Legislative Rundown: Bills dealing with charter schools, pensions and more move forward in legislature

Legislation creating charter schools passes Senate committee 

capitolThe state Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 8 Thursday which would create charter schools in the state, a major priority of the Kentucky Chamber.

Senate Bill 8, sponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson of Bowling Green, establishes a public charter school pilot project beginning in academic year 2016-2017 and continuing through academic year 2020-2021. This project will create new, innovative, and more flexible ways of educating all children within the public school system.

The charter school project allows a maximum of two charter schools per year in a county with a consolidated local government and two charter schools per year in a county with an urban-county government. However, the maximum number of charter schools established during the pilot project is capped at five per county.

Authorized charter schools will be located within a five mile radius of a public school in which a minimum of 50% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.  These schools will be governed by either a local school board or the Kentucky Public Charter School commission, which would consist of nine bipartisan members appointed by the Governor.

Kentucky is one of only eight states in the country without charter school legislation.

Charter schools are independent schools designed to provide tuition-free public education choices to parents and students. Charters liberate teachers and administrators from red tape and allow more innovation in the classroom. In exchange for this flexibility, charter schools accept high accountability, knowing that they can be closed if they fail to live up to their charter.

“Employers need educated and work-ready employees. Charter schools are yet another tool for the public education system to prepare students for the jobs employers need to fill,” Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson said.

Bills dealing with state’s troubled pension system pass House State Government Committee

Today the House Committee on State Government brought up and passed legislation pertaining to the Kentucky Retirement System as well as the Kentucky Historical Society (KHS).

The first bill brought before the Committee was House Bill 147 sponsored by Rep. Derrick Graham.  This measure amends and clarifies the role of the KHS.  Following the passing of this measure, the committee considered and passed the following bills related to the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS):

  • House Joint Resolution 7: Sponsored by Rep. Brad Montell, it directs the Public Pension Oversight Board to hire an independent actuary.
  • House Bill 47:  Sponsored by Reps. Brent Yonts and Jerry Miller, add the Legislators Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System to the Public Pension Oversight Board’s oversight.
  • House Bill 62:  Sponsored by Rep. Yonts, ensures that any entity that would like to withdraw from the Kentucky Retirement System must repay their unfunded liability.

The Kentucky Chamber will continue to closely monitor the progress of bills dealing with the state’s continuing pension problems.

Prevailing wage legislation clears committee and then full Senate chamber

Legislators on the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee voted Thursday to pass Senate Bill 9, the bill dealing with prevailing wage. The legislation was then sent to the full floor where it passed and will be sent to the House.

The legislation, sponsored by freshman Sen. Wil Schroder, would exclude all educational buildings and facilities from meeting the requirements of the prevailing wage law, the government defined hourly wage in construction contracts.

Hear testimony from Sen. Schroder and Tom Shelton speaking on behalf of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents below:

By once again allowing an exemption for these projects, greater investments can be made in technology, improved facilities and in the classroom.

The Kentucky Chamber is supportive of legislation that seriously examines the state’s prevailing wage laws, which must be made more representative of local wages by utilizing more effective methods of data collection than the current hearings process.

ePad legislation moves through committee

This morning the House Tourism, Development and Energy Committee passed House Bill 100, sponsored by Rep. James Kay of Versailles.

This measure allows local governments to establish energy project assessment districts (ePADs). The ePAD legislation would set up a voluntary program that assists participants with the funding of energy efficiency projects on commercial property.

House committee passed minimum wage bill

The House Labor and Industry Committee heard testimony and voted in favor on House Bill 2, which would raise Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 incrementally.

The Kentucky Chamber supports the current law, which automatically increases with the federal law, rather than putting Kentucky employers at a competitive disadvantage with surrounding states.

“If it’s not going to increase the amount of jobs, then I think the real question is why is it a policy that we should be pursuing,” said Bryan Sunderland, the Chamber’s senior vice president of public affairs.

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