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February 28, 2011

Additional Bills Today - February 28, 2011

On House Orders

These bills we've mentioned previously remain on the House Orders:
HB 23 HFA1/HFA2 - Price Controls on Pawnbrokers
HB 141 - Granting Collective Bargaining Rights for Corrections Employees in Lexington and Louisville
HB 210 - Decals for New Drivers
HB 230 - Another Health Care Mandate
HB 394 - Fake Education Innovation

Here is one new one:

HB 386 - Stiffening Penalties for Plumbing Violations
The plumbing code can be arbitrary and burdensome. The code is there to be helpful, not to raise funds for the regulatory agency or to punish Kentucky Small Businesses. And the code does punish small businesses and kill jobs. One bakery that was ready to open in Louisville was shut down at the last moment before they opened because they had their own standing sink instead of a direct line to the main water supply. Kentucky doesn't need to enhance penalties, it needs to enhance solutions. LIKELY KEY VOTE

Senate Orders still contains only SB 45 - Banning Decongestants.

Today in Frankfort - February 28, 2011

Legislative Day 22

In Committee

SB 112 - Another Health Insurance Mandate
House Committee on Health and Welfare
Legislation would cap the copays for physical and occupational therapies. All new health insurance mandates increase health costs for us all. LIKELY KEY VOTE

SB 151 - Electing the PSC
House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy
This bill would change the make up of the PSC, electing one member per US Congressional district and one at large. Politicizing the development of Kentucky's utility infrastructure in this way does not strike us as a good idea. LIKELY KEY VOTE

Rep. Bill Farmer has filed two amendments to kill this legislation. One would limit expenditures for PSC campaigns to $1000 total, and the other would elect all Cabinet Secretaries, which is an equally bad idea (which is the point).

February 25, 2011

Holsclaw Stands with Indiana and Wisconsin Democrats

Bobbie Holsclaw, current Jefferson County Clerk and Republican gubernatorial candidate seems to be way too fond of Ryan Alessi. She continues to visit his show despite the fact that each time she does so, she reveals herself to be out of step with Kentucky conservatives.

In her first appearance, she was unprepared to explain her governing vision for Kentucky.

In her second appearance, she described how the state government needed expanded gambling to generate more revenue to spend.

Now, visiting the show for a third time, she sided with the Democratic lawmakers in Indiana and Wisconsin who have fled their home states.

Wisconsin and Indiana, along with many other states are facing substantial budget shortfalls. As heritage.org puts it:

Recent studies show that state and local governments are severely underestimating their pension and benefit promises, including a $574 billion shortfall for the nation's top major cities and a possible $3.4 trillion shortfall for the states. The cause of these crippling pension and benefit obligations is no secret. The Post explains: "Public employees often enjoy more generous pension and health-care benefits, and these are at the root of the long-term budget problems confronting many states."

How did this happen? Why did so many state and local governments not only spend too much today but promise future spending far beyond the means of taxpayers to pay for it? Government unions. And across the country, legislators and governors are beginning to fight back....

Government unions are inherently different from private-sector unions. The purpose of private-sector unions is to get workers a larger share of the profits they helped create. But government is a monopoly and earns no profits. All government unions do is redistribute more tax dollars from taxpayers to unions....

By granting government workers the power to collectively bargain, government unions have completely politicized the civil service. State and local employees in 28 states are required to pay full union dues or get fired. Using this government coercion, government unions have amassed tremendous financial resources that they use to campaign for higher taxes and higher pay for government workers.

While this sounds like a situation Kentucky has been wise to avoid, Holsclaw told Alessi that public employees should be granted the opportunity to collectively bargain:

Also in the second segment, Holsclaw also answered questions about potential initiatives regarding unions and organized labor in other states.

"Unions are just about trying to make people's lives better," she said. And she said state employees should be allowed to push for collective bargaining rights -- which currently are just reserved for the teacher's union and certain police and fire fighters unions.

"I guess if they want them, they might be able to have them," she said.

She also twice demurred when given an opportunity to champion making Kentucky a Right-to-Work state (as Right-to-Work legislation advances in the Indiana legislature).

Kentucky needs to address its $30 billion pension liability, not create barriers to addressing it.

February 24, 2011

Today in Frankfort - February 24, 2011

In Committee

HB 111 - Punishing Companies for Federal Failures
House Committee on Labor and LaborThis legislation allows state agencies to refuse licenses and permits to businesses who hire unauthorized aliens. While the legislation is intended to combat illegal immigration, it makes no distinction between businesses that knowingly employ unauthorized aliens and businesses that make good-faith efforts to identify the status of their employees. Regardless of the circumstances, the state is required to refuse permits, and the business will be forced to shut down. One mistake could put many working Kentuckians out of a job. Instead of punishing Kentucky employers, we should demand that the federal government do its job. LIKELY KEY VOTE.

