Wednesday, February 11, 2015

2015 General Assembly action

Local option sales tax bill clears House committee
A House committee has approved a proposed local option sales tax constitutional amendment with bipartisan support. If it is approved by the state’s voters, could help cities and counties fund local building and infrastructure projects.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) and House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) was approved Tuesday by the House Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee. It now goes to the full House for consideration.

If passed, the bill would place a constitutional amendment on a statewide ballot allowing state lawmakers to give local governments the power to levy up to a penny of local option sales and use tax for specific projects with local voter approval. The tax would be eliminated when the project is paid off.

“It’s fairly simple,” said Stumbo. “It allows local people to choose whether they want to be taxed. It allows them to make the decision and dedicate the funding sources to a particular project. When the bonds are satisfied then that particular tax goes away.”

Thirty seven states currently allow local governments to use a local option sales tax for local projects, according to HB 1 cosponsor Rep. Tommy Thompson (D-Owensboro).

KTRS bond bill clears House budget committee
A proposal to authorize up to $3.3 billion in bonds to reduce the growing $14 billion unfunded liability of the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System’s pension fund cleared the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Tuesday.

House Bill 4, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) would authorize the Kentucky Asset/Liability Commission to issue the bonds in fiscal year 2015-2016 to reduce the system’s unfunded liability. Combined with existing KTRS funds to pay off bond debt service, the bond issue is expected to help the pension system pay off its unfunded liability over a 30-year period, say the bill’s supporters.

If passed into law, HB 4 is expected to guarantee the solvency of the pension fund past 2035 “and beyond,” said Stumbo, who said he supports the issuance of bonds for the KTRS pension fund in part because of the fund’s successful investment history.

“KTRS’s returns have been higher than we’ve seen in the other systems,” he said, listing the system’s recent investment returns over 20 years. “I think that one can conclusively say that they have managed their investments well and that they’ve done a good job to date. Hence I don’t think it’s improper to consider giving them more money to shore up these funds.”

KTRS general counsel Beau Barnes said the pension fund will be at 72.4 percent funded ration by 2034-2035 should the bill pass.

The pension fund may be a retired teacher’s only retirement income, primarily because teachers are not eligible for Social Security.

HB 4 is now before the full House for consideration.

Dating violence bill clears House panel
A proposal that would allow dating couples to seek civil protective orders in cases of domestic violence, abuse, sex abuse, or stalking has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

House Bill 8, sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) and Rep. Joni Jenkins (D-Shively) now goes to the full House for consideration.

First Lady Jane Beshear said Kentucky is the only state that does not provide immediate civil protections for dating partners – including those who haven’t been married to each other, lived together, or who share a child. An often lengthy criminal proceeding is now the only course of action for someone who has been victimized by a dating partner, she said.

“It’s time to protect our daughters, our nieces, our grandchildren, and our friends,” said Beshear.

Should HB 8 become law, it would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Tilley said statistics show one in four women will be victims of domestic violence, and one in five women nationally have been raped or will be the victim of attempted rape. “At the end of the day, none of us should like those odds,” he said.

Bill promotes donation of game meat to charities
The state Senate passed a bill Tuesday to ensure the continued operation of a nonprofit dedicated alleviating hunger and malnutrition in Kentucky.

Sen. Robin L. Webb (D-Grayson) who sponsored the legislation known as Senate Bill 55, said it would prevent any city, county or any public health department from disallowing the practice of donating game meat. She said the nonprofit Kentucky Hunters for the Hungry already provides 60,000 pounds to 70,000 pounds of mostly deer meat every year that allows food kitchens to serve an additional 560,000 meals.

“This is a wonderful and best use of the resources God gave us,” Webb said.

She said the bill ensures the game meat is harvested in Kentucky, properly field dressed and taken to processors certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

Sen. Dorsey Ridley (D-Henderson) voted for the measure. In fact, SB 55 passed with a 35-0 vote. It now goes to the House for consideration.

Contact your lawmakers
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