Minimum wage, smoking bills addressed by House – The Times Leader

By Lynn Bechler
Source: The Times Leader

The Kentucky House of Representatives was running at full speed this past week as 28 bills were passed and sent to the Senate for consideration. Of these 28 bills, I would like to focus on four — House Bill 1 (HB-1), House Bill 344 (HB-344), House Bill 2 (HB-2) and House Bill 145 (HB-145).

HB-1 is commonly refer­r­ed to as either LIFT (Local Investments For Trans­formation) or LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) that would amend the Kentucky Constitution to allow local governments to levy sales and use taxes up to 1 percent, subject to voter approval.

Local governments currently have the authority to levy property taxes, restaurant taxes, employment taxes, and a few others, but do not have the authority to levy taxes for capital projects. If the Senate concurs with HB-1 and it is signed by the governor (he said he would), voters will be asked to decide if local governments should have that authority.

HB-344 is a companion bill and is what is referred to as enabling legislation. If HB-1 makes it on the ballot in 2016 and is approved by the voters, a local government wanting to implement a capital project tax would have to go to its voters and ask for approval. HB-344 sets all the parameters and requirements under which the vote may be taken and the project or projects are implemented.

This is a two-step process requiring voter approval in both stages.

First, a majority vote of voters in a statewide election would have to approve the amendment to the constitution.

Second, a majority vote of voters in a local election would have to approve the tax for the project or projects.

HB-344 goes into great detail, but the points most frequently addressed by those in favor of the amendment are: taxing power is given to people to decide for themselves if they want to pay for a specific project or projects; voters will be told the specific project or projects that will be undertaken and when it will be completed; and the tax is temporary and will end upon project or projects completion and payment.

An amendment to HB-1 that would have kept tax dollars from being used to promote passage of a tax was defeated. I voted yes on that amendment. This would have placed the same restrictions on the bill as an amendment I proposed for the same purpose in 2014.

I firmly agree with local government control, but with the defeat of that amendment to HB-1 coupled with the fact that HB-344 can subsequently be changed by the vote of another General Assembly, I voted no on each bill. These were very difficult votes for me.

HB-2 is a bill that would raise Kentucky’s minimum wage. As I noted in last week’s article, state law now ties Kentucky’s minimum wage to the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour. HB-2 would change state law and raise the minimum wage to $8.20 per hour on July 1, $9.15 per hour on July 1, 2016, and $10.10 per hour on July 1, 2017 — a 39.3 percent increase over the current minimum wage. Supporters of the increase believe the change would benefit low income families while opponents believe the change would increase prices with those increased prices being passed on to everyone.

An amendment was defeated that would have raised the minimum wage to $8 per hour on July 1, 2016 and adjust it annually to reflect the average annual percentage change in the consumer price index. I voted yes on this amendment, but no on the bill without the amendment.

HB-145 sets a statewide smoking ban indoors and within 15 feet of public places and places of employment. The governor, by executive order, has already decreed that smoking is not allowed on state property, but HB-145 would disallow smoking, including e-cigarettes, in public and business places, too. If the bill becomes law, any local anti-smoking laws that are already in place or that are enacted prior to this law being implemented on July 1 can remain in place.

I prefer not to eat at an establishment that allows smoking or to enter a smoke filled room, but that is a decision that I make, not a decision that I feel the government should make for me. There is nothing in current law that prohibits a business from enacting its own smoke-free requirements, so based on my belief in personal freedom, I voted no on HB-145.

Your input helps me make decisions that best represent the views of the Fourth District. I may be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 800-372-7181, directly at 502-564-8100 ext. 665, by visiting the Kentucky Legislature Home page at www.lrc.ky.gov and clicking on the “Email Your Legislator” link, or by mail to the Capitol Annex, Room 424C, Frankfort, KY 40601.

(Lynn Bechler represents Caldwell County in the Kentucky House of Rep­resentatives.)

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