By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line
The Senate State and Local Government Committee unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that would make former and current legislators’ retirement benefits information subject to open records requests.
Senate Bill 3, sponsored by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, allows for officials, upon request, to disclose the name and benefit amount, projected or actual, for any current or former lawmaker.
The bill was amended with an emergency clause which would allow the bill to take effect immediately if passed through both legislative chambers.
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has long been concerned about the unfunded liability of the state’s retirement systems and has advocated for a number of changes to improve the systems as well as measures to bring transparency to the pension systems.
Senate Bill 3 now heads to the Senate floor where it is expected to move quickly through the legislative process.
Repeal of prevailing wage in Kentucky moves forward
Legislation that would eliminate the government defined hourly wage in construction contracts known as prevailing wage on state projects passed the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee Wednesday.
The prevailing wage legislation, designated as House Bill 4, passed the committee with a 16-8 vote Wednesday and now moves to the House floor.
Proponents of the legislation noted that the wage artificially inflates prices of state construction projects and stated that the bill’s goal is to save taxpayer dollars that can go to other areas of state government like education and fixing the state’s pension crisis.
The Kentucky Chamber has been supportive of legislation that seriously examines the state’s prevailing wage laws, which must be made more representative of local wages by utilizing more effective methods of data collection than the current hearings process.
Medical Review Panels bill clears first legislative hurdle
The Kentucky state Senate voted Wednesday in favor of moving forward with legislation seeking to address the heightened costs directly attributed to Kentucky’s uncontrolled medical liability ambience, an issue of serious concern for Kentucky employers and taxpayers who foot the bill in terms of direct employee benefit costs and higher taxes.
The Senate Health and Welfare Committee voted Wednesday to pass Senate Bill 4, a bill establishing Medical Review Panels.
The legislation, sponsored by Senator and Doctor Ralph Alvarado of Winchester, focuses on medical malpractice liability which takes a significant financial toll on Kentucky’s health care providers, including nurses, doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes that serve our communities. The growing number of meritless lawsuits against providers increases costs for consumers and reroutes critical funds away from care.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson testified in front of lawmakers Wednesday to express the need to return the focus and resources of health care where they belong — on caring for patients.
“It’s time to return the focus and resources of health care where they belong, on caring for patients, not fighting lawsuits,” Adkisson said.
Adkisson also noted that every state surrounding Kentucky has protection for medical providers and is truly a competitiveness issue in terms of recruiting physicians.
With the bill clearing committee this early in session and support in the new Republican House, it is likely to see quick movement through the legislative process.
Right-to-work sees passage in House and Senate committees on day two of session
On day two of the 2017 session, right-to-work bills passed through committees and move to the next step of the legislative process.
Early Wednesday, members of the state House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee heard testimony from Governor Bevin, House Speaker Jeff Hoover, Kentucky Chamber President Dave Adkisson and others on the reasons right to work legislation is important to the state of Kentucky.
Right to work legislation, given the symbolic top priority designation of House Bill 1, is expected to move quickly through the legislature this session under the new Republican-controlled House.
Kicking off the committee meeting Wednesday, Gov. Matt Bevin pointed to right-to-work states that have faster job growth and union membership as more companies come to those states and added that the legislation is about freedom for workers.
Bevin said that while he believes the state needs unions in order to become the manufacturing hub of the country he envisions, employees deserve the choice when it comes to union membership.
In his testimony, Adkisson noted the Chamber’s strong support for right-to-work legislation and drew from his economic development experience, explaining that during his time as mayor of Owensboro and his tenure as the head of the Birmingham, Alabama Chamber he saw many prospects turn away from Kentucky because of the lack of a right-to-work law.
“Right-to-work will put a sign on the front door of Kentucky, showing we are ‘open for business,’” Adkisson said.
Speaker Hoover stated that the primary goal of the legislation is to focus on economic development and that the bill is essential to growth as Kentucky is currently a “closed shop.”
After some debate, the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee passed the measure with a 17-8 vote.
Another right-to-work bill, Senate Bill 6, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, which requires workers to “opt in” to having union dues withheld from their paychecks rather than the current practice that holds a worker must act to opt out of having an employer withhold their dues, passed out of the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee on Wednesday as well. This bill is often referred to as “paycheck protection.”
For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.