March 25, 2015

FRANKFORT -- The Kentucky General Assembly's 2015 session came to a close tonight after Senate and House members reached an agreement on comprehensive anti-heroin legislation and a measure to expand protective orders to include dating violence victims

Lawmakers also gave late-night approval to a bill that will safeguard the revenue stream for the state's road projects by limiting how far gas taxes can drop when fuel prices fall.

Bills approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor will go into effect as state law in 90 days from today's adjournment, except for those that specify a different effective date or include an emergency clause that makes them effective as soon as they are signed into law.

Legislation approved by the 2015 General Assembly includes measures on the following topics:

Beer distributors. House Bill 168 will prevent beer distributorships from being owned by beer brewing companies. The bill is meant to affirm that beer is not exempt from the state's three-tier system of regulating and keeping separate alcoholic beverage producers, distributors and retailers.

Breeders' Cup. HB 134 will reinstate a tax break for the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland in Lexington this year. The legislation will waive the state?s excise tax on live pari-mutuel wagering for the event. The waiver of the pari-mutuel excise tax was reportedly worth about $750,000 the last time the event was at Churchill Downs in Louisville.

Charitable gaming.  Senate Bill 33 would allow electronic versions of pull-tab Bingo tickets at charitable Bingo halls.

Child abuse. SB 102 will allow a death caused by intentional abuse to be considered first-degree manslaughter.

Child booster seats. House Bill 315 will require booster seats to be used in motor vehicles by children who are less than eight years old and are between 40 and 57 inches in height.

Crowdfunding. HB 76 will help Kentucky entrepreneurs to gain investors through crowdfunding. The bill will allow people to invest up to $10,000 through a crowdfunding platform while helping businesses raise up to $2 million.

Dating violence. HB 8 will expand civil protective orders to cover dating violence victims, as well as victims of sexual abuse and stalking.

Drug abuse. HB 24 will prevent youth from misusing certain cough medicines to get high -- sometimes called "robotripping" by restricting access to medicines that contain dextromethorphan. The bill will prevent sales of dextromethorphan-based products, such as Robitussin-DM or Nyquil, to minors.

Early childhood development. HB 234 will require early child care and education programs to follow a state quality-based rating system.

Emergency responders. SB 161 will authorize the governor to order that U.S. flags be lowered to half-staff on state buildings if a Kentucky emergency responder dies in the line of duty.

End-of-life care. SB 77 will allow Kentuckians to use a health care directive known as a "medical order for scope of treatment. These orders spell out patients? wishes for end-of-life care. Unlike advance directives, the orders are considered to be physician?s orders and are signed by both the patient or patient's legal surrogate, and the patient's physician.

Gas tax. HB 299 will prevent the state gasoline tax which rises and falls with the price of gas from dropping below 26 cents per gallon when fuel prices are low.

Gambling. SB 28 will make it clear in the law that it's illegal for so-called Internet cafes to sell Internet access to play computer-based, casino-style games, or sweepstakes, in which customers can win cash prizes.

Heroin. SB 192 will increase prison sentences for heroin traffickers and expand addiction treatment programs. The measure will also allow local-option needle exchange programs, establish a "Good Samaritan" provision to shield from criminal charges those who call for help for an overdose victim, and expand the availability of Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of heroin overdoses.

Hunters. SB 55 will ensure that game meat can be donated to not-for-profit organizations to feed hungry people as long as the meat was properly field dressed and processed and is considered disease-free and unspoiled.

Kentucky Employees Retirement System. HB 62 will make sure the agencies that want to leave the Kentucky Employee Retirement System pay their part of the system?s unfunded liability.

Medical research center. HB 298 will make possible the construction of a state-of-the-art medical research center to target prevalent diseases in Kentucky, including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The legislation authorizes the issuance of $132.5 million in bonds to help build the research center at the University of Kentucky. The university will raise an equal amount for the $265 million research building.

Newborn health screening. SB 75 will require newborn health screenings to include checks for Krabbe Disease, an inherited disorder that affects the nervous system.

Retirement systems. HB 47 will add the Legislators' Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System to the Public Pension Oversight Board's review responsibilities.

