What You Need To Know, March 19, 2018 – Regular Session (2018)

legislative-update-2018

What You Need To Know, March 19, 2018 – Regular Session (2018)

Crunch Time

With only eight working days left in the 2018 legislative session, the most significant hurdle policymakers face is the dwindling amount of time remaining to address priority bills, including passage of the biennial state budget and road plan. On Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers alluded to the possibility that leaders may change the legislative calendar to address the priorities that remain. The current calendar calls for the legislature to meet through Thursday of this week, then return on Tuesday and Wednesday next week to take up concurrence votes in each Chamber. Senator Stivers commented that the only hard deadlines are April 2, the last day the legislature can pass bills and still maintain their ability to override gubernatorial vetoes and April 14, the day they must adjourn as set by the state Constitution (April 15 falls on a Sunday this year). So how might this play out? Here’s the KAM take:

Budget
We anticipate that the Senate will consider their proposed changes to the executive branch budget, HB 200, as early as tomorrow. Leaders are on record as saying the likelihood of including increased revenue as the House did by raising the cigarette tax and implementing an opioid tax are very slim. Without the infusion of additional funds, the Senate’s budget will look much more like what Governor Bevin proposed, containing significant cuts to state government agencies, K-12 education, and state universities.

Tax Reform
When the House passed their revenue-raising bill, HB 366, several weeks ago, they did so with the disclaimer that the measure was a “placeholder” for comprehensive tax reform, which they said they planned to address this session. No proposal has been released publicly, but conversations are occurring privately. The Senate’s position has been they are opposed to “one-off” tax increases, like the cigarette tax and opioid tax included in HB 366, and that such increases should be considered as part of comprehensive tax reform. The question becomes, will the budget be so dire that policymakers have no other choice than to tackle comprehensive reform in the remaining eight days of this session?

Pension Reform
The momentum for pension reform has shifted dramatically, as teachers and state employees continue to protest proposed changes daily at the Capitol. SB 1 remains in the Senate State and Local Government Committee and at this moment, it doesn’t appear there’s an appetite to take it up – outside of additional changes to the bill. Does this mean pension reform is dead this session? Not necessarily. It would not be unusual to see Senate and House leaders emerge from budget negotiations with a deal to address other pressing issues, like pension reform. The likelihood of that happening is anyone’s guess at this point, but one thing is clear: Until the legislature adjourns sine die, anything can happen.

Workers’ Compensation Reforms
A KAM priority dating back to the 2017 regular session has been reforming the state’s outdated workers’ compensation system. HB 2, which contains these comprehensive reforms, is poised to move this week in the Senate. Please continue to reach out to your State Senators and ask that they support these reforms. There is opposition to the bill, and we need as many calls to legislators as possible to ensure that HB 2 passes this session.

Transportation Infrastructure Reform
HB 609, the transportation infrastructure reform bill, sponsored by Rep. Sal Santoro, has been getting more discussion recently and could be brought up this week in the House Transportation Committee. The bill raises the gas tax by 10 cents, raising about $300 million for state and local governments and increases other license and registration fees in the amount of $91 million for the state road fund. Please contact your Senator and Representative by phone or email and let them know you support HB 609.

Other Bills
SB 160, legislation sponsored by Senator Rick Girdler, modernizes the statute which prohibits “grossly excessive” price increases by sellers of goods and services during a state of emergency declared by the Governor. Last week the bill passed the House committee and is scheduled to be voted on the House floor TODAY. It’s not too late – Please call your State Representative and ask that they vote YES on SB 160.

HB 227, sponsored by Rep. Jim Gooch, is the net metering legislation that will address inequities in how renewable energy users receive credit for excess energy they produce. Currently, all other users subsidize users of renewable energy, like those with solar panels. HB 227 passed the House last week. This legislation is needed to keep the cost of energy affordable for Kentucky manufacturers. Call your State Senator and ask that they support HB 227.

HB 324, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge, is legislation that will protect critical infrastructure in the state, like chemical plants, from the unregulated use of drones around these essential assets of infrastructure. The bill awaits action in the Senate Judiciary committee. Call your State Senator and ask them to support HB 324.

HB 370 is legislation sponsored by Rep. Robby Mills to update the state’s brownfields statute to make the program more accessible and easier for property cleanup. This bill is a product of compromise between KAM, the administration, and environmental interests. HB 370 passed the Senate committee last week, and we expect a floor vote this week. Call your State Senator and ask them to support HB 370.

Keeping you informed . . .
As in past years, we will continue to communicate with you weekly with bill tracking lists on the KAM Homepage (Bill Tracking), 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 have resumed our KAM Conversation Conference Calls on Thursdays, and invite KAM Members to call and take part in this dialog every Thursday during the 2018 Legislative Session. The information for the call is:

  • Call-in Number:        877-746-4263
  • Participant Code:     0219774#

Calendar & Key Dates
You can access the session calendar HERE and the committee meeting schedule 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:

  • March 27-28 – Concurrence Days
  • March 29-April 9 – Veto Recess
  • April 13 – Sine Die

Meet the KAM Governmental Affairs Team here.

Don’t know who your elected representatives are? Click here to reach the Action Center of the Kentucky Prosperity Project to find this and other important information to help you make your opinion heard on matters affecting you and your business! You can also purchase a Kentucky General Assembly Blue Book from KAM, or purchase the companion KAM Blue Book App for Apple and Android products from their respective app stores.

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