This week has been a flurry of activity in Frankfort, with the ceremonial signing of the first pro-life bill in 12 years, legislation dealing with economic development, and continued work on the budget and pension reform.
On Thursday, Governor Bevin held a ceremonial signing for SB 4, the informed consent bill, at the statewide “Rally for Life” held in the capitol rotunda. I am proud to stand for life and our will continue to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Budget talks are ongoing, as various budget committees and subcommittees are meeting every week to work through one of the more difficult budgets in years. Though revenues have increased slightly, runaway pension liabilities as well as increased Medicaid and corrections costs have made it necessary for the Governor and General Assembly to take action. As the process moves forward, we will work tirelessly to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars. While we recognize the need to tighten our belts, we are also dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable among us during these tough economic times.
Kentucky’s equine industry is a remarkable jewel throughout the Commonwealth, and our members are proud to participate in a bipartisan effort to level the tax playing field for our signature industry. HB 112 would exempt feed, supplies, and any other equipment used to take care of horses from the state sales tax. Other livestock industries already benefit from these exemptions and the passage of this bill would level the playing field for the equine industry. The bill passed unanimously out of the Agriculture and Small Business Committee, and will now move to the House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue.
In another effort to expand economic development across the Commonwealth, the House unanimously passed a bill to define certain data centers, such as Amazon and Google, as manufacturing establishments. HB 237 will give these types of cloud-based firms, which often offer high-tech jobs, the very same tax incentives that many other existing industries receive. We eagerly await Senate action on this bill that could help provide good-paying jobs for Kentuckians, and potentially breathe life into Kentucky’s rural areas.
Transparency in government is very important to us, and we firmly believe that Kentucky’s retirement systems should be fully transparent to the public, especially when there is more than $30 billion in unfunded liabilities. This is why we were dismayed this week when House Democrats refused to take up Senate Bill 2, which provides much-needed oversight to these struggling systems. Teachers, state workers, and tax payers have the right to know about the agencies that handle their public retirement benefits.
As a final note for this week, HB 175, an act relating to peace officers, passed the House unanimously on Tuesday. It is the first bill that I have been the primary sponsor of to pass the full House and the first Republican sponsored bill to pass the House this session. I’m proud of this effort to make simple changes in our existing statute to protect the powers given to federal peace officers and look forward to moving this bill through the Senate in the coming weeks.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues facing our Commonwealth during the 2016 Regular Session. I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via email at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.