HB 380 - State Jurisdiction Over State Commerce
House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy
Like HB 421 but not limited to coal, a good piece of legislation that asserts that the EPA and other federal agencies have no jurisdiction over goods that are produced and consumed in Kentucky. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

February 23, 2011

Frankfort Today - February 23, 2011

HB 259 - Condemnation Authority for Carbon Sequestration Sites
Senate Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment
We continue to hold reservations about this legislation that grants a quasi-governmental authority condemnations rights over private property. While the condemnation process is much improved over last year's effort, new provisions planning transfer of ownership of the condemned property to ownership of the state or federal government is troubling. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

On House Orders

HB 195 - Abolishing an Inactive State Agency
Rep. Adam Koenig attempted this last year, and it never received a vote in the House. How hard can it be to abolish an inactive state agency? POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 480 - Retirement System Governance Reform
This legislation improves oversight and transparency in Kentucky's various retirement systems. It bans placement agents, enforces term limits and requires posting of expenses online. LIKELY KEY VOTE

HB 230 - Another Health Care Mandate
Last year, the Senate attempted to pass a health care mandate regarding chiropractors. Now they're trying to mandate what insurance companies can charge for chiropractor coverage. The most likely result of this legislation is for insurance companies to drop chiropractor coverage, if they're limited from charging an amount that balances the ledger. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

HB 210 - Decals for New Drivers
This ridiculous legislation is another repeat. It would require the state to print and distribute decals that drivers would be legally required to affix to their vehicles any time a vehicle was operated by a driver with an instructional permit.

HB 210 HFA3 - Repealing State Property Tax on Motor Vehicles
Making lemonade out of a lemon, Rep. Floyd has filed an amendment to HB 210 to phase out the state property tax on vehicles. KEY VOTE if it is offered.

HB 394 - Fake Education Innovation
It's not all bad. Recognizing that his actions and positions were repressing innovation in education, Rep. Carl Rollins has developed this bill allowing school boards to attempt to create innovative practices in education. But this approach does not offer the benefits that real school choice, operating in a competitive free market (outside the constraints of the KEA) would create. Representative Montell's HFA1 is real choice and will be a KEY VOTE if offered. If House Leadership somehow disqualifies Montell's effort, the corresponding procedural vote and final passage are POTENTIAL KEY VOTES.

HB 141 - Granting Collective Bargaining Rights for Corrections Employees in Lexington and Louisville
This idea generally violates the principle that the government should be responsible to the taxpayers, taking away the ability of the elected government to determine a budget. KEY VOTE.

HB 141 HFA1 - Prevailing Wage Exemptions
Rep. Danny Ford, who has offered a number of clever conservative amendments this year, has offered an amendment to increase the threshold on projects that require prevailing wages to be paid from $250,000 to $750,000. While this would not make the underlying bill acceptable, this amendment and related procedural votes will be KEY VOTES.

HB 23 HFA1/HFA2 - Price Controls on Pawnbrokers
We don't know whether the pawnbroker registry requirement is effective in identifying stolen property. But trying to mandate that the expense of participating in the system can't be passed along to customers is not only foolish, but very heavy-handed on the state's part. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

We're still highly amused by HB 353 - Large Animal Release
The legislation prohibits "the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources or any other state agency from releasing a species that in adulthood may weigh more than five hundred (500) pounds without the approval of the legislative body for the county into which the species is to be released."

"Dear Magistrate. I am writing to inform you that we are releasing a large bear into your county. Please do not take it personally. Sincerely, DFWR."

HR 147 - Meaningless Sop to State Employees
The legislators who sponsored this resolution, which "Urge[s] the Governor to cease any further furloughs of Executive Branch employees during the remainder of the 2010-2012 biennium," know that is has no effect. A House Resolution won't even go to the Senate for consideration to potentially demonstrate the support of the General Assembly for the notion. Instead, these legislators want to feel good about themselves for doing nothing. State workers who really think furloughs should end and layoffs are a better option (or even Wisconsin-style benefit reforms) should see through this stunt and demand real action from their representatives.