Schools. SB 119 will give schools flexibility to deal with the unusually high number of "snow days caused by a harsh winter. The bill would give school districts until June 5 to complete all 1,062 school instructional hours required by the state. Any remaining hours that cannot be made up could be waived by the state. School days would not be allowed to exceed seven hours or be held on Saturdays. SB 119 also contains provisions that would require school administrators, teachers, office state, teaching assistants, coaches and other employed by a school district to receive training on ways to recognize and prevent on child abuse.

Sexual assault. Senate Joint Resolution 20 would direct the Auditor of Public Accounts to study the number of sexual assault examination kits in the possession of Kentucky police and prosecutors that have not been sent to the state's forensic lab for testing. The resolution is aimed at helping state officials know the scope of a backlog that needs attention.

Spina bifida.  SB 159 would require health care providers to give information about spina bifida and treatment options to parents whose unborn children have been diagnosed with the disorder.

Stroke care. SB 10 would improve care for stroke victims by requiring the state to make sure local emergency services have access to a list of all acute stroke-ready hospitals, comprehensive stroke centers, and primary stroke centers in Kentucky. Emergency medical services directors would be required to create protocols for assessment and treatment of stroke victims.

Telephone deregulation. HB 152 is aimed at modernizing telecommunications and allowing more investment in modern technologies by ending phone companies obligations to provide landline phone services to customers in urban and suburban areas if they provide service through another technology, such as mobile or an Internet-based phone service. While rural customers can keep landline phones they already have, newly constructed homes in rural areas won't be guaranteed landline services. 

Veterans. HB 209 would create "Gold Star Sibling" specialty license plates for Kentuckians with siblings who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. The plates would be based on the Gold Star plates already available to the parents and spouses of those who died while serving in the armed forces.

 

March 19, 2015
The 2015 legislative session is closing in on the end to the 10-day veto period with their return on March 23 and 24. During the veto period, the Governor decides which bills he wants to sign and which bills he will veto.  Any bill that is not acted upon by the Governor at the end of this veto recess period becomes law. When the General Assembly does reconvene, any legislation that has been vetoed by the Governor can be overridden with a constitutional majority vote in both chambers (51 in the House and 20 in the Senate).

 

 As of this writing, the Governor has signed 4 bills, including; $137 million in state bonding authority for a medical research facility at UK (HB 298), deregulation of traditional telephones services allowing for investment in new communications technologies (HB 152), and tax waiver incentives for the 2015 Breeder?s Cup at Keeneland (HB 134).  Remaining on the Governor?s desk are 28 Senate Bills and 27 House Bills having been enrolled and awaiting his action before the legislature returns. Among these are; legislation that will increase regulation of insurance requirements for transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft (SB 153), legislation creating the Kentucky Appalachian Regional Development fund (SB 168), legislation establishing the framework for permitting and regulation of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas drilling (SB 186), and legislation amending the 3-tier system for malt beverages to prohibit brewers from owning distributorships which forces Anheuser-Busch to sell its Kentucky distributorships (HB 168).

Big issues left unresolved when the legislature adjourned for the veto period include; legislation (HB 213) addressing the heroin epidemic in Kentucky amended to a Senate Bill (SB 192) that relates to health care services for inmates, legislation (SB 29) that proposes to freeze the current gas tax rate amended to a Department of Revenue bill (HB 299), legislation (HB 8) that extends domestic violence protections to dating couples, and legislation (SB 76) addressing public school bathroom assignment for transgender students that has been tied to legislation (HB 236) adding a student representative to school district search committees hiring superintendents.

Bills that appear destined for the 2015 graveyard include; legislation (HB1) providing for a constitutional amendment allowing for local option sales tax up to 1%, legislation (HB145), proposing a statewide indoor smoking ban, legislation (HB443) creating a statutory structure for public private partnerships on state transportation projects, legislation (HB 3) legalizing medical marijuana use, legislation (HB 2) raising the state minimum wage to $10.10/hour by 2017, legislation (SB 1) that would enact right-to-work provisions statewide,  legislation (SB 94) that would limit annual state debt payments to no more that 6% of revenues, and legislation (HB4) that would authorize a $3.3 billion state bond for unfunded liabilities in the Kentucky teacher retirement fund.

