FRANKFORT, Ky. (February 23, 2015) – Hazardous winter weather conditions halted legislative action in the House of Representatives last week; however, in the prior week, the engines of policymaking were running at full speed in the state House where a minimum wage increase bill and other major proposals moved another step through the legislative process.
On Tuesday, February 10th, a House bill to gradually raise the government-mandated state minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to a rate of $10.10 an hour by 2017 was approved in the House chamber by a vote of 56-43. The House did not approve a proposed amendment filed to the bill—House Bill 2—that would have changed the proposed wage increase to a rate of $8.00 an hour starting July 2015, with that rate adjusted annually for cost of living.
Proponents of HB 2 believe it will provide a so-called living wage for minimum wage workers. Opponents, however, say the bill would hurt business—especially small business—in an economy that has still not fully recovered. Opponents also believe that the Commonwealth should focus on ways to bring more good paying jobs with opportunities for advancement to the state instead of focusing on jobs that pay a minimum wage because many are entry level position that offer valuable experience for advanced positions. HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Lined up for a House floor vote on Thursday were more than a dozen major House proposals, including two proposed changes to the Kentucky Constitution: HB 1, a proposed amendment that would give the state the authority to allow a local option sales tax vote to fund specific projects, passed the House on a 62-35 vote, and HB 70, a perennial proposal that would automatically restore voting rights to non-violent felons who have served their sentence, should the amendment receive statewide voter approval, passed the House 86-12.
Following the passage of HB 1, the House also voted 57-38 to approve HB 344, which would set requirements for a local option sales tax levy should the proposed amendment allowing such a tax be approved during the November 2016 general election. If approved, HB 344 would take effect in January 2017.
All three of the proposals now go with HB 2 to the Senate for consideration.
Anyone affected by—or interested in–Kentucky’s growing heroin problem was paying attention Wednesday when a House anti-heroin bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee. HB 213, as amended by the committee, was passed on Friday of that week with strong bipartisan support.
Provisions in the bill include: increased prison time for higher level heroin traffickers; criminal and civil immunity for first responders, like paramedics, who would be allowed to carry and administer the rescue drug naloxone in cases of heroin overdose; expanded mental health and drug treatment using savings from the state’s penal code reforms, and creation of a “Good Samaritan” rule to give legal protections to those who report an overdose, among other provisions.
Other highly-publicized bills that passed the chamber the week before last include: HB 8, a bill that passed 98-0 on Thursday that would combat dating violence by allowing dating couples, for the first time, to seek immediate civil protective orders in Kentucky in cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse, or stalking while streamlining the protective order process for all victims; and HB 69, passed by the House on a 66-29 vote on Monday, would require most health plans to cover complete colorectal cancer screenings and tests without additional costs to the patient. Those bills are now headed to the Senate, too.
Public pensions have been in the news quite a bit as recent General Assemblies have made budget adjustments to increase the required contributions to lagging public retirement funds. This session, a proposal to authorize up to $3.3 billion dollars in bonds to reduce the ever-growing $14 billion dollars of unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System pension fund will be before lawmakers. HB 4 would authorize the Kentucky Asset/Liability Commission to issue up to $3.3 billion dollars in bonds to reduce the unfunded liability and use existing KTRS funds to pay down the debt on the bonds over 30 years. It will now need consideration of the full House, where it is expected to be brought to a vote sometime this week.
In addition to the issues I mentioned, there could be ideas and concerns important to you that need to be addressed between now and the middle of March. I encourage you to contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our toll free number at 1-800-372-7181.
District 19 Representative,
Michael Lee Meredith