This is Commerce Lexington's Public Policy Blog page, where you can get the latest updates on the Kentucky General Assembly and other advocacy efforts throughout the year.
Legislative Update: Compromise Reached on Pension Reform
[March 27, 2013] --- The 2013 session of the General Assembly was marked by historic examples of compromise on tough issues – most notably the passage of pension reform.
Governor Steve Beshear, along with legislative leaders, worked together to hammer out an agreement addressing critical structural changes to the state employee public pension system and how to pay for the over $30 billion in existing unfunded liability. The plan (SB 2) followed many recommendations of the bipartisan pension task force – calling for the creation of a hybrid cash balance retirement plan, more similar to a 401k type model, for new employees to cut cost for the state in future years.
HB 440, which was changed into the mechanisms to fund the unfunded liability, will generate additional approximately $95 million revenue for FY15. Some key items in the plan outlined include reducing the personal tax credit ($20 to $10), implementing various changes to the state’s tax code to close loopholes and impacts from changes to federal tax law. Proponents say the plan will save taxpayers $10 billion over 20 years.
Governor Beshear Signs Lexington Police & Fire Pension Reform Into Law
[March 22, 2013] --- Today, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, joined by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray and other state and local officials, as well as community leaders, signed into law pension reform for Lexington's police and firefighters. One of the highlights of the 2013 General Assembly session was the passage of the Lexington Public Safety Employees Pension bill (HB 430). The agreement reached between Lexington city officials, and police and fire unions was an example of the "tough art of compromise" as both parties agreed to shared sacrifices. The law will immediately cut the city’s unfunded liability for pensions by 45 percent.
The legislation puts the city of Lexington on a path to financial stability and marks an important step forward for the city's economic vitality as local government demonstrates a willingness to get its financial house in order. To read more about the reform plan, CLICK HERE.
Business Community Faces Potential Challenges as Capacity Assurance Program Debated by LFUCG CAP Task Force
Many businesses in Lexington may not be aware of the on-going debate regarding a proposed capacity assurance program (CAP) for Lexington-Fayette County. Mandated by EPA's Consent Decree, LFUCG's Division of Water Quality (DWQ) has been given the very difficult task of establishing a CAP Plan to assure that adequate capacity is available in Lexington's sanitary sewer system before new connections are permitted to "tap" on to the system.
Why is this significant to Lexington's business community? If adequate capacity does not exist upon implementation of this CAP Plan, developers and businesses that wish to expand their existing business (increase flow to the city's sanitary sewer system) or establish a new business (new connection that increases flow) may not be able to proceed with their project. Developers will only be able to proceed if they make improvements to LFUCG's sanitary sewer system, thereby earning "credits" and offsetting flow from new connections. If improvements cannot be made due to a lack of available "credits" the project will be placed on hold until such time as credits become available.
LFUCG has established a CAP Task Force to provide their prospective and input during the CAP development process. Meetings by the task force have been held over the last three months, affording Commerce Lexington Inc. and other members of the development community the opportunity to provide feedback and concerns as the plan is developed. LFUCG must submit a CAP Plan to EPA by January 3, 2013, per the EPA Consent Decree. Implementation of the CAP Plan must begin no later than 30 days after approval of the plan by EPA.
Commerce Lexington Inc. has provided constructive comments at each CAP Task Force meeting in an effort to shape the CAP Plan into something that is manageable for future economic development. We have also conducted meetings with DWQ to discuss the potential impact of CAP on economic development. Like everyone in Lexington-Fayette County, Commerce Lexington Inc. recognizes the need to upgrade and mitigate our city's sanitary sewer system. However, we also recognize the need for the CAP Plan to be designed and implemented in a manner that does not stop economic development in its tracks. Commerce Lexington Inc. will continue to provide feedback during the CAP development process in order to make the final CAP Plan workable for all parties involved.
Commerce Lexington Inc. commends the CAP Task Force and DWQ for listening to our many concerns, and we pledge to continue to work with the CAP Task Force and members of the Urban County Council as they develop the CAP Plan. Commerce Lexington Inc. also pledges to keep our members informed of the latest progress with the proposed CAP Plan.
If you have any questions about the current progress of the CAP Plan or any of the recommendations that have been made to the CAP Task Force so far, please feel free to contact Tyler Campbell, Vice President, Public Policy at email@example.com or at (859) 226-1614.
