Session leaves many in business community disappointed – News Democrat Leader

By Dave Adkisson Kentucky Chamber President & CEO
Source: News Democrat Leader

The 2015 session of the General Assembly is being heralded by some as a great success due to the passage of bills addressing heroin, the road fund and other issues. Without question, there is cause to acknowledge and celebrate those accomplishments.

But there is another chapter to this session’s story for Kentucky’s business community, and it is one of disappointment because of the many pro-business bills that were left hanging in the balance when the final gavel fell.

First, the positive results of the session that will advance Kentucky:

Our telecommunications systems can now be modernized more quickly.

The state road fund was stabilized by creating a “floor” under the declining state gas tax revenue.

Legislation to curb the lethal threat of heroin was passed and likely will save lives.

On the most pressing issue facing state government – our underfunded public pension systems – a few bills passed that should help put a brighter light on the operations of the systems, but more work is needed here.

And, always of particular interest to those we represent, there were no bills passed in this session that were particularly harmful to the broad business community.

But on the disappointing side:

Public-private partnerships had amazing support last year in the House and Senate and strong bipartisan support going into this year’s session, but fell in the Kentucky Senate without even getting a committee hearing or a vote on the floor (where many are confident the bill would have passed).

Local option sales tax authorization for cities and counties, which is favored two-to-one among business leaders we surveyed, passed in the House only to die in the Senate without even a committee hearing or a floor vote.

Smoke-free legislation favored by a nine-to-one margin by Chamber members passed the House, only to die in the Senate without a committee hearing or a floor vote.

An independent study of the teacher retirement system, which the Chamber has been advocating since early 2014, was championed by the Senate but died in negotiations with the House.

Right to work legislation, enacted by most of Kentucky’s competitor states and gaining traction in local communities, won passage in the Senate but failed to get a hearing in the House.

A Senate-passed bill to allow the creation of charter schools to give parents a broader choice for their children’s education once again failed without even a House committee hearing.

Legislation to create an impartial process of medical review panels to deter meritless lawsuits against medical providers passed the Senate but failed without a hearing in the House.

The failure of some of these measures, such as charter schools or right to work, was not particularly surprising due to the longstanding alignment of partisan interests on both sides of the debate. Other legislation, however, had substantial bipartisan support. That made their failure particularly jarring.

Anyone working to advance Kentucky can expect to encounter some obstacles, and we continue to hope that, as Kentuckians with a shared goal of making progress for our state, we can take at least two steps forward for every one step backward.

But it’s tough to celebrate a few successes when important issues with strong bipartisan support fail due to the clumsy nature of the legislative process or a lack of commitment to finding ways to overcome those barriers.

Dave Adkisson is the the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President & CEO.


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