KENTUCKY (4/20/14) — The gavel fell last Tuesday, and it was over.
Fifty-nine legislative days had come to a close in the halls of the Kentucky Capitol, and it was time for lawmakers to go home.
By daylight, the stories on what had been accomplished over the last two days of the session were being read on paper and on screens statewide. Front and center in the news: the General Assembly had passed a $5.1 billion two–year state Road Plan (HB 237) along with a bill (HB 236) to fund it all. It was a great accomplishment for lawmakers, who struggled to reach agreement on the plan until the session’s final hours.
The massive plan, which authorizes road and bridge projects through fiscal year 2016, does not include all the projects that members wanted. It also does not rely on an increase in the state gasoline tax to boost state road funds—a proposal whose time had come and gone before the veto recess. But it was agreeable to a majority of lawmakers in the end, as was another piece of legislation (House Joint Resolution 62) that prioritizes state road projects through 2020 in the “six-year road plan”— essentially a promise to lawmakers that important road projects not funded this time around will likely be funded two years from now.
Roads mean jobs for any state, any community. They are important in attracting industry, tourism, and educational opportunities. More isolated counties in the state, especially in Eastern Kentucky, have struggled for decades to provide access to higher education in the region for its residents. But another accomplishment this session, the passage of HB 2, designed to boost the number of bachelor’s degree holders in Eastern Kentucky, will help change that.
Passed on a final vote of 96-3 in the House, HB 2 will expand the Kentucky Coal County College Completion Scholarship pilot program created by the governor in 2012 to all 34 coal counties in Kentucky, both east and west. Changes made to the bill in the Senate on the final day and approved by the House will require pharmacy students receiving the scholarships to live in coal counties, and require that funds not spent on pharmacy students go to osteopathic medicine scholarships, along with other provisions.
There were more successes, on the final day in the final hours of the session, which include:
- HB 301, which streamlines the Small Business Tax Credit Program overseen by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority. The bill, which received final passage by a vote of 85-11 in the House, was changed in the final hours to include various coal projects, exempt recreational vehicles sold at retail from local ad valorem tax, and require the city of Lexington to reimburse $2,500,000 in coal severance funds to the state that were transferred to Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government for planning and design of renovations to Rupp Arena.
- HB 208, a state government reorganization bill that was amended by the Senate and received final passage by the House on a vote of 99-0. The changes to the bill, made in the final hours Tuesday, expands the amount of the Endow Kentucky tax credit available to taxpayers providing endowment gifts to permanent endowment funds of qualified funds or foundations to $1 million each fiscal year starting on or after July 1, 2016. The total tax credit awarded between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016 is $500,000.
- SB 108, a parental rights bill forbidding parental rights to someone whose child was born as a result of an act of rape committed by them. Parental rights could only be granted at the request of the mother, and offenders would have to pay child support unless that obligation is waived by either the mother or public agency supporting the child. The bill received final passage by a vote of 93-0 in the House.
- HB 359, which will allow courts to order continuous alcohol monitoring devices as a condition of pretrial release, pretrial diversion, probation and conditional discharge. It would also make continuous alcohol monitoring a potential sanction for a “substantial violation” of a domestic violence protection order. The monitoring would not be a sentencing option for indigent defendants who are solely responsible for their own costs. The bill received final passage by a vote of 85-0 in the House.
- HB 154, which received final passage in the House by a vote of 70-30, specifies annual training requirements for school board members and school superintendents, requires certification of school finance officers hired on or after July 1, 2015 while specifying annual training requirements for those officers, and requires an annual review of school district financial reports. The legislation also clarifies that those seeking initial employment as a school finance officer on or after July 1, 2015 must hold a certificate of legal qualification issued by the state Department of Education.
Information provided by Brent Yonts
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