Commerce Lexington Inc. Provides Comments on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Hearings
Commerce Lexington Inc. submitted comments to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during its public hearings in Kentucky last month, expressing our concern about EPA’s decision to circumvent its own federal rulemaking process as it pertains to the Clean Water Act (CWA) and their objections to 36 individual permits that would authorize new or expanded surface coal mining activities in eastern Kentucky. EPA’s decision to object to these permits has cost the Commonwealth thousands of jobs and continues to negatively impact Kentucky’s economy. EPA’s rejection of the last 19 most recent CWA permit applications resulted in a direct loss of 3,800 mining jobs in Kentucky as well as a direct loss of more than $123 million in coal severance taxes. The recent announcement by Arch Coal and their decision to lay off hundreds of Kentucky coal miners shows the direct impact that these stringent regulatory decisions are having on one of Kentucky’s signature industries. Commerce Lexington Inc. urged EPA to withdraw its pending objections to the KPDES permits and encouraged the agency to work closely with the Kentucky Division of Water to develop regulatory requirements that will allow the mining of coal to continue in Kentucky, protecting the health and safety of our citizens, while ensuring future job creation and economic growth.
Special Session Ends with Passage of Rx-Drug Abuse Bill, Transportation Budget
Last Friday (April 20, 2012), state lawmakers concluded the 2012 Special Session of the Kentucky General Assembly by passing the state's transportation budget and a measure to curb prescription drug abuse. Both were measures placed on the call by Gov. Steve Beshear. Members of the Kentucky General Assembly passed both bills in the minimum number of days required to pass legislation. Both measures were left unfinished in the waning hours of the 2012 Regular Session.
One of Commerce Lexington Inc.'s top legislative priorities during the 2012 Legislative Session was passage of legislation to combat the Commonwealth's prescription drug abuse problem. "Employers, chamber executives and public sector officials throughout Central Kentucky have discussed the difficulty in finding a qualified and drug-free workforce," said Bob Quick, President and CEO of Commerce Lexington Inc. Prescription drug abuse is a major cost driver for the state's workers' compensation system, and impaired workers create a major workplace safety issue.
More than 15 statewide business associations and local chambers, including Commerce Lexington Inc., came together and issued a press release toward the end of the 2012 Regular Session urging passage of this critical legislation. During the Special Session, Commerce Lexington Inc. testified alongside the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce (pictured below) and the Associated General Contractors of Kentucky in support of HB 1 (previously HB 4 in the regular session).
Several key provisions for which Commerce Lexington Inc. had previously advocated were included in a compromise bill between House and Senate leaders: Mandatory use of the state's prescription drug monitoring program (KASPER) when physicians write new prescriptions for controlled substances; prohibits physicians from dispensing more than a 48-hour supply of Scheduled II and Scheduled III drugs containing hydrocodone from their offices; and urges the Commonwealth to establish interstate compacts to exchange drug-related information. The House version of the bill transferred the monitoring of the KASPER system to the Attorney General's Office; however, the compromise bill left the KASPER system with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The compromise did maintain a provision in the bill that would require pain-management clinics to be owned by Kentucky-licensed physicians. Commerce Lexington Inc. would like to thank the members of the Kentucky General Assembly for reaching a compromise on an issue that was critical for not only the business community, but for every citizen of the Commonwealth.
Despite an earlier stalemate between the governor and the State Senate, lawmakers were also able to reach an agreement on HB 2 - the Transportation Cabinet's operating budget - which funds $4.5 billion in road projects in the state's two-year road plan. Approximately $155 million in new construction was approved for Fayette County in the road plan, including the completion of the Newtown Pike Extension Project.
March 12, 2012: ACTION ALERTWith just 15 days left in the 2012 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly, the time is now for the Kentucky General Assembly to focus on legislation that will spur economic development and job growth. Commerce Lexington Inc. supports HB 113 (Simpson), which provides tax credits to individual investors who support the establishment or expansion of small businesses, create jobs and foster the development of new products and technologies. Angel investors are key to funding small and medium-sized startups. More than 20 states now offer individual angel investor tax credits, and Kentucky lags behind border states such as Ohio and Tennessee that have incentives to attract these investors.
YOUR SUPPORT NEEDED FOR HB 113 - ANGEL INVESTOR TAX CREDIT
The bill unanimously passed the House Economic Development Committee on February 9th and has yet to receive a hearing or vote in the House A&R Committee, despite having bi-partisan support from more than 70 co-sponsors from across the Commonwealth. It is imperative that the House take action this week so this legislation can work its way through both Chambers and end up on the Governor's desk.
WE URGE YOU TO CALL TODAY AND LEAVE A MESSAGE THAT YOU SUPPORT HB 113 AND CREATING JOBS IN KENTUCKY!