February 22, 2011

Today in Frankfort - February 22, 2011

Bills of note on the agenda in Frankfort today:

HB 415 - When Nepotism is OK
House Committee on Education
This bill says nepotism in a school district is OK if the person in question is the spouse of a Superintendent and has worked in school systems for 16 years. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 428 - New Mechanism to Compel Taxpayer Funding for School Construction
House Committee on Education
The way the bill is written, it seems to have been drafted because of a specific instance of school in need of emergency repair. Instead of creating a specific appropriation to address this unusual circumstance, the representatives have drafted a broad piece of legislation that could provide creative school districts a way to compel funding from the state. This is an instance where a specific earmark that was transparent to all would actually be the most appropriate vehicle, if an administrative resolution was unavailable. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 476 - Cajoling the Department of Education to Act Where it Has Failed
House Committee on Education
This is a mostly unnecessary piece of legislation. Schools failing to maintain Adequate Yearly Progress for just two years are already required to take significant action:

Tier 1 of Consequences
(2 years not making AYP)
- Implement School Choice
- Write or Revise School Plan

Tier 2 of Consequences
(3 years not making AYP)
- Continue School Choice
- Revise School Plan
- Offer Supplemental Services

This bill would simply require this sort of activity again. The reason this bill is being offered is the Department of Education's absolute reluctance to actually reform failing schools. As the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions has found:

To determine how NCLB alternate governance has actually been handled in Kentucky, the Bluegrass Institute made an open records request to the Kentucky Department of Education for the Alternative Governance Plans for the 34 Kentucky public schools that were listed in No Child Left Behind TIER 5 status in the 2008 reports.

The response to our request included this message, which clearly states that Kentucky does not have "Alternative Governance Plans" for these schools despite years of claims otherwise in numerous NCLB reports for Kentucky. Furthermore, our review of the "Restructuring Plans" which were provided in answer to our request shows that "Alternative Governance" as required by NCLB has not been implemented in Kentucky.

If the Department of Education were serious about rescuing failing schools, no one would have thought of this bill.

If the bill's author were serious about rescuing failing schools, she would help support school choice.

HB 478 - Eliminating Budget Memoranda
House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue
Interestingly strikes all language requiring the Appropriations Committee to include a budget memorandum with appropriations bills that

"enumerate the changes made by the appropriations committees to a branch budget recommendation, and shall explain such changes in detail sufficient to convey the intent of the appropriations committees."

This seems like it would be a useful public document. We're interested to find out the reasoning behind this legislation. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE.

A Constitutional Convention Is Potentially A Bad Idea

While we support balanced budgets, calling a Constitutional Convention is a bad way to get there.

This is what is proposed by State Senate President David Williams in SCR 134 and will presumably be supported by US Senator Rand Paul in a speech today in the Kentucky Senate.

We've never had a Convention called as allowed under the US Constitution's Article V, which means the rules for such a convention are open to interpretation. The text states:

"The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress...."

The broad-brush of the text - "a Convention for proposing Amendments" suggests the possibility that such a convention would have unlimited scope to alter our founding document. Heritage.org discusses the implications:

Because no amending convention has ever occurred, an important question is whether such a convention can be limited in scope, either to a particular proposal or within a particular subject. While most calls for amending conventions in the nineteenth century were general, the modern trend is to call (and thus count applications) for conventions limited to considering a single, specific amendment. Some scholars maintain that such attempts violate the very mechanism created by Article V: the text says that upon application of the states Congress "shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments," not for confirming a particular amendment already written, approved, and proposed by state legislatures (which would effectively turn the convention for proposing amendments into a ratifying convention). Indeed, it is not at all clear as a matter of constitutional construction (and doubtful in principle) that the power of two-thirds of the states to issue applications for a convention restricts, supersedes, or overrides the power of all the states assembled in that convention to propose amendments to the Constitution....

The requirement that amendments proposed by such a convention must be ratified by three-fourths of the states is a significant limit on the process and likely prevents a true "runaway" convention from fundamentally altering the Constitution. Serious scholars will undoubtedly continue to debate the historical record and speculate about the possibility of an amendments convention under Article V. Nevertheless, the lack of precedent, extensive unknowns, and considerable risks of an Article V amendments convention should bring sober pause to advocates of legitimate constitutional reform contemplating this avenue.

While a valid method created and available under the Constitution, "a Convention for proposing Amendments" has never been viewed as just another tool for reform but has become ever more so an ultimate option to be deployed only in extremis for the sake of maintaining the Constitution.

We note that calling a Convention is really the only tool available to a state legislature, we would encourage a resolution calling for the US Congress to act on the amendment instead.

Luallen Supports Scrapping Treasurer's Office

Voicing support for a position long held by conservatives, State Auditor Crit Luallen told Ryan Alessi that she agreed that it's hard to justify the office's continued existence.

