Eyes of Kentucky turn to the Senate – Lexington Herald-Leader

Source: Lexington Herald-Leader


There’s been a lot of sniping between the two houses of the Kentucky General Assembly about which is getting things done.

Until late last week the Senate might have earned bragging rights on this point.

But the House turned the tables.

On Thursday and Friday, the House passed major legislation to:

■ Amend the state constitution to both restore felon voting rights and allow voters to decide on local sales tax increases to fund local projects;

■ Create a statewide smoking ban in public places;

■ Provide civil protections for partners in dating relationships;

■ Address the heroin epidemic (the Senate had already passed its own bill on this issue.)

The Senate is now facing its moment of truth, with barely two weeks left in this short session.

These are important pieces of legislation that could affect the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians, their engagement in civic affairs, and the ability of communities to fund projects locally rather than rely on Frankfort or Washington. All have been debated but failed to become law in recent years.

Approving the constitutional amendments simply means putting them on the ballot for voters to decide upon. For the local-option sales tax, local voters would have to give approval before a tax could be levied. The time has come for the Senate to let the voters decide on these two measures.

The Senate’s objections to the dating violence law, which extends civil protections to dating couples now available to married and co-habiting couples or those who have children, have always been difficult to understand. This year it seems as if reason might prevail. Both the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, have signaled a willingness to pass a bill.

The smoking ban will face opposition in the Senate, where legislators worry that protecting the health of employees and others who are exposed to secondhand smoke in public places infringes excessively on the rights of people who choose to damage their own health by smoking.

A major point of contention between the two heroin bills will be the House provision allowing communities to establish needle exchanges. Again, this would empower communities to weigh the merits for themselves.

Compromise is inherent to our system; we expect the Senate to debate and recommend changes. But these measures are too important to be torpedoed with disingenuous amendments or relegated to committees from which they never emerge.

Most taxpaying voters are more interested in seeing quality legislation passed than in parsing out exactly which chamber gets the blame when nothing gets done.

What People Are Saying

  • “Putting the local-tax amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot is a no-brainer. If local people want to levy local taxes on themselves, they should be able to.”

    Al Cross, Courier-Journal columnist
  • Jeff-Bringardner-headshot-only“This is a way to keep dollars in the area, to come up with a diverse slate of projects that sync up with the long-term plans of the community and get voted on by the people”

    Jeff Bringardner, President, Humana Kentucky
  • BillLamb“If Louisville could adopt a 1% Local Option Tax, it would impose a minimal burden, but would raise over 90 million dollars a year.”

    Bill Lamb, President and General Manager for WDRB and WNYO
  • Bill Samuels Bellarmine Portrait“Local option makes all the sense in the world. Offering citizens the opportunity to vote on investing in their community is how our country ought to operate.”

    Bill Samuels, Chairman, Emeritus Makers Mark
  • …a new way for communities to see the projects they want and need go from the drawing board to reality — and to do it for themselves.

    Jim Host, founder of Host Communications and former State Commerce Secretary
  • LIFT is a tried-and-true tool that allows for more voter involvement in the process.  Voters, not politicians, would help determine big picture, visionary projects that could improve quality of life.

    Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • …an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need.

    Hal Goode, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development
  • In our opinion, Kentucky voters should be allowed to vote on the local option sales tax because it could fund public facilities without increasing property taxes.

    Morehead News
  • It will allow communities to plan and pay for improvements to enhance civic and economic life without going hat in hand each budget session to Frankfort.

    Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The beauty of it is that local voters have the say-so as to its enactment, and they have a sense that they are getting what they pay for.

    Princeton Times-Leader