The 2012 regular session of the Kentucky General Assembly ended in an all-too-familiar manner last night. With the midnight deadline looming, an impasse between the Senate and the Governor prevented the passage of two critical pieces of legislation – funding for road projects and a measure to combat prescription drug abuse. The Senate refused to pass a road funding bill until the governor signed the road projects bill; the governor refused to sign the projects bill without time for a review or the funding in place to pay for the projects. Though there were indications late that a deal may be reached that would have included a key education measure, compromise again eluded Frankfort and the session ended.
Gov. Beshear has issued a call for a special session to begin Monday to enact the multi-billion dollar road funding bill that supports a number of transportation jobs and provides funding for the Louisville Bridges Project. Beshear will also ask lawmakers to pass legislation to address prescription drug abuse.
The Kentucky Chamber is in the process of performing a detailed review of the 2012 session of the General Assembly and compiling our voting record on key issues. Look for it in your mailbox soon. Below is a list of numerous bills we were following this session and their outcome.
Enacted into Law
HB 495 prevents a $609 million tax increase on Kentucky employers by creating a permanent mechanism to pay back the interest the state owes the federal government for unemployment insurance. The bill requires the governor to seek a cap on federal taxes and provides additional tax relief in future years. Enacted into law.
HB 277 streamlines state business tax filings by creating a one-stop portal for local tax forms on the Secretary of State’s website. Enacted into law.
HB 300 modernizes the boards of Kentucky’s various retirement systems and requires investment placement agents to register as executive branch lobbyists. Enacted into law.
HJR 162 creates a pension reform system task force to study the state’s various pension systems with a report to be submitted to the legislature by December 2012. Enacted into law.
SB 157 requires state agencies to use a uniform method of drafting Administrative Regulations and makes publishing information online, instead of printing, the preferred method of notice.Enacted into law.
HB 400 amends the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act (KJRA) by allowing companies with projects related to automobile and parts manufacturing to seek economic development incentives regardless of their location in Kentucky. To qualify, proposed projects must have at least 1,000 full-time employees and an investment of at least $100 million. Enacted into law.
Unlike the original prescription mandate opposed by the Chamber, SB 3 further limits over-the-counter purchases of cold and allergy medications containing pseudoephedrine in amounts of up to 7.2 grams monthly and 24 grams annually. This legislation is a reasonable compromise to the effort over the past two years to require a prescription for pseudoephedrine, which would have unnecessarily increased employer health care costs and employee absenteeism.Enacted into law.
SB 38 offers career-based programs of study with enriched career counseling for high school students, potentially keeping more students engaged in school. Enacted into law.
HB 37 targets improving student achievement by allowing schools to be exempt from certain administrative regulations and to use innovative approaches. Enacted into law.
HB 465 provides incentives to businesses to restore blighted properties, encouraging economic growth, increasing surrounding property values and revitalizing communities. The bill extends non-liability protections to property owners seeking to redevelop a site where a release of petroleum, pollutants or contaminants has occurred. Enacted into law.
Protecting Energy Jobs
HB 559 encourages job retention and expansion by endorsing the recycling of uranium tails and spent nuclear fuels at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant. It would also encourage the production of coal to gas liquefaction at the Paducah plant. Enacted into law.
HB 255 promotes energy efficiency in school construction and provides assistance for small businesses to undertake energy efficiency projects in their own facilities. Enacted into law.
State Employee Wellness
HB 225 creates a pilot worksite wellness program for state employees aimed at reducing state health care costs over the long term. Enacted into law.
Protecting Business Records
HB 496 protects private companies that compete for state contracts from being forced to disclose all of their records under the state Open Records Act. Enacted into law.
HB 88 would have severely undermined the arbitration process in Kentucky, forcing employers to litigate before they arbitrate and further increasing legal fees. Passed the House, Defeated in the Senate.
HB 202 would have increased health care costs, particularly on small business owners, by mandating a minimum reimbursement rate and co-pays for chiropractic services. This would have created a slippery slope enabling other providers to demand similar privileges. Passed the House, Defeated in the Senate.
HB 5 would have created a more onerous requirement in Kentucky than other states by requiring any company doing business with a public agency – including any state or local government, school board, university or publicly created board – to use the federal E-Verify system. Passed the House, defeated in the Senate.
