Week 2 – Regular Session (2017)

Week 2 – Regular Session (2017)

The General Assembly reconvened in regular session this week. You will recall that the legislature was in session January 3-7, when they passed a record seven bills in five days, including Right to Work and repeal of prevailing wage. Week two didn’t find them quite as productive, but there were several items of note for KAM members:

Remaining Priorities – Though the legislature acted on some of their key priorities the first week of the session, there are still items left that both chambers and the Governor want to address this session, including:

  • Medical Liability Reform
  • Charter Schools & Education Reforms
  • Criminal Justice Reforms
  • Postsecondary Education Performance Funding
  • University Board Reorganization Powers

Tax Reform Dominates SOTC

Governor Bevin gave his State of the Commonwealth Address on Wednesday where he highlighted several issues he hopes will come out of the session. However, the issues that he doesn’t expect to be considered this session stole the show. Pension and tax reform, which are expected to be tackled in a special session later this year, were the focus of much of the conversation after the speech. The Governor highlighted the state’s $82 billion unfunded liability in its public employee pensions as the need to address tax reform and clean up the state’s balance sheet. Obviously, to generate more revenue to put into the pension funds, taxes must be raised and/or sales tax exemptions will need to be removed. The idea of raising taxes was received cautiously by the Republican Majority Leadership in each chamber. KAM is prepared to fight to make Kentucky’s tax code the best in the nation for manufacturers.

KAM Priorities – As we do in every session, KAM will focus our legislative efforts on issues that help make Kentucky manufacturing competitive in areas like:

  • Improving workforce development;
  • Making Kentucky’s tax code friendly to manufacturers;
  • Continuing a stable energy & environmental climate; and
  • Addressing overhead issues like tort reform, workers’ compensation, and health insurance mandates.

Given those priorities, here are a few bills being considered by the General Assembly of which we want you to be aware:

Trespassing on Critical InfrastructureSB 51, sponsored by Sen. Westerfield (R-Hopkinsville) & HB 291, sponsored by Rep. St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) are bills that both deal with regulating the operation of unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones. Legislation has been considered on these topics over the past few legislative sessions and KAM has always advocated for protection from the flying of drones over critical infrastructure that includes many of our KAM members’ facilities, like chemical plants. We are working with the sponsors of SB 51 & HB 291 and remain committed to protecting critical assets from trespassing with a drone, while balancing that against the business needs of many of our members.

Workers’ Compensation ReformHB 296, sponsored by Rep. Koenig (R-Erlanger) is an effort by employers to improve the efficiency and reduce the cost of the workers’ comp system for employers. The main provisions in the bill deal with getting injured employees back to work quicker, clarifying provisions that are in law already that have been eroded by the courts and administrative interpretations, and establishing an appropriate duration for medical claims. KAM has been involved in the discussions on this legislation and we remain committed to pursuing the provisions in this bill that will help reduce the cost of the workers’ comp system for our members.

Workforce Development – Several bills of interest to KAM members that seek to increase skill and degree attainment for future workers have been filed:

  • Work Ready ScholarshipsHB 205, by Rep. Carney (R-Campbellsville) & HB 264, by Rep. Rand (D-Bedford) are similar bills that have the goal of providing a scholarship to students to make tuition free at KCTCS. The bills differ slightly, but they both seem to be trying to achieving a similar goal to the Governor’s executive order that created this scholarship program in December.
  • Postsecondary Performance FundingSB 153, by Senate President Pro-Tem David Givens creates a comprehensive funding model for public universities that takes into account several performance-based factors, like: STEM degrees awarded, improvement in degree attainment for low income students, and degree completion.

Civil Justice Reforms – This session is likely to bring significant movement on tort reform issues, though probably not a constitutional amendment providing for caps on punitive damages. However, significant movement can be made this session on several civil justice reforms. Rep. Nemes (R-Louisville) has filed HB 281 Transparency in Attorney General Contracting (TPAC) to bring transparency to the procurement process used by the Attorney General to hire outside plaintiffs’ attorneys to handle civil litigation. In addition, HB 223 filed by Rep. Fischer (R-Ft. Wright) amends Kentucky’s statutes to move a variety of judgment interest rates from 12% to 6%. KAM sees these bills as positive steps to improving Kentucky’s legal climate for our members.

Keeping You Informed

As in past years, we will continue to communicate with you weekly with bill tracking lists on the KAM Homepage (www.KAM.us.com), 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 at 4:00 EST, and invite KAM Members to call and take part in this dialog every Thursday during the 2017 Legislative Session. The information for the call is:

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

Looking Ahead

One calendar issue that was dispelled this week, was that the Speaker and Senate President said that there would not be enough time to deal with the issues before them this session and “save” five legislative days for the special session expected later in the year. The current Legislative Calendar and Committee Meeting Schedule can be viewed online, but here are a few dates of interest:

  • February 16 – Last day for new Senate Bills
  • February 17 – Last day for new House bills
  • February 20 – Legislative Holiday (Presidents’ Day)
  • March 14-15 – Concurrence Days
  • March 16-28 – Veto Recess
  • March 29-30 – Final two legislative days before Sine Die Adjournment

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!

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