Democratic House Leadership: Speaker Greg Stumbo, Speaker Pro Tempore Larry Clark, Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, Majority Caucus Chair Robert Damron, Majority Whip Tommy Thompson. | Appropriations and Revenue Committee: Rick Rand (Chair), Royce Adams, John Arnold, Jesse Crenshaw, Mike Denham, Kelly Flood, Derrick Graham, Keith Hall, Richard Henderson, Jimmie Lee, Reginald Meeks, Fred Nesler, Sannie Overly, Jody Richards, Arnold Simpson, Jim Wayne, Susan Westrom, Brent Yonts, Dwight Butler, John "Bam" Carney, Ron Crimm, Bob DeWeese, Danny Ford, Lonnie Napier, Marie Rader, Sal Santoro, Jim Stewart, Tommy Turner, Alecia Webb-Edgington.
PLEASE CALL 1-800-372-7181 WITH THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE: "My name is ________ and I live at (your address) in (your city/town). My Representative is ____________. I encourage him/her to SUPPORT HB 113."
February 29, 2012: ACTION ALERTHB 202 is expected to be voted on any day now. HB 202 mandates reimbursement levels for chiropractic providers in statute, guaranteeing higher insurance premiums for small business employers. Our stance on HB 202 is not a slight to the chiropractic profession, who provide valuable health services to their patients. Commerce Lexington Inc. opposes HB 202 because of the precedent this legislation would set. Kentucky would be the first state to legislatively mandate a reimbursement level for one health care provider group. This bill circumvents the free market health care system in favor of an unprecedented health care mandate. We encourage you to call your representative at 1-800-372-7181 and ask them to OPPOSE HB 202. If you need assistance finding your state representative, use the following link: http://www.lrc.ky.gov/whoswho/county.htm.
HB 202 EXPECTED TO BE VOTED ON ANY DAY NOW; STOP COSTLY MANDATE ON SMALL BUSINESS
February 14, 2012: ACTION ALERTHB 202 is expected to be heard during the House Banking and Insurance committee meeting tomorrow at 10 a.m. This bill is a costly health care mandate that would raise costs for small employers by dictating the maximum co-payment and reimbursement rate (using the workers' compensation fee schedule) for chiropractic services, a protection not afforded to any other provider group. HB 202 circumvents the free market health care system in favor of an unprecedented health care mandate. We strongly urge you to call your representative at 1-800-372-7181 and ask them to OPPOSE HB 202. Visit https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp to find your state representative.
HB 202 to be Heard in Committee Tomorrow; Stop Costly Health Care Mandate on Small Business
February 8, 2012: LEGISLATIVE ACTION ALERTAngel Investor Tax Credit - Commerce Lexington Inc. supports HB 113 (Simpson), which provides tax credits to individual investors who decide to invest in new small businesses or invest in the expansion of existing businesses, thereby creating additional jobs. More than 20 other states offer similar incentives. Kentucky must remain competitive with other states in an effort to attract investment and create jobs. HB 113 is scheduled to be heard in the House Economic Development Committee tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. We encourage you to contact your State Representative at 1-800-372-7181 and urge them to co-sponsor and/or SUPPORT HB 113. Find your State Representative here. You may also find your state legislator here.
Angel Investment Bill Scheduled to be heard Tomorrow; Contact your State Representative
February 8, 2012: ACTION ALERT UPDATEThe LFUCG Public Safety Committee voted down the proposed LFUCG Noise Ordinance by a vote of 9-1 in a committee meeting held yesterday afternoon. Commerce Lexington Inc. would like to thank its members, employers throughout Lexington-Fayette County, and other business associations who voiced their concerns with the proposed LFUCG Noise Ordinance. Commerce Lexington Inc. communicated our concerns with the proposal throughout the process, and we would like to thank the Urban County Council and the members of the LFUCG Public Safety Committee that recognized the concerns of the employers and employees in Lexington’s business community. Commerce Lexington Inc. will continue to monitor the noise ordinance issue and keep our members apprised of any future developments.
Proposed Noise Ordinance Fails in Committee
February 6, 2012: ACTION ALERTThe proposed noise ordinance is scheduled to be heard again tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. (February 7th) at the LFUCG Government Center. The committee tabled the ordinance at its November meeting in order to consider potential amendments. Two amendments proposed at the last meeting would have addressed some of the concerns the business community has with noise ordinance. However, our position remains that as drafted there will be a number of unintended consequences for existing businesses in Lexington.
LFUCG Public Safety Committee set to hear proposed noise ordinance tomorrow
Our concerns with the ordinance are as follows:
--> For businesses that operate and receive, ship, or unload goods and materials on varying shifts (basically, anything after 9:00 p.m. and before 7:00 a.m.) there are significant restrictions. While the proposed ordinance does provide some exemptions for certain activities, many businesses that operate with multiple shifts could find themselves subject to noise complaints or violations with the way this proposed ordinance is now worded.
--> Current land use practices and zoning requirements are not considered in the proposal. Companies operating as permitted under the approved zoning of their property could find their business subject to noise complaints or violations upon passage of this ordinance.