"I think it probably is worth a look to see whether or not in the future the treasurer's office has enough responsibility to really justify it being a separate statewide elected constitutional office," she said. "And that's nothing against the current office holder. I think as a matter of state oversight and efficiency, we ought to look at that issue."

Her comments on Monday's Pure Politics follow the release of her office's latest audit report that found several repeat problems with the state treasurer's office. Most notably, auditor's found that the state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach's office had failed to keep the state's financial books balanced as required. It also failed to fix problems auditors cited last year with insufficient safeguards on who has access to key state databases.

Later, the current Treasurer said he'd prefer to grow the office.

Hollenbach's office responded in audit by saying his office is understaffed and has unsuccessfully sought funding for another position. Hollenbach is running for re-election and has drawn opposition from Steve Hamrick of Hopkinsville in the Democratic primary. K.C. Crosbie is the Republican nominee.

February 21, 2011

While Frankfort's off, Other Bills of Note

With 11 legislative days to go, the General Assembly has passed two bills and one procedural resolution. Approximately 300 bills have passed only the House or the Senate.

We've mentioned the more notable bills in our daily summaries here, here and here. Here are some important pieces that have escaped our attention so far.

Passed Senate

SB 4 - Election Reforms
Moves the filing deadline January to late April and the primary from May to August. Makes changes to campaign finance laws. We're in favor of the financial disclosure requirements, and we're very supportive of moving the filing deadline back. Under current law, the filing deadline will pass for freshmen legislators in the General Assembly before they ever vote on a budget. However, we do not favor moving the primary date.

KEY VOTE SB 7 - Spending Transparency
Requires all state spending to be posted online.

SB 10 - Illegal Amendment to the Kentucky Constitution
While we don't dispute the content - affirming state sovereignty under the 10th Amendment, affirming that consumers can not be compelled by government to participate in health care systems, protecting coal and the 2nd Amendment among many things - the proposal is clearly a political stunt that violates the requirement that a Constitutional Amendment deal with only one subject at a time.

SB 11 - False Claims Duplication
While it may seem sensible to allow whistleblowers to sue to uncover fraud in Medicaid, this sort of action is already allowable in federal court. To open up state court as well without prohibiting double-filing, means that the marginal increase in expected recovery lawsuits could easily be eclipsed legal fees and whistleblower rewards. Unless this legislation is amended, it is a large expense and boon to the litigation industry without significant improvement for the taxpayer. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

SB 13 - Encouraging Teachers Who Encourage Achievement
This legislation would establish performance rewards for teachers based on student achievement in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests in science and mathematics. This measure will help maximize the effectiveness of taxpayer resources in education and is a LIKELY KEY VOTE.

SB 34 - Promoting Nuclear Power in Kentucky
Changes outdated regulations that are preventing the use of nuclear-generated electricity in Kentucky. This legislation has been a KEY VOTE in the past and will be again this year.

SB 41 - Dismantling the Political Party System in Kentucky
This legislation would allow those not organizing in a political party to participate in choosing the general election candidates for a political party. LIKELY KEY VOTE.

SB 71 - Licensing "Diabetes Educators"
A companion to HB 217, it creates a new board of licencure so that individuals may pay a fee and submit to regulations in order to call themselves a "licensed diabetes educator". Because our health care system needs another regulatory agency. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

KEY VOTE SB 100 - Unaccountable Health and Family Services
This ridiculous legislation would make the Secretary of Health and Family Services hired by an appointed board, similar to the Board of Education. It seems that the intent is to insulate the Cabinet from political influence, but when a Cabinet's governance is not directly accountable to the elected executive, then it is necessarily less accountable to the voters. Since health care costs drive the majority of spending pressure in state government, it is perhaps the area of government most necessarily in need of maintaining its direct answerability to the elected executive of Kentucky.

Passed the House

HB 3 - Requiring E-Verify
Requires any recipient of a public contract with the state to utilize the E-Verify program to substantiate the legal status of their employees.

HB 4 - False Claims Duplication
A companion to SB 11, although this version is not limited to Medicaid. Like SB 11, this legislation is more likely to increase frivolous litigation than to uncover uninvestigated fraud. Unless this legislation is amended, it is a large expense and boon to the litigation industry without significant improvement for the taxpayer. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 24 - Government Spending Transparency
Like SB 7, requires all state spending to be posted online. LIKELY KEY VOTE.

HB 47 - Everyone's a Nuisance
Greatly expands the ability of governments to pass nuisance ordinances. Rep. Denham attempted to amend the legislation to protect property owners from the myriad new nuisance regulations this legislation has the potential to create, but to no avail. LIKELY KEY VOTE.

