Opinion – Make most of session to adopt legislation – Kentucky New Era

Source: Kentucky New Era

The Kentucky General Assembly, which meets for a shorter session that’s limited to 30 legislative days in odd-numbered years, has seen its schedule disrupted this week by severe winter weather. Both the House and the Senate were in recess Wednesday, and House leaders decided late Wednesday to send representatives home until Monday afternoon so they could attend to their families.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said there are no plans to change the legislative calendar, adding, “We have more than enough time to complete the work before us.”

He’s correct — assuming lawmakers are able to reach some middle ground on several important bills in the next couple of weeks. Unfortunately, negotiating compromise has not been the General Assembly’s strong suit in recent years. Too often, the Republican majority in the Senate and the Democratic-held House have let legislation languish without that final push for an agreement.

This year, several promising measures before will require some give and take between the two chambers to win passage.

One is the local option sales tax bill, which would put a constitutional amendment before voters to allow a temporary local sales tax for special projects. These would have to be approved by a local referendum, and the sales tax could not exceed 1 percent. This legislation has our support. The House passed it. A Senate vote is pending.

Lawmakers should also adopt a dating violence bill to extend protective orders. These protections should not be limited to people who are married. The bill passed 98-0 in the House, and it looks like the Senate will also pass it.

The House and Senate have a way to go before they agree on a heroin bill. Both chambers have passed a bill, but they disagree on penalties for dealers, and the House version would allow local health departments to set up needle exchanges in hopes of getting more addicts into treatment programs.

A statewide public smoking ban has broad support among Kentucky adults and the business community — and a smoke-free bill narrowly passed last week in the House. But it faces a harder path in the Senate. If this bill fails in 2015, lawmakers will have neglected an opportunity to reduce one of the most serious health hazards in the commonwealth.

Another measure that needs additional Senate support to win passage is House Bill 70, the voting rights bill. Under this constitutional amendment, voting rights could be restored to convicted felons of certain non-violent crimes after they serve their sentences and complete probation.

Among bills we don’t support is one to legalize medical marijuana. While we acknowledge that marijuana may be beneficial for some medical issues — including pain and complications suffered during cancer treatment — state laws advancing so-called medical marijuana are often the first step to legalizing recreational marijuana. Kentucky doesn’t need to open the market to another addictive substance.

Another measure that’s not in the state’s best interest is the minimum wage increase. Although the House approved a bill that would increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour over the next two years, the Senate opposes the legislation. It would be a serious burden on many small businesses.

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on March 24, and even if that schedule holds with a few snow days, there’s plenty of time for the General Assembly to pass meaningful legislation this session.

Kentucky New Era editorials are the consensus opinion of the editorial board, which includes Publisher Taylor W. Hayes, Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown and Editor Eli Pace.


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