In the final days before the veto period, lawmakers worked quickly to pass a large number of bills but left many of the state’s biggest issues hanging in the balance.
On Wednesday, lawmakers passed two Kentucky Chamber-supported bills and sent them to the governor for his signature. The House passed the Senate version of the Kentucky Oil and Gas Regulatory Modernization Act (SB 186) to make the first significant reforms to Kentucky’s regulation of the oil and gas industry in approximately 20 years. Read more about the issue on our blog.
The two chambers also concurred on the Kentucky Intrastate Crowdfunding Exemption Act (HB 76), sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs, creating online crowdfunding investment opportunities in Kentucky. This Chamber-supported legislation proposes the creation of an online platform for Kentucky entrepreneurs that will make it easier for people to invest in business ideas that look promising.
However, many of the biggest hurdles facing the state have been left unresolved to be dealt with over the ten-day veto period which began Thursday.
Road Fund Stabilization
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.
Without action, safe and reliable transportation and jobs are at risk.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.
Public-private partnerships (P3s) mean more private sector jobs with fewer tax dollars expended. The Kentucky Chamber is pushing legislation to create more business opportunities with HB 443 to do what all of our surrounding states have already done – authorize public-private partnerships. HB 443 passed the House in an overwhelming fashion. Contact your Senator by calling 1-800-372-7181 and urge them to pass the P3 Jobs Bill or send an email using our action alert system.
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.
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.
In March 2014, the Kentucky Chamber called for the creation of an interim legislative study group to conduct a thorough review of KTRS funding issues, using independent outside experts, and recommend reasonable strategies to address the funding gap and unfunded liabilities.
The House did not concur with the Senate changes and a conference committee has been assigned. To see a full list of legislators serving on the conference committees as well as the other issues still in play this session, read more on our blog.
Kentucky Chamber-supported legislation that has passed in both chambers and sent to the governor for his signature include:
- Telecommunications Reform (HB 152) to provide telecom providers the flexibility to invest in new technology. The Kentucky Chamber has strongly supported this legislationwhich will help make our Commonwealth more attractive to businesses so we can compete for investment dollars and jobs.
- Crowdfunding (HB 76) creating online crowdfunding investment opportunities in Kentucky that will make it easier to invest in business ideas that look promising.
- Pension Oversight (HB 47) adding Legislative, Judicial and KTRS to the Public Pension Oversight Board.
- Unfunded Liability (HB 62) ensures any entity choosing to withdraw from the Kentucky Retirement System to repay their unfunded liability.
- Kentucky Oil and Gas Modernization Act (SB 186) is the result of six months of negotiations with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association, the Energy & Environment Cabinet and other industry leaders. The legislation makes the first significant reforms to Kentucky’s regulation of the oil and gas industry in approximately 20 years.
- Childcare Rating System (HB 234) directs the Early Childhood Advisory Council to clarify participating agencies and establish a schedule for implementing a quality-based rating system for licensed childcare providers.
- Craft Academy (HB 232) allows the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics to award a high school diploma and allows students enrolled in the academy to earn KEES scholarships.
In April, the Kentucky Chamber will produce its annual Results for Business publication, detailing what passed, what didn’t and what it means to your bottom line. Continue to check kychamberblog for the latest news and follow @KyChamber on Twitter for updates.