by Rep. Michael Meredith:
The pace picked up during week three of the 2019 General Assembly, with legislation clearing committees and passing the full House. As we left Frankfort on Friday, we are almost halfway through with this year’s session. Wednesday, February 20 is the last day that lawmakers can file new legislation, but already more than 800 bills and resolutions have been filed for consideration in both the House and Senate.
This week was highlighted by legislation to save taxpayer dollars, protect innocent life, boost Kentucky’s growing industrial hemp industry and more. I was especially proud to support HB 148 - a measure we passed in preparation for the possibility that the Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade. This bill puts into place a trigger to prohibit abortion in all cases except when required to save the life of the mother or prevent serious harm to her, a policy that would be implemented if Roe was reversed. The Senate also passed SB 9, a measure which bans abortion after a child’s heartbeat can be detected.
Legislation that would eliminate anti-free market mandates on public construction projects was approved by the House on Thursday. House Bill 135 would do away with project labor agreements, ensuring that any qualified contractor, whether union or non-union, can bid on a public project. Essentially, it levels the playing field for non-unionized construction firms. Project Labor Agreements prevent competition, placing Kentucky’s largely non-union construction workforce at a disadvantage and raising costs for taxpayers by up to 18 percent.
I also joined my fellow members of the House in approving HB 22. This piece of legislation changes the way that school board vacancies are filled. Currently, the Education Commissioner fills the vacancy, and this bill would transfer that power to the rest of the local school board, who would vote to fill the empty slot. The Kentucky School Board’s Association testified in support of the measure, which would also shorten the amount of time given to fill the vacancy from 90 to 60 days.
On Friday, members of the House voted unanimously to approve a hemp measure aimed at conforming our state’s industrial hemp statutes to new federal guidelines. With us conforming to the new guidelines established when the federal government officially legalized hemp, I expect Kentucky’s thriving hemp industry to now grow at an even faster level.
Among the bills filed this week was a tax bill aimed at fine-tuning reforms enacted by the legislature in 2018. The bill, HB 354, will also clarify various interpretations by the Department of Revenue that impact how the state sales tax is levied. If passed, HB 354 would make admissions to events held by 501(c)(3) organizations tax exempt. The bill also exempts the first $10,000 in sales of items by all nonprofit organizations. Direct contributions to nonprofits would remain tax exempt. House Bill 354 also includes language that would allow services purchased by a retailer or other business to be tax exempt if they are intended for resale. After all, asking a business to pay the sales tax on something they are ultimately going to sell to a consumer is essentially collecting the same tax twice – making our businesses less competitive and products more expensive. This bill is expected to be heard by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee within the next few days.
I was proud to pass legislation this week which stiffens prison sentences for individuals convicted of murdering a first responder. This measure ensures that any person convicted of manslaughter in the second degree, reckless homicide, or attempt to commit murder of identifiable emergency service personnel serves at least 85 percent of their sentence prior to earning probation or parole. The measure amends the existing statute covering firefighters and peace officers to also include EMS workers, sending a message that our society does not tolerate the murder of any first responder.
Over the next few weeks I will continue to update you on our progress. In the meantime, please reach out to me with your thoughts on issues facing us in the General Assembly.
Rep. Michael Meredith represents the 19th House District, which includes Edmonson and part of Warren Counties. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or via e-mail at Michael.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov