2016 Legislature…Week One ReportKAM
With one week down in the 2016 session of the General Assembly, we are already keeping our eye on the calendar. There are three dates in particular that will dictate the session:
January 26 – This date has double importance. Not only will Governor Bevin deliver his State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address, but this is also the candidate filing deadline when legislators will know if they have an election opponent. First, on Governor Bevin’s address, we are interested to see what policy priorities Bevin will focus on in his first speech to the legislature. This address will be the first time he will be translating his campaign issues into actual legislative proposals. More importantly, Governor Bevin will kick off the budget process by officially presenting his budget to the General Assembly. This is a budget session, meaning that lawmakers are expected to pass a two-year spending plan before they adjourn in mid-April. Most are expecting Bevin to present an austere proposal, using excess funds to shore up Kentucky’s underfunded pensions. Passing a budget will be no easy task given the political environment that currently exists in Frankfort.
The other important event on January 26 is the legislative candidate filing deadline. This date always looms large early in the session as legislative leadership likes to know which members have a primary or general election opponent before subjecting these members to tough votes on controversial issues. This year the filing deadline is even more notable given the tense political situation in the state House, where the Democrat majority in the House has dwindled from 54-46 to 50-46 with four special elections to be held on March 8.
March 8 – In the last twenty years, we cannot recall a special election day during a session that has the potential to significantly impact a legislative session. If Republicans sweep these open seats, the House would be at a 50-50 tie. It’s difficult to comprehend what possible power-sharing scenarios that would bring, but it will significantly impact the House at a time in the legislative process when they are passing their version of the budget. One thing for sure, it appears the House will be focused more on its internal politics than passing a lot of legislation until March 8.
April 12 – This is currently scheduled as the final day of the 2016 Session. We are watching this date, not only because it signals the end of the session, but because it will be interesting to see what issues the General Assembly will be able to address given the politics noted above. The pension issue continues to get the most conversation of any issue facing this General Assembly. This week, Speaker Stumbo filed House Bill 1, a proposal to shore up the KY Teachers Retirement system with $3.3 billion in bonding. This proposal, although very popular with teachers unions, seems to have very little support in the State Senate or with new Republican Governor Matt Bevin. Both seem to favor making benefit cuts to the pension systems and shoring them up with an infusion of cash by reducing funding to other programs across state government, not a popular approach with House Democrats.
Other top priority bills for this session include the 13 bills rolled out by the Senate GOP Majority this week. A couple of those Senate bills that KAM will be watching are SB 1 (Sen. Mike Wilson) – “Education Reform” and SB 3 (Sen. Robert Stivers) – “Right to Work.” With Senate committee meetings beginning this week, we expect many of the Senate GOP priorities to move quickly through the Senate, but their future is less certain in the House, if it continues to be controlled by Democrats. The House Democrats have reserved House Bill numbers 2-10 and we expect those to eventually be assigned to their top priorities in the weeks ahead.
Keeping You Informed
As in past years, we will continue to communicate with you weekly with bill tracking lists (click HERE to download current bill list), summaries of legislative actions and dynamics, and specific bills of interest. We will also, of course, contact you immediately as issues of particular interest or concern arise.
We will also resume our KAM Conversation Conference Calls on Thursday, January 14, at 4:00 EST, and invite KAM Members to call and take part in this dialog every Thursday during the 2016 Legislative Session.
Calendar & Key Dates
You can access the session calendar HERE. Please keep in mind that this calendar can change if the legislature decides to shift days. We will let you know if that happens; however they must adjourn by April 15, according to the Constitution. Below are specific dates of interest.
February 15 – Presidents’ Day (Legislative Holiday, No Session)
February 19 – Last day for bill requests
February 29 – Last day for new House bills
March 2 – Last day for new Senate bills
March 25 and 28 – Concurrence Only
March 29-April 8 – Veto Recess
April 12 – Sine Die