--> The creation of a "Noise Board." The proposal grants authority to the "Noise Board" to process noise complaints and issue variances. This Board creates another level of bureaucracy (not to mention the potential for additional costs) to determine the issuance of variances and to hear noise complaints. The Board consists of eight citizen appointees who may vote on issues before the Board, the noise control officer who is an ex-officio member and one ex-officio member of the construction or manufacturing sector, as well as one ex-officio member of the music industry. While the business community would have a voice in the discussions that come before the Board, business would not be able to vote on any issue. While the current noise ordinance may not be perfect, citizens and businesses alike have the ability to address their concerns and seek resolution through the courts if a persistent noise complaint has not been resolved. The addition of the proposed "Noise Board" simply offers another layer of bureaucracy to the noise complaint process.
If you feel the proposed noise ordinance may impact your business, we would like to encourage you to contact your Urban County Councilmember and voice your concerns.
January 27, 2012:State lawmakers are also set to begin work on a new two-year budget proposal next week. Budget review sub-committees will begin hearing testimony from various state agencies early next week. The state faces a projected $300 million shortfall heading into the next biennium. Gov. Steve Beshear's two-year budget proposal balances the shortfall through a 8.4 percent cut for most state agencies without calling for additional revenue. The governor's proposal also calls for a 6.4 percent budget cut in postsecondary education, slightly lower than most state agencies, while K-12 funding calculated through the state's SEEK formula would be held flat over the next two years. The state's corrections budget would also see a 2.2 percent decrease.
Lawmakers Set to Work on New Two-Year Budget Proposal
January 27, 2012:Earlier this week, House Republicans filed a lawsuit in Franklin County Circuit Court to challenge the constitutionality of HB 1 - the redistricting plan approved by both the House and Senate - and signed into law by Gov. Beshear last week. HB 1 approved new state House and Senate legislative boundaries. A hearing will be hled on Monday by Judge Phillip Shepherd in Frankfort. If an injunction is granted, the new legislative boundaries would not go into effect, and the state's legislative filing deadline set for Tuesday, January 31st would likely be postponed until a resolution in the case is reached.
Redistricting Plan Challenged in Court; Filing Deadline Pushed Back
House and Senate leaders reached an agreement Friday afternoon to push back the filing deadline for congressional office as members of both chambers continue to negotiate the state's new Congressional districts. The new filing deadline for candidates seeking congressional office is now set for Tuesday, February 7th. If House and Senate leader cannot reach a consensus on HB 2, future legal challenges may throw Congressional redistricting into the state's court system.
January 20, 2012:On Tuesday, Gov.Steve Beshear presented his biennial budget to a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly. The two-year budget proposal - deemed "inadequate" for the needs of the state by the governor - balances a projected $300 million shortfall through a 8.4% across the board cut to most state agencies, while areas of education and law enforcement received lesser cuts. Base line funding for the state's public universities were cut 6.4% in the first year of the proposed budget and straight-lined in FY 2014. The SEEK formula, which is used to calculate the state's funding for K-12 education, will be held flat over the next two-years. The corrections budget will be cut 2.2 percent in the first year and straight-lined in the second year of the proposal.
Governor Beshear Presents Austere Budget
The Governor's proposal does authorize the University of Kentucky to work with a private developer and finance up to $175 million to build nearly 9,000 residence hall beds. The proposal also includes another $200 million from new agency bonds that would assist UK in on-campus facility construction and renovation. The agency bonds would be paid for through revenue generated by the university or raised privately. The Governor's proposal also authorizes the state's other public universities to issue agency bonds to purchase land, construct and renovate campus buildings.
The Governor's proposal also contained $3.5 million in state bonds for the proposed downtown Lexington arts and entertainment district, which incudes the renovation of Rupp Arena. The funds will be matched by $1.5 million from the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government in order for the proposed renovation project to move forward.
The proposed two-year budget, HB 265, does not include any new revenue and only authorizes $778 million in capital projects - including the $450 million for the state universities that will be paid from agency bonds - the smallest capital budget since 1996.
January 16, 2012: ACTION ALERTHEALTH CARE MANDATE - HB 202 mandates reimbursement levels for chiropractic providers in statute, guaranteeing higher insurance premiums for small business employers. Commerce Lexington Inc. opposes HB 202 because of the precedent this legislation would set. Kentucky would be the first state to legislatively mandate a reimbursement level for one health care provider group. HB 202 circumvents the free market health care system in favor of an unprecedented health care mandate. HB 202 is scheduled to be heard in the House Banking and Insurance Committee on Wednesday. Please call your representative at 1-800-372-7181 and ask them to OPPOSE HB 202.
Health Care Mandate in HB 202 Would Begin Bad Precedent