Rep. Mike Denham: Sales tax, wage, drug  and protection bills passed along to Senate –

By Mike Denham

Like most of the state, the Kentucky House of Representatives saw its schedule put on ice last week because of the snow and plunging temperatures.

While the damage and outages did not cause the same level of devastation that Kentucky experienced in 2009, there has been one constant between now and then: The tireless work of our road crews, first responders, hospital and utility workers and those who have kept our local businesses open. I know many pitched in as well to donate food and clothing for those in need and to check on their neighbors and friends. We owe these hard-working people a debt of gratitude.

As the General Assembly readies for a return to normal business hours this week, it looks ahead to the second half of the 30-day legislative session.

By now, each chamber has largely sent its own major initiatives on to the other for consideration. In the House, that includes:

· House Bill 1, a constitutional amendment that would give voters a chance in Nov. 2016 to decide whether Kentucky should become the 38th state to offer a local-option sales tax. If approved, communities could then vote on whether to add up to a penny to pay for capital projects that could not be easily built otherwise.

· House Bill 2, which would raise the state’s minimum wage for the first time since 2009. Many states have already taken similar steps, and this would give a much-needed boost to several hundred thousand workers, many of whom are struggling.

· House Bill 213, our chamber’s plan to counter the state’s heroin epidemic. This legislation would add more treatment options for addicts while increasing penalties on those trafficking heroin in large amounts. House and Senate leaders will begin working on compromise legislation in the coming days.

· House Bill 8, which will streamline the state’s protective-order system while expanding coverage to three new groups: victims of dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Research indicates protective orders can make a true difference in protecting those at risk.

Other bills that have cleared the House, or should this week, would set the stage for granting voting rights to most felons who have completed their sentence; and help the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System better handle its long-term liability.

Beyond our work in the Capitol, there have been other items affecting the state that are certainly worth mentioning. Earlier this month, for example, state budget officials announced that they “are confident that revenues are on track” to meet projections for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30th. There was some concern heading into the holidays that more cuts might be needed, so this potential turn-around is good news.

The same day budget officials made their report, Gov. Steve Beshear said that the state’s exports topped $27 billion in 2014, the fourth-straight year a record has been set. That total is nine percent higher than 2013’s, and is well above the 2 percent growth the country experienced as a whole.

Kentucky shipped products to more than 190 countries last year, with aerospace and autos leading the way. The next two sectors – synthetic rubber and resins and pharmaceuticals – also saw sales top $1 billion apiece.

In another dose of good news, our libraries reported this month that they’re seeing unprecedented usage. According to the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, more than 30.6 million items were checked out of our 119 public libraries in 2013-14. That includes more than two million e-books, which for the first time surpassed items checked out via bookmobiles.

As I mentioned, the General Assembly is returning to its normal schedule this week.

I hope to hear from you soon.

1 mike denham

Rep. Mike Denham, a Democrat from Maysville, has represented House District 70 (Bracken, Fleming and Mason counties) since 2001. 

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