However, with all of this in mind, remember the quote attributed to the great Yogi Berra"? it ain?t over til? it?s over?? and sine die isn?t until midnight Tuesday, March 24, 2015 (unless they suspend the rules).

 
March 12, 2015

As a member of the KH&LA, we want to update you on the great news regarding HB 202, the proposed change in the transient room tax.  Throughout this legislative process, the KH&LA was clear in its concerns about broad based application of changes to the transient room tax.  Your calls to legislators over the past weeks made a difference.  We worked with our partners in the travel industry and legislative leaders to craft a more focused approach to the original goals of HB 202.

Last week, Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), Appropriations & Revenue chairman, led the effort in the Senate to craft a new version of the bill that removed the original bill?s state-wide impact while maintaining its intended goal of assisting local tourism.

With those changes KH&LA supported HB 202 as amended by the Senate committee.  The bill went back to the House where it received concurrence vote.  The bill is now on the Governor?s desk for his signature.  Congratulations to everyone in the travel and tourism industry.


Week of February 23, 2015
Today is the 20th day of the 2015 Legislative Session.  As we approach the home stretch, the pace in Frankfort has definitely picked up as legislators prepare for the final push.  Old man winter finally loosened its grip which allowed both Chambers to meet the full week.  This provided ample time for both the House and Senate to pass a number of bills that are being closely watched across the state.  This includes the Heroin Bill (SB5) which requires mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of trafficking; HB 298 which provides the University of Kentucky $137 million in bonds to construct a new medical research facility; and the "P3 Bill” or HB443 which passed the House and has moved on to the Senate.  Support for these bills continue to build and they have the two factors—consensus and urgency—needed to pass any legislation.

There were also several bills that lost some momentum this week and their fate is somewhat less clear.  This includes the highly visible LIFT Bill (HB1) which is a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize state lawmakers to give local voters the right to approve a temporary once cent sales tax and the "Smoke Free Kentucky Bill” (HB145) which bans smoking and the use of e-cigarettes indoors and within 15 feet of public areas.

 The Trail attorneys are continuing to push workers compensation changes, including doubling of attorney fees and changing of benefit formulas.  This anti business effort will likely happen in the final hours.

The final two weeks of the 2015 Legislative Session promises to be both interesting and busy and proponents and opponents prepare to make their final case.

·        SB 3 and HB 152- Called the "AT&T Bills” the proposed legislation has bipartisan co-sponsors and removes requirements that major phone carriers have to provide basic landline phone service in rural areas.  If passed, the legislation would allow the companies to utilize the savings realized to invest in Internet and other advanced technologies. HB 152 cleared the House and has been sent to the Senate.

·        HB4- The state operates two large pension funds—Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) and Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS). KTRS is significantly underfunded and in the future, will not be able to cover the lifetime pension and health coverage that is guaranteed to its retirees. This bill authorizes $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the massive shortfall. The bill cleared the House earlier in the week and has been sent to the Senate.

·        HB 8- Extends domestic violence protection to couples who are dating.  If passed, Kentucky would be the last state to extend this provision to non-married couples.

·        SB 29- Seeks to raise the floor on the gas tax to prevent the loss of an estimated $129 million in funding for road projects. The tax is currently calculated at 9 percent of the average wholesale price.  While the "floor” for this tax is $1.78 until recently, prices have been higher, and there was little chance that gas prices would fall this low.  SB 29 proposes raising the floor to $2.35which was the average wholesale price in January. 

·        SB 74- Proposes developing a statewide lottery game that is tied to horse racing. 

·        HB 132- Includes a provision that makes tax credits given to the film and other targeted industries non-refundable.

·        HB 202 – passed the House Friday 66-25 allows excess money collected from hotel/motel room tax to be used to defray the costs to operate, renovate, or expand a governmental or nonprofit convention center or fine arts center.  The newest version of this bill impacts communities outside Louisville and Lexington.