HB 401 would have created lucrative financial incentives for employees to become “whistleblowers” to allege fraud and would have encouraged frivolous lawsuits against employers who do business with the state. Passed the House, Defeated in the Senate.
Utility Rate Increases
HB 41 would have driven up the cost of residential and business utilities by removing franchise fee agreements between local municipalities and utilities and spreading the costs of those agreements among the utilities’ entire rate base. Defeated in the House.
Energy Cost Increases
HB 404 would have driven up electric rates by treating coal ash that comes from the generation of electricity at power plants similar to hazardous waste. Defeated in the House.
Prescription drug abuse
HB 4 addresses the prescription drug epidemic that drives up medical costs for employers and creates serious workplace safety issues by strengthening the state’s KASPER system and requiring pain management clinics to be owned by a practicing physician. Prescription drug abuse is not only a social issue; it is a business issue. Compromise failed in the waning hours of session.
SB 151 would have given Kentuckians the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment to expand gaming as a way to help stem the loss of jobs in the Commonwealth’s signature equine industry. Failed in the Senate.
SB 1 would have capped cap the state debt limit at 6% of General Fund revenues. Although SB 1 did not become law, the biennial budget passed by the General Assembly significantly reduced debt levels. Passed the Senate; not considered by the House.
Medical Review Panels
HB 361 would have established an independent medical review panel process for lawsuits against long-term care facilities, providing a screen for frivolous lawsuits without limiting access to the courts. Rising costs associated with medical malpractice liability continue to take a significant financial toll on Kentucky’s health care industry, resulting in increased costs for businesses and consumers. Not considered by the House.
HB 77 would have authorized charter schools which are independent schools designed to provide tuition-free public education choices to parents and students. Charter schools could help areas with consistently low-performing schools. Not considered by the House.
Raising the Dropout Age
HB 216 would have phased in a process to raise the mandatory school attendance age to 18, keeping students in school and working toward a diploma. SB 109 would have made raising the dropout age to 18 optional for local districts. As amended in the House, the bill would have phased in the requirement that all students attend high school until age 18 after the initial optional period for school districts. Attempts to compromise were unsuccessful. HB 216 passed the House; not considered by the Senate. SB 109 passed the Senate prior to amendment; passed the House as amended; not reconsidered by the Senate as amended.
Investing in Great Teachers
SB 11 would have provided financial rewards for teachers and students of Advanced Placement courses in science, technology, engineering and math. with a goal of encouraging students to pursue STEM careers. Passed the Senate; not considered in the House.
SB 86 would have allowed students who meet specific academic criteria to graduate high school early and attend a public two-year or four-year postsecondary institution. The bill was amended to include a requirement that all students attend high school until age 18. Passed the Senate prior to amendment; passed the House as amended; not reconsidered in the Senate as amended.
Improving the Teacher Workforce
SB 122 and SB 132 would have made great strides in correcting two antiquated personnel policies that can make it difficult to remove poor performing teachers from the classroom: automatic tenure and the termination and suspension appeals process. These measures would have helped ensure we have qualified teachers in every classroom, increasing the quality of education for our future workforce. SB 122 not considered by the Senate. SB 132 passed the Senate; not considered by the House.
Worksite Wellness Program
HB 549 would have helped address high employer health care costs by giving companies a nonrefundable tax credit equal to 50% of the cost of offering a wellness program to employees.Not considered by the House.
HB 113 would have extended tax credits to individual investors who further the establishment or expansion of small businesses, create additional jobs and foster the development of new products and technologies. Not considered by the House.
SB 77 would have clarified the definition of an independent contractor, creating a fair, straightforward procedure that streamlines compliance and ensures a level playing field for employers. Passed the Senate, not considered by the House.
HB 289 would have created a statewide smoke-free policy that prohibits smoking in indoor public places. Smoking is not only killing us, it is bankrupting us through higher productivity costs, insurance premiums and tax bills. Not considered by the House.
HB 450 would have provided that administrative regulations promulgated by the executive branch would not impose undue costs and fees on Kentucky businesses. Not considered by the House.
Alternative Fuel Incentives
HB 246 would have created incentives for the construction of the components used in alternative energy production and energy efficiency projects. Passed the House; not considered by the Senate.