The General Assembly brought the 2015 Regular Session to a close in the early morning hours of March 25. This session, which Governor Beshear called a “remarkable success” saw the passage of some important legislation, but much work remains to be done to move the Commonwealth forward.
Legislation supported by GLI that will become law includes:
Anti-Heroin Abuse – Among GLI’s top legislative priorities for this session was addressing the heroin epidemic affecting Kentucky. Negotiations between the House and Senate in a conference committee on SB 192, successfully yielded a compromise bill that the Governor has already signed into law. The final bill combines many provisions that were found in each chamber’s original versions, including $24 million to fund treatment programs; a “Good Samaritan” clause, which protects individuals who report an overdose from prosecution on drug charges; expanded use of the anti-overdose drug Naloxone by first-responders; and provisions that allow local governments to establish needle exchange programs, which help prevent the spread of blood-borne disease. The final legislation also includes tougher penalties for heroin dealers. An individual caught with a kilogram of heroin or more now faces a Class B felony but someone with less than two grams would not be considered a dealer unless they are found with other paraphernalia or with two grams over 90 days.
Crowdfunding – House Bill 76, sponsored by Rep. Steve Riggs (D-Louisville), will allow Kentucky investors to participate in crowdfunding, which allows non-accredited investors to invest limited amounts of capital in start-up ventures. GLI was very supportive of this legislation that passed the General Assembly and was signed by the Governor.
Early Childhood Education – One of GLI’s top long term priorities is to improve funding and quality for early childhood education. The General Assembly took a big step in that direction this session with the passage of House Bill 234, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Graham (D-Frankfort) that puts in place a quality rating system for child care providers, supported by a $44 million Race to the Top grant.
EPAD – House Bill 100, sponsored by Rep. James Kay (D-Versailles), would enable local governments to establish energy project assessment districts to allow for the financing of energy efficiency projects through assessments on properties participating in the program. The bill passed and was signed by Governor Beshear.
Pension Reform Measures – HB 62 ensures that any entity choosing to withdraw from the Kentucky Retirement System must repay their unfunded liability. In addition, HB 47 added the Legislative, Judicial and Teachers’ Retirement Systems to the Public Pension Oversight Board.
Stabilizing the Road Fund – A conference committee on House Bill 299 successfully reached a compromise that will prohibit a significant loss of revenue to the state’s Road Fund. The compromise sets a new gas tax floor at 26 cents, changes the calculation of the gas tax from quarterly to annually, and provides a 10% limit on how much it can decrease or increase in any year. This is a significant win for Louisville’s transportation system that GLI was proud to support.
Telecommunication Reform – House Bill 152, sponsored by Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford), has already been signed by Governor Beshear and will remove antiquated regulations and allow Kentucky to modernize its telecommunications system. GLI was very supportive of the House and Senate efforts to pass this important legislation.
Legislation Opposed by GLI that was defeated:
Minimum Wage – House Bill 2, which would raise Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2017, passed the House but was never considered in the Senate. GLI is opposed to increasing the minimum wage on the state level because it would create a competitive disadvantage to other states.