With the filing deadline for candidates passing Tuesday, the Kentucky General Assembly wrapped up the first month of session with a few bills passing each chamber, but no major action. A list of all candidates who have filed to run for office can be found on theSecretary of State’s website. The pace is expected to pick up in February as the House continues work on the state budget and lawmakers begin work on more difficult issues like the tax overhaul proposal expected from the governor this week.
The House took up one of the more controversial issues Thursday with HB 1 (Stumbo) and HB 191 (Coursey) which both cleared the House Labor Committee. These bills would raise the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour by July 1, 2016 (HB 1), and $3.00 for tipped employees (HB 191) by July 1, 2015, raising Kentucky’s cost of labor far above our competitor states. HB 1 also includes provisions found in HB 148 (Marzian), which creates a new subjective measure deemed “equivalent jobs." An employer not paying the same wages to two people holding potentially different jobs of "equivalency" would be guilty of discrimination and open to lawsuits, despite wage discrimination already being illegal. In spite of the objections of over 15 statewide business organizations, the Labor Committee passed these bills. The Chamber supports current state law that automatically indexes the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage, rather than one that puts Kentucky employers at a competitive disadvantage and leads to more costly litigation. Contact your legislators at 1-800-372-7181 and encourage them to keep Kentucky competitive.
Some positive legislation seeing movement this week with passage by the full Senate was SB 99 (Hornback), a bill aiming to modernize Kentucky’s outdated telecommunications laws. AT&T President Hood Harris told committee members the bill was necessary because it would allow telecommunications companies to invest more in modern high speed internet and less on outdated landline telephones. To read more about this bill, visit theChamber’s blog.
Charter schools, the Chamber’s top education priority saw no action this week, but the House did take action on another Chamber-supported piece of legislation. HB 154 (Denham) brings financial transparency and security to school districts by requiring school finance officers to make annual reports to the Commissioner of Education. Along with these yearly reviews would be annual training requirements for certain school board members who participate in the district’s financial dealings. This Chamber-supported bill passed the house 58-41 and awaits action in the Senate. Tune in to KET's Kentucky Tonight at 8 p.m. this evening to see education experts debate the possibilities for charter schools in Kentucky.
Kentucky’s coal industry came under attack this week with legislation designed to restrict surface mining. HB 288 (Wayne) increases restrictions, beyond current federal requirements, for operating surface mines as well as reclaimed sites. This legislation would result in further job loss in Kentucky's coal industry and put Kentucky coal at a competitive disadvantage to international markets.
With over 500 pieces of legislation filed, the Chamber is monitoring many more bills. Be sure to visit our website for a complete list of bills.