bills have been referred to the Senate Committee on Tax & Fiscal Policy.
Expungement – Senate Bill 267, authored by Sen. Greg Taylor, would further reform Indiana’s expungement laws to limit the pressures put on those applying for employment, licenses, or another right or privilege to reveal if they have had an expunged arrest or conviction. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Corrections & Criminal Law.
Regional Cities Initiative – In his legislative agenda, Gov. Mike Pence announced that he will ask the legislature to expand the number of Regional Cities proposals from two to three.
Transborder Groundwater Authority – House Bill 1137, authored by Rep. Steven Stemler, proposes the establishment of an Indiana-Kentucky groundwater authority that would be tasked to study ownership rights in the groundwater resources shared by Indiana and Kentucky and to explore entering into an interstate compact with Kentucky concerning the use of the groundwater underlying southern Indiana and northern Kentucky.