In his budget proposal, Kentucky 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. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.
In order for the Lexington Convention Center to remain competitive in the market and meet its potential as an economic engine for the region and state, investments are needed in the facility. Industry experts forecast that expanding the Convention Center will allow Lexington to compete for 90% of the convention market as opposed to 65% currently. The project is also estimated to generate more than $57 million in annual economic impact, an increase from $42 million today. Without the expansion, studies indicate a decline in economic impact of close to $28 million annually.
With 18 legislative days remaining in the 60-day session, legislators continue to hear testimony from state officials on budget matters. Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, testified before a House Budget Review Subcommittee last week about the cost of dismantling KYNECT and switching from a state-based exchange to the federal exchange. The Bevin administration estimates a cost of $235,000 to make the transition and $20 million in savings from the elimination of duplicate services. Glisson also said Medicaid recipients would use the online system - https://benefind.ky.gov/ - to apply for services and other benefits.
Work Ready Scholarships
In an effort to improve workforce development, members of the House Democratic Majority held a press conference to announce a new "Work Ready Scholarships" initiative (HB 626) to provide free tuition for students attending the state's community and technical colleges. The House is expected to present its budget in mid-March. Then, it will go to the Senate for consideration.
Last week, Senate Republicans introduced legislation related to felony expungement for some non-violent Class-D felonies. SB 298, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, 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 Stivers bill 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.
P3 | Workers Compensation Fix
Legislation (HB 309 | SB 132) creating a clear and transparent pathway for local and state governments to enter into public-private partnerships (P3) continues to await action in the Senate. During committee discussion last week, Kentucky Tourism Cabinet officials advocated in support of P3 as a potential tool for the state parks system. However, concerns with including transportation in the bill is a point of concern for some Senators - despite provisions prohibiting tolling on the Brent Spence Bridge in NKY.
SB 151, which seeks to clarify current state law related to employer offsets for temporary total disability benefits for light duty work, continues to await action by the House Labor and Industry Committee.
Additional bills of note to the business community include:
- Maternity Leave: HB 627 requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide 6 weeks paid maternity leave for an employee.
- Sick Leave: HB 617 requires employers to provide earned paid sick leave to employees.
- Non-Profits: HB 367 makes technical changes to modernize the current laws governing Kentucky's nonprofit sector. This bill passed the House Committee this week and awaits a vote by the full House.
The Week Ahead:
Special elections for four vacant House seats will be held tomorrow - Tuesday, March 8. The outcome of these elections could further impact the political dynamics in the House as Democrats currently hold a slim majority (50-46) in the chamber.
Local option sales tax legislation (HB 2) - known as LIFT - is scheduled for a hearing in the House Constitutional Amendments Committee this week. The bill amends Kentucky's Constitution to allow local governments to enact up to an additional 1% sales tax for specific, voter-approved capital projects. When the projects are finished, the tax would sunset. The passage of a constitutional amendment requires 60 votes in the House, which may prove challenging this session.
Commerce Lexington Inc. has visited several cities, including Oklahoma City, on its annual Leadership Visit, and our leaders have seen firsthand the positive impact of transformative community projects from local option sales tax. In December 2015, Commerce Lexington assembled a group of diverse business and community leaders for an envisioning process to generate potential project ideas - if the Urban County Council, with local voter approval, had the ability to utilize this investment tool. Some of the top ideas included: education and workforce training center, sportsplex facility; and enhanced green spaces, parks and trail systems.
Click to view a full listing of the legislation Commerce Lexington is tracking this session.