Democrats Retain Majority in House:
Special elections for four vacant House seats were held last Tuesday. Democratic candidates won 3 of the 4 seats and maintained the party's majority in the House (53-47). The new members are expected to be sworn in this week.
Lexington Convention Center:
Legislation critical to the expansion and renovation project of the Lexington Convention Center, continues to await action in the Senate. HB 441, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations and Revenue (A&R) Committee. The bill provides authorization to the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council to increase the transient room tax in Fayette County an additional 2.5 cents for the local financing part of the $250 million project. In his budget proposal, Governor Matt Bevin provided $60 million in state funding for an investment partnership with the City of Lexington for the project. The arrangement includes a guaranteed repayment of funds to the state using .5 cents of the transient room tax. Funding for the project is anticipated to be included in the House budget proposal.
Minimum Wage: HB 278 related to increasing the state minimum wage was amended and passed out of the House A&R committee. The new language raises the state minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.20 an hour beginning August 1, 2016. There would be no incremental increase to $10.10 per hour as previously proposed. The amended language also increases the exemption threshold from $95,000 to $500,000 in annual gross profit from sales and includes gender pay equity provisions. The amended bill now awaits a floor vote by the full House.
ADD Transparency: HB 438, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, passed out of a House Committee last week. The bill is aimed at bringing more transparency and accountability to Area Development Districts and how these entities are spending state and federal funds for specific programs including workforce development.
Work Ready Scholarships: This initiative (HB 626) passed out of a House committee this week. The bill provides free tuition for students attending the state's community and technical colleges.
Economic Development: HB 237 would add tier 3 and tier 4 data centers, which applies to larger tech companies like Google and Amazon, to the definition of manufacturing making them eligible for temporary property tax exemptions. The goal is to offer competitive incentives with surrounding states and to continue to attract and retain these companies to Kentucky. The bill passed out of the Senate and heads to the Governor for signature.
Justice Reform: A bill (HB 412) to reclassify some Class D felonies by creating a new misdemeanor category passed through the House Judiciary Committee. The new misdemeanor category includes three types of low-level, non-violent, non-sexual offenses that are currently classified as Class D felonies including Flagrant Non-Support, Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument II and Forgery II. The bill is expected to save the state $21 million a year in correctional costs.
Charter Schools: SB 253, to establish charter school pilot programs for Fayette and Jefferson Counties, passed out of the Senate Education Committee. Charter schools receive exemptions from certain regulations that are applicable to the Kentucky Board of Education and local school districts.
The Week Ahead:
The House Democratic Majority is expected to release its version of the next two year, $20 billion state budget on Tuesday. Speaker Greg Stumbo has said the House proposal will lessen or reverse the Governor's proposed funding cuts to higher education.
This week, business organization advocates remain hopeful legislation related to public-private partnerships and felony expungement will be taken up in the Senate. SB 11, an omnibus measure that assists Kentucky distillers, wineries and brewers by modernizing alcohol laws, is expected to be taken up in a House committee this week.
HB 309 | SB 132 creates a transparent and explicit framework under Kentucky's procurement code through which the state and local governments may use a public-private partnership to provide services, facilities and transportation infrastructure to the public. The bill provides an alternative method for project financing to help local governments operating on limited budgets provide more efficient and effective services. The bill eliminates tolling as an option for the Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky -- a point of contention among officials last session.
SB 298 requires a judge to vacate the felony before it can be expunged; limits the number of eligible felonies; and includes a 10-year waiting period. HB 40, a related proposal, passed the House, but it differs significantly from the SB 298 in terms of the eligibility, process and waiting period (5-year). Commerce Lexington has joined Governor Bevin, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, and other business groups in support of this issue to help remove barriers to the workforce for the 94,000 individuals in Kentucky.
Click to view a full listing of the legislation Commerce Lexington is tracking this session.
If you have questions about an issue, please contact Andi Johnson, Public Policy VP by email or phone at 859-226-1614.