The third week of the 2016 General Assembly was a short one with legislators taking a holiday on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and cancelling session on Friday due to the threat of severe winter weather. Legislative activity is stirring in each chamber, though there are still several committees that have yet to meet. This is not uncommon in even-year sessions as legislators and the legislative leadership wait out the candidate filing deadline, which will occur tomorrow, January 26. This is when legislators will find out if they will have an opponent for the 2016 legislative elections when all 100 seats in the House and half of the Senate, 19 seats, will be up for election. We do expect the process to pick up this week as Governor Bevin will release his budget and policy proposals in his first State of the Commonwealth & Budget Address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday.
GLI has a comprehensive legislative agenda for 2016. Below is an update on some of the bills from the agenda:
Workforce Development – Senate President Pro-Tem David Givens (R-Greensburg) filedSenate Concurrent Resolution 75 this week focused on workforce development. SCR 75 would set up the Kentucky Workforce Oversight Task Force to study and develop recommendations concerning the benefits, investments, and funding of workforce education. GLI is supportive of this resolution and the Senator’s efforts to bring clarity to how workforce training dollars are spent.
Felony Expungement – 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 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.
Prevailing Wage – Senate Bill 9 sponsored by Sen. Wil Schroder (R-Wilder), exempts school and university construction projects of $250,000 or more from the state’s prevailing wage laws. The bill awaits action in the House Labor & Industry committee. Senator McDaniel also filedSenate Bill 94 that was assigned to the Senate State & Local Government committee this week. 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 forward.
Distillery Modernization – Senate Bill 11, filed by Senator Schickel, is an omnibus alcohol bill that allows distilleries to sell by the drink and will increase the potential volume of souvenir package sales. The bill 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.
Pension – No action this week either on Speaker Stumbo’s House Bill 1, a proposal to shore up the KY Teachers Retirement system with $3.3 billion in bonding, or on Sen. Joe Bowen’s Senate Bill 2 that would make the pension systems more transparent and accountable. HB 1 awaits action in the House Appropriations & Revenue committee and SB 2 awaits action in the Senate State & Local Government committee. The state’s troubled public employee pension plans continue to be a leading issue for this session.
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. The bill may get its first hearing in the Senate Education committee this week.
Right To Work – Senate Bill 3, filed by Senate President Robert Stivers, 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 prevent the requirement that employees pay union dues as a condition of employment. GLI supports this legislation as it is one of our top priorities.
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. The bill will likely begin to move as early as this week in the Senate Health & Welfare committee. GLI supports this legislation.
Public Benefit Corporations – House Bill 50, sponsored by Representative Kelly Flood, would have been considered in the House Judiciary committee this week, but the meeting was cancelled due to weather. 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.
Property & Real Estate Development – House Bill 57, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Keene, would expand the definition of a mixed-use development project, streamlining the process for a TIF application, especially in regions with a consolidated local government. Senate Bill 68, sponsored by Sen. Ralph Alvarado, would limit the liability of a rental property owner should a tenant’s dog injure a civilian on his or her property.
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.
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 is in House Education. That committee’s meeting was cancelled this week due to the legislative holiday on Monday, but we expect them to meet this Tuesday.