Week of February 16, 2015

Yesterday (February 20) was the 16th day and the halfway point for the 2015 Legislative Session. This week, Frankfort Kentucky came to a freezing halt—both figuratively and literally—as the state grappled with more than a foot of snow and subzero temperatures. On Monday, the General Assembly observed Presidents Day and as Kentuckians and local communities worked to recover from winter’s latest punch, House and Senate leaders agreed to cancel Tuesday’s legislative day. But Wednesday brought the real freeze in the legislature when House and Senate members could not agree to cancel the legislative day. The decision to do so was finally reached hours before the opening of the Senate. Many expected the entire week to be called off as arctic like temperatures continued to be a problem for most of the state. The Senate however opted to work through the remainder of the week, while the House announced they would not meet due to the weather and travel conditions.

This divide will present an interesting challenge in the days ahead. Both the House and Senate have the right to open its Chamber and use the remaining legislative days –like the Senate did on Thursday and Friday. However, the legislative days count against both bodies equally and reduce the number of days available to pass legislation. In a "short session” like the current one, this can be problematic. Welcome to the Frankfort freeze. Let’s hope the weather changes soon.

Also this week, Governor Beshear released a Medicaid expansion report that analyzes the impact and benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and several closely watched bills died: SB 1 would have made Kentucky a "Right to Work” state. HB 3 would have amended the law to allow the use of medical marijuana and SB 9 would have exempted public schools from paying prevailing wage on construction projects.

In the coming days, two factors will determine what legislation is passed: consensus and urgency. As we approach the final stretch of the session, the bills below have the most momentum in both Chambers and will be closely watched.

HB 1- Referred to as LIFT, this proposed constitutional amendment would authorize state lawmakers to give local voters the right to approve a temporary one cent sales tax. This bill passed the House, goes to the Senate.

SB 3 and HB 152 - Called the "AT&T Bills” the proposed legislation has bipartisan co-sponsors and removes requirements that major phone carriers have to provide basic landline phone service in rural areas. If passed, the legislation would allow the companies to utilize the savings realized to invest in Internet and other advanced technologies.

HB 4 - The state operates two large pension funds—Kentucky Retirement Systems and Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System— that, combined, covers nearly 500,000 teachers, state and local government employees and retired educators. This bill authorizes $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the shortfall needed to provide the guaranteed lifetime pension and health coverage for these groups.

SB 5 - The "Heroin Bill” requires mandatory prison sentences for those convicted of trafficking this highly addictive drug. The bill also directs millions to local jails and mental health programs for expanded treatment options and establishes a "good Samaritan” rule to encourage drug users to report and overdose in exchange for deferred prosecution on related drug charges. This bill has passed the Senate and has been sent to the House.

HB 8 - Extends domestic violence protection to couples who are dating. If passed, Kentucky would be the last state to extend this protection to non-married couples.

SB 29 - Seeks to raise the floor on the gas tax to prevent the loss of an estimated $129 million in funding for road projects. This tax is set against the variable Avg. Wholesale Price.

SB 74 - Proposes developing a statewide lottery game that is tied to horse racing. The bill was passed by the Senate.

HB 132 - Includes a provision that makes tax credits given to the film and other targeted industries non-refundable.

HB 145 - Commonly referred to as "Smoke free Kentucky bill,” this proposed legislation bans smoking and the use of e-cigarettes indoors and within 15 feet of public areas. A "grandfather clause” for existing bans established by local governments is included. The bill passed the House and has been sent to the Senate.

HB 298 - Provides UK $137 million in bonds for the construction of a "multidisciplinary medical research center,” passed the House.

HB 443 - Public Private Partnership (P3) - A financing tool available in 40 other states and is used to support large infrastructure projects. The Bill is awaiting review in A&R.
 

Week of February 9, 2015

Friday marked the 13th day for the 2015 Legislative Session.  There were a number of important developments as well as a number of bills that passed through the House and the Senate.

In the House:

·        HB 1-commonly referred to as LIFT, or Local Investment for Transformation, is a proposed constitutional amendment that would authorize state lawmakers to give local voters the right to approve a temporary one cent sales tax for local projects has passed

.·        HB 2-which increase Kentucky’s minimum wage to $10.10 by July 2017 has passed.

