Where High-Profile Bills Stand as the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 Session Nears Its End – WKYU

This is the last full week of the Kentucky General Assembly’s 2015 session—and just one major piece of legislation has passed both the House and Senate.

Some in Frankfort have high hopes that a few bills will become law in the session’s waning days, including a bill meant to address Kentucky’s growing heroin problem and a constitutional amendment that would allow local governments to fund local projects with a temporary sales tax.

At the end of day 21 of a likely 28 day session, here’s where some of the big bills stood:

Heroin

The House and Senate have each passed their own bills that seek to combat Kentucky’s growing heroin problem. Both proposals set aside money for addiction treatment, increase penalties for traffickers and make an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone more available.

Lawmakers will have to reconcile the difference in sentencing requirements for drug traffickers in the bills.

The Senate bill would charge all traffickers with a Class C felony and require criminals to serve at least half of their sentence.

The House bill would divide traffickers into three different categories and punish them with increasing severity. The House bill also has a needle exchange provision that Senate Republicans oppose.

Local Option Sales Tax

The local option sales tax bill passed out of the House, but it’s still waiting to be taken up in the Senate. The proposal would allow local communities to temporarily tack on an additional 1 percent onto the state’s 6 percent sales tax in order to fund local projects.

This bill has a lot of big players advocating for it, including the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and  Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, has voiced his support for the bill, calling it “Democracy in its purest form.” But the bill seeks to amend the Kentucky constitution,which means it will need yes votes from at least two-thirds of the state Senate– 23 out of 37. It would then need to be voted on by Kentuckians in the November general election.

Public-Private Partnerships

A bill that would allow the state to engage in public-private partnerships passed out of the state House and is still waiting to be heard in Senate. The partnerships allow the state to contract with private organizations to build major projects like roads or bridges. Typically a private company would front much of the money for the construction phase of a project and then would be able to recoup expenses through users fees or tolls.

A public-private partnership bill passed both houses last year, but Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed it because it included an amendment forbidding public-private partnerships from using tolls on a bridge project connecting Kentucky and Ohio.

The Senate is currently considering the House bill, but it’s still unclear if a bill with tolls would pass the Republican-led chamber.

Beer Bill

A bill that would close a loophole allowing out-of-state brewers to own distributors in Kentucky has passed the House but is still waiting to be heard in the Senate. Craft brewers, which are prohibited from owning their own distributors, say that the law would put major brewers on a level playing field.

Anheuser-Busch says it would have to shut down its distributors in Louisville and Owensboro if the bill passed—cutting around 200 jobs.

Smoking Ban

The statewide smoking ban bill still hasn’t been heard in the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection, where it was assigned to instead of a friendlier committee chaired by the bill’s sponsor.

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