Kentucky legislature: Where the issues stand – The Courier-Journal

By Mike Wynn, mwynn@courier-journal.com
Source: The Courier-Journal

Issue Legislative overview Where things stand Latest news
Heroin Lawmakers are pressed to address the wave of heroin abuse that is killing hundreds of addicts every year in Kentucky. Both the House and Senate have passed comprehensive bills to improve treatment and crack down on dealers. Now they have to find a common ground between the different versions of the legislation before the General Assembly adjourns in March. Heroin bill passes in the Kentucky House; compromise awaits.
Dating violence Kentucky is essentially the last state to not grant civil protections for people in abusive dating relationships. The House has passed a bill to extend civil protective orders to victims of dating violence. And after years of debate, lawmakers in the Senate say they are likely to take up the issue as well in 2015. Dating violence protections pass the House
Local-option sales tax Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and others are calling for a new tax option that would help local communities fund economic development projects. The House has advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow local projects to be funded through a temporary sales tax increase of up to 1 percent — if approved in a local referendum. Fischer says he believes the bill has enough votes to pass in the Senate. Local option sales tax amendment passes House
Beer distribution Producers of craft beer support a bill that would force Anheuser-Busch to sell two beer distributorships it owns in Kentucky in an effort to separate producers, distributors and retailers. The bill has passed out of House committee and awaits a vote on the House floor. Proponents say it would help craft beer growth and protect distributing jobs. Anheuser-Busch says its being a distributor hasn’t hurt craft beers or jobs in Kentucky. Legislators hope for a compromise. Beer distributorship bill advances
Teacher pensions Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System is requesting $3.3 billion in bonds to shore up sorely underfunded teacher pensions. A bill to authorize bonds has moved out of committee in the House, and is expected to soon get a vote on the House floor. But Republicans in the Senate are skeptical of using new debt to pay off existing debt. Teacher pension bonds gaining steam in House
Medical marijuana House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he sponsored a bill on medical marijuana this year to encourage more debate in Kentucky, where the drug remains illegal. The bill has received a hearing in House committee, but no vote was taken. Stumbo says it’s likely dead in this year’s General Assembly, but that he believes it will become the law eventually. Medical marijuana bill likely dead, Stumbo says
Telecom regulations Telecommunications companies are seeking deregulation of landline telephone services, allowing carriers like AT%26T to drop basic service to customers in urban areas. Both the House and Senate have pushed legislation out of committee this year. But nine amendments have been filed on the House floor, raising questions about the bill’s chances in that chamber. Phone deregulation bill advances in Kentucky House
Smoking ban Smoke-free advocates are pushing again for legislation that would ban smoking in workplaces and indoor public places across the state. For the first time in history, the House has passed legislation for a statewide smoking ban. But the bill was amended so that it won’t apply in localities that already have more lenient anti-smoking laws in place. The legislation does not appear to have much support in the Senate. Statewide smoking ban passes Kentucky House
Abortion Opponents of abortion are seeking new requirements in state law before women can undergo the procedure in Kentucky. The Senate has advanced two bills requiring women to receive an ultrasound and a face-to-face medical consultation before an abortion. As in years past, abortion bills are expected to die in the House Health and Welfare Committee. Bill tightening abortion law passes Senate
Minimum wage House Speaker Greg Stumbo is pushing a bill to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour over a two-year period. The House has passed Stumbo’s wage bill, but it faces steep odds in the Senate where Republicans say it will kill jobs. Minimum wage bill passes Kentucky House
Right-to-work The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and GOP lawmakers are seeking changes in state law to allow people to work in unionized businesses without joining the union or paying its dues. The Senate prioritized “right-to-work” legislation this year, but the measure was defeated on a near party-line vote in the House Labor and Industry Committee. Now supporters are calling on counties to pass the measure locally. Right-to-work legislation still an issue
Medical review panels Senate Republicans want to establish panels of health care providers to examine malpractice claims before the claims can proceed to court Legislation was fast-tracked in the Senate this year, but stands little chance of moving in the House, where it has died in the past. Bills on smoking, beer, casinos advance in Kentucky
State gas taxes Kentucky’s tax rate on gasoline is falling with prices at the pump, decreasing revenues that state and local governments use to build and maintain roads. This issue is stalled. Senate Republican leaders say the state Constitution requires any tax bill to originate in the House. But House Democratic leaders say that requirement applies only to “revenue raising” bills. House Democrats, angry that they addressed the issue last year only to be attacked by Republicans in fall elections, say the Senate must act first this year. State gas tax might drop over a nickel April 1

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