·        HB 4-authorizes $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the growing unfunded liability for the state’s teachers’ retirement system passed the A&R committee.

·        HB 213and SB 5- which creates a tiered penalty system for heroin traffickers. The bill emphasizes the four areas outlined by the Heroin Impact Task Force of treatment, prevention, support and protection. has passed committee and is awaiting action by the Senate. SB 5 passed and is awaiting action by the House.

·        HB 298- authorizing $137 million in bonds for a new UK research center passed the A&R committee.

·        HB 443-a P3 bill was filed and assigned today to the A&R committee. This tool is used in 40 states and is used to fund stalled construction roads, bridges, convention centers and university projects.

 Also, the House Committee killed SB1, or the "Right-to-work” legislation. This bill would have allowed for employees to work in unionized shops without paying dues. 

In the Senate:

·        SB 3- which removes requirements that telephone companies offer landline service to everyone and would invest the savings in newer technologies has passed the Senate. It is unclear if this bill will pass the House.

·        SB 29-which raises the floor on the gas tax to levels that will maintain the gas tax at its current level, did not move this week. 

 ·        SB82- which allows for residents to donate their income tax returns directly to a pediatric research center unanimously passed the Senate. 

Also this week, Rotunda Group founding partner Tony Sholar spoke at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s President’s conference on Wednesday. 

Next week, the session will start on Tuesday as Monday is a legislative holiday and neither chamber will be in session.   Tuesday is the last day to file a bill in the House while Friday is the last day to file a bill in the Senate.


Week of February 2, 2015

Friday marked the eighth day of the 30 day Session.  Legislation is flying fast, including more than 100 bills being filed on Friday alone.  To date, 352 House Bills and 172 Senate Bills and more than 500 amendments to these bills have been filed.  For your review, we have included 30 bills we are monitoring.  Two main bills we worked on this week were:  

HB 2 – Minimum Wage – Speaker Greg Stumbo’s bill to increase the Minimum wage to $10.10 per hour over a three year period cleared the House Labor & Industry Committee this week.  Tom Underwood testified against the bill, citing the job destruction and "wage creep” that would be the result of its implementation.  The bill will proceed to the House Floor for a likely vote next week.  In 2014, this bill passed the House by a narrow margin and failed to get a vote in the Senate.  Increases for Tipped Employees are not currently a part of the bill, but a Floor Amendment including them is likely. 

HB  344 - Local Option Sales Tax – Rep. Tommy Thompson’s constitutional amendment bill would ask Kentucky citizens to allow local governments to levy a 1% sales tax on top of the state 6% sales tax.  The tax increase would have to be approved by the citizens of the local government area and would be tied to the construction of a specific capital project.  When the project bonds were paid off, the tax would "sunset.”  Proponents say that cities and counties are currently hamstrung in raising new revenues for transformative initiatives for their communities.  Opponents say that the patchwork of tax levies and reporting would create a bureaucratic nightmare.  The bill is expected to be heard in a House Committee next week. 

Other issues that dominated this week’s agenda were:
•     Placing a statewide ban on smoking in restaurants, bars and other public places and workplaces
•     Allow for the use of Public Private Partnerships or P3s to finance major projects in Kentucky
•     Stabilize the state’s road fund by placing a floor price below which the wholesale price of gas could not decrease 

Most important to the hotel and lodging industry is the filing of HB 202, the Transient Room tax bill filed by Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro).  This bill was reported to you several months at a board meeting and, as reported, it has been introduced.   The bill amends KRS 91A.392 to allow excess money collected from the transient room tax to be used to defray the costs to operate, renovate, or expand a governmental or nonprofit convention center or fine arts center if an amount equal to one year’s required debt service is held in reserve to satisfy any future debt service obligations of the bond. 

The Kentucky Hotel & Lodging Association is currently opposed to this bill.  Please call your state legislator at: 1-800-372-7181 - Legislative Message Line
Action needed:  Give your name, tell them your hotel and its location address so they can get you to your particular Senator and Representative.
Message:  I am OPPOSED TO HB 202, as any excess monies collected from the transient room tax should not be diverted to other uses.