When the 2016 session of the Kentucky General Assembly ended April 15, Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson told members of the media that the session was highly productive for the business community and for the Commonwealth as a whole.
“The state budget and pension problems dominated the session,” said Adkisson, “and we at the Kentucky Chamber, think Frankfort made major strides in getting the state’s house in order. With more than a billion additional dollars committed to pensions, Frankfort sent a strong signal to Wall Street that Kentucky is stepping up to its obligations to public employees and retirees.”
The budget, passed in the final hours of the session, included more than $1 billion in funding for the state’s pension system, includes criteria for performance-based funding for higher education, a $100 million bond for workforce development, no cuts to K-12 education, and 4.5% cuts to higher education.
In addition to funding the state pension system, the legislative session also saw the passage of several Chamber-supported pieces of legislation including the authorization of public-private partnerships, legislation that will expunge some non-violent Class D felonies, which could provide work opportunities for thousands of individuals who are currently limited by a single past mistake, and the modernization of Kentucky’s alcohol laws.
One of the Chamber’s top priorities, House Bill 309, which authorizes public-private partnerships (P3), was successfully signed into law this session after being vetoed by Gov. Beshear two years ago and dying in the Senate last year. The Chamber began advocating for P3 legislation after its publication of “Private Solutions to Public Problems” in 2013.
“With the passage of House Bill 309, the legislature sent a strong signal to Kentucky’s business community, local governments, contractors and workforce that Kentucky is open for business and serious about forging ahead to provide needed infrastructure and services in an innovative fashion,” said Adkisson.
Warren Rogers, president of W. Rogers Company, applauded the Chamber for its leadership in getting HB 309 passed.
“Without the clout and the experience of the Chamber, even a common sense bill like P3, could not get passed through such a divided legislature,” said Rogers. “Their experience and leadership made the difference. Now Kentucky has the most comprehensive P3 infrastructure financing statute in the country.”
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors voted in November to help address Kentucky’s qualified workforce shortage by for the first time supporting legislation that will expunge some non-violent Class D felonies, which could provide work opportunities for thousands of individuals who are currently limited by a single past mistake. Such a bill had been introduced in the Kentucky legislature for many years and would pass the House but had never received a hearing in the Senate.
The version of House Bill 40 that passed both legislative chambers and was signed into law by the governor requires a judge to vacate the felony before having it expunged, contains a five-year waiting period and limits the number of felonies that would be applicable for expungement.
Upon the bill’s passage, bill sponsor Rep. Darryl Owens thanked the Kentucky Chamber for our support of the legislation.
“Having the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement was truly the turning point on the road to success, and convincing the Chamber’s Board and members that House Bill 40 is a workforce issue was the crucial first step in capturing the Senate’s ultimate approval,” said Owens.
“Scores of Kentuckians will experience life-changing opportunities once their record is expunged and, in turn, our Commonwealth will be a more compassionate and economically viable place to live.”
Omnibus alcohol legislation (SB 11) was also passed in the House and Senate, assisting Kentucky distillers, wineries and brewers, among others, by modernizing alcohol laws thereby putting distillers on equal footing with wineries and brewers in the Commonwealth.
“The Kentucky Distillers Association and its member distilleries have been working the last two years to modernize Kentucky’s archaic alcohol laws, particularly regarding our Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tours, to leverage the Bourbon boom,” said KDA President Eric Gregory. “The Chamber has been a tireless partner in this effort and we greatly appreciate their unwavering support. Senate Bill 11 is landmark legislation and a giant step out of Prohibition-era policies that will create jobs, spur investment and level the playing field with beer and wine. We applaud and thank the Chamber for its terrific work and partnership in elevating our signature spirit.”