The 2017 General Assembly can be characterized as nothing less than historic. The business community has advocated for decades on issues like right-to-work, repeal of the prevailing wage, medical review panels and charter schools, all of which were passed into law this session and will fundamentally affect how Kentucky does business.
From the first week, it was clear that House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers had a clear business-minded focus, with the legislature passing two transformational business priorities – right-to-work and repeal of the prevailing wage – in just five days. Their strong leadership provided masterful navigation of the session and led to the passage of a focused agenda while avoiding such unnecessary distractions as “bathroom bills.”
In addition to right-to-work and repeal of the prevailing wage, the legislature passed a bill that establishes medical review panels, a commonsense legal reform measure the chamber has championed for many years. Medical review panels legislation is an important step in improving Kentucky’s legal liability climate to make our state more competitive.
Passed in the last few days of session was a bill to allow charter schools in Kentucky. Until the passage of House Bill 520, Kentucky was one of only seven states to prohibit charter schools. A strong education system is a top priority for the chamber, and allowing charter schools is an important step to help improve the achievement of students and develop a globally competitive workforce.
With a short 30-day session, many Frankfort observers expected the legislature to take up a few high-profile issues that had been bottled up for many years, but probably no one anticipated the high number of pro-business bills that passed. The list also includes transparency for the troubled pension system, modernizing alcohol laws, criminal justice reform to build the workforce, and transparency measures to ensure workforce investment dollars are being properly spent.
The chamber’s active presence in the legislative process has never been greater than it is today. From educating members on key issues to testifying before committees, the hard work is paying off. We can count more than 20 bills as “wins” this session for the business community.
Looking ahead to an anticipated special session later this year, the Kentucky Chamber will build on the success of the 2017 General Assembly to tackle one of the most critical issues for our members and the entire business community: tax reform. With the spotlight on taxes and fixing the ailing pension system that threatens funding for schools, roads and other vital services, the chamber’s role on the center stage of legislative and policy issues will be more important than ever. ■
Dave Adkisson is president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce