Some of the most important issues facing the state still hang in the balance as legislators take a break for the veto period. Near the stroke of midnight Wednesday, each chamber placed many bills in conference committees and appointed members to discuss the issues before the General Assembly returns March 23.
The biggest financial hurdle facing the state in 2015 is stabilization of the road fund, an issue which could result in a shortfall of about $250 million in revenues anticipated in the state budget.
With the decreasing price of gas, the revenue losses to the state’s road fund estimated by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet would impact businesses and citizens across the state. The Kentucky Chamber has called on lawmakers to find a solution because tax revenues from gas sales have already been allocated and because of the all-time lows the money will not be there for important transportation projects.
Lawmakers decided Wednesday night to strip House Bill 299 and use the bill as a vehicle to work on the issue. Legislators enlisted to serve on a conference committee to address stabilization of the road fund include:
- Sannie Overly (D) Paris- co-chair
- Senate President Robert Stivers (R ) Manchester- co-chair
- Leslie Combs (D) Pikeville
- Jim Stewart (R ) Flat Lick
- Ernie Harris (R ) Crestwood
- Robin Webb (D) Grayson
The Kentucky Chamber is still urging members and the public to get involved and urge lawmakers to take action on this issue. Please click here to contact your legislator.
A conference committee was also appointed to continue work on addressing the scourge of heroin in the state after the differences in two pieces of legislation were not worked out before the veto period.
The House passed their updated heroin bill, Senate Bill 192, Wednesday with an amendment allocating $10 million in funds to address the issue in the state. However, the Senate did not concur with the bill.
Some of the differences in the House and Senate bills include the approach to funding for treatment, sentencing for traffickers and a provision to set up local needle exchange programs to cut down on the spread of disease through the use of dirty needles.
The Kentucky Chamber has been a vocal advocate for the General Assembly to come to find compromise and address the issue. Each chamber has expressed a desire to work together to reach an agreement. The following lawmakers will be working on the issue over the veto period:
- Senate President Robert Stivers (R ) Manchester- co-chair
- John Tilley (D) Hopkinsville- co-chair
- Joni Jenkins (D) Shively
- Chris McDaniel (R ) Taylor Mill
- Whitney Westerfield (R ) Hopkinsville
- Denver Butler (D) Louisville
- Mike Denham (D) Maysville
- Ron Crimm (R ) Louisville
- David Floyd (R ) Bardstown
- Wil Schroder (R ) Wilder
- Morgan McGarvey (D) Louisville
Pension issues continue to be a focus of many lawmakers, including the need to address the funding shortfalls of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System. House Bill 4, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, would allow for $3.3 billion in bonds for a cash influx into the teacher pension fund.
The Kentucky Chamber has expressed concerns about moving forward with such a decision without public debate on the idea as well as a deeper look into the system’s practices. The Senate expressed some of the same issues with the bill and amended the bill to take out the bonding aspect and replace it with a study of the system.
The House did not concur with the Senate changes and a conference committee of the following lawmakers has been assigned:
- House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D) Prestonsburg- co-chair
- Joe Bowen (R ) Owensboro- co-chair
- Jody Richards (D) Bowling Green
- Sannie Overly (D) Paris
- Jimmy Higdon (R ) Lebanon
- Dennis Parrett (D) Elizabethtown
- Rocky Adkins (D) Morehead
- Johnny Bell (D) Glasgow
- Regina Bunch (R ) Williamsburg
An education issue being closely monitored is House Bill 449, a bill sponsored by Rep. Derrick Graham to require schools that remain classified as persistently low-performing schools for four years, to implement an internal innovation option.
However, a Senate committee substitute was added to the bill which caused the House to not concur with final passage of the bill. The issue will now go to conference committee.
Other bills still in play being monitored by the Kentucky Chamber include:
- Actuarial Analysis (HB 306) – requires funding mechanisms be disclosed and an actuarial study of the system be conducted every five years.
- Public-Private Partnership (P3) (HB 443) – provides an explicit framework for the use of public-private partnerships (P3s) as an alternative method of procurement, construction or financing of capital projects and services by state government.
- Clean Power Plan (HCR 168) – directs the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) to establish a task force to perform a one-time study which assesses the potential impacts of federal environmental regulations on the “affordability” and “reliability” of electricity generation in Kentucky.
- Pension Transparency (SB 22) – strengthens transparency to require the Judicial Retirement Plan, the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, the Kentucky Retirement Systems and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System to establish in administrative regulation a placement agent disclosure policy and require the policy to disclose to the boards of trustees of the plans and systems the name of the placement agent, the dollar value of the investment and the fees or payments made to placement agent for each investment in which a placement agent was used.
- Kentucky Workforce Oversight Task Force (SCR 103) – directs the Legislative Research Commission to establish the Kentucky Workforce Oversight Task Force to study and develop recommendations concerning the benefits, investments, and funding of workforce education.
- Computer Science Programs in Public Schools (SB 16) – calls for the Kentucky Department of Education to make students in computer coding courses eligible for science credits.
- Distillery Modernization (HB 198) – permits bourbon distillers to sell their products by the drink to visitors at their distilleries, just as wineries and breweries do today.
The Kentucky Chamber will continue to work on behalf of the business community to see legislation passed that will help move the state forward.