HB 67 - Advertising on School Buses
Allows School Boards to sell advertising on school buses but illegally prohibits political communications. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 225 - Raising the Dropout Age to 18
LIKELY KEY VOTEAs we have noted in the past,

The problem is that kids don't want to be in school, not that they're not compelled to be there. Representative Brent Yonts (D-Muhlenberg, 2008 Rank # 78) has introduced this bill in each of the last 10 years. Instead of recognizing that he is pushing a bad idea and looking for a new good one instead (perhaps one that examines how government programs might be discouraging individuals from pursuing individual success) he just keeps on doing the same thing.

HB 247 - Licensing Radon Contractors
Yet another licensing requirement because, in the opinion of legislators, only the state has the ability to determine how to offer a markable service appropriately. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

More to come tomorrow

February 18, 2011

Today in Frankfort - February 18, 2011

On the Senate Orders

SB 45 - Banning Decongestants
As we have written, SB 45's benefits are not a substantial enough reason to support this legislation.

  • It will drive up health care costs as now doctors, nurses and pharmacists are all required to participate in the process to obtain cold medicine.
  • As more time is consumed in our health care system to address everyone's stuffy head, the cost of all health care will marginally increase.
  • The limited supply of medicine will drive up its cost, making the remedy more expensive.
  • Less information becomes available to law enforcement, as our current tracking system is rendered unavailable, while even more is required of our doctors to identify abuse. Not only are we taxing our doctors by requiring a silly prescription for a stuffy head, we would now be requiring them to act as law enforcement.

POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

On the House Orders

HB 10 - $1 Million Tax Credit for Hiring Legally Blind Individuals
Provides a tax credit to businesses hiring legally blind individuals. Estimated to reduce revenues $1 million every biennium.

HB 230 - Another Health Care Mandate
Last year, the Senate attempted to pass a health care mandate regarding chiropractors. Now they're trying to mandate what insurance companies can charge for chiropractor coverage. The most likely result of this legislation is for insurance companies to drop chiropractor coverage, if they're limited from charging an amount that balances the ledger. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

HB 210 - Decals for New Drivers
This ridiculous legislation is another repeat. It would require the state to print and distribute decals that drivers would be legally required to affix to their vehicles any time a vehicle was operated by a driver with an instructional permit.

HB 210 HFA3 - Repealing State Property Tax on Motor Vehicles
Making lemonade out of a lemon, Rep. Floyd has filed an amendment to HB 210 to phase out the state property tax on vehicles. KEY VOTE if it is offered.

HB 141 - Granting Collective Bargaining Rights for Corrections Employees in Lexington and Louisville
This idea generally violates the principle that the government should be responsible to the taxpayers, taking away the ability of the elected government to determine a budget. KEY VOTE.

SB 110 - Optometrist Surgery Bill
This bill simply would allow non-physician optometrists to preform surgical procedures on your eyes.

KEY VOTE - HB 407 - Taxpayer Guarantee of Construction Loans
Remember when the housing market collapsed, the economy tanked and taxpayers were made to bailout giant financial institutions? This bill would create a permanent bailout fund for bad construction loans. Enough said?

On Wisconsin!

If you haven't caught on to what's going on in Wisconsin, the governor and newly-elected conservative legislature are taking on public sector unions. In response, teachers are refusing to teach and Democrat legislators are illegally cowering and have fled the state.

What are they afraid of? Losing their ability to demand unreasonable compensation from the Wisconsin taxpayer:

West Bloomfield teachers do not do any premium sharing for health insurance and do not have a deductible in their plan, Andrees said.

"The district can no longer afford to pay for everything," Andrees said. "The money is not there now. I can not continue that practice."

The total compensation of a West Bloomfield teacher grew 173 percent over an 11-year period, going from $47,346 to $129,637, according to information that was presented at a school board meeting in December.

The teacher's salary started at $31,881 in 1999-00 and grew to $85,836 in 2010-11. Meanwhile, insurance payments climbed from $9,309 to $19,304 per year, and retirement contributions jumped from $3,717 to $16,854 per year.

Life is good as a member of a Wisconsin public-sector union. But the state of Wisconsin faces a $3.1 billion deficit, which is the burden of Wisconsin taxpayers.

Now, President Obama is conspiring with union bosses to fight the elected government of Wisconsin.

The president's political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to mobilize thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

Stand with Wisconsin.

From Kentucky 9/12:

A member of The Florida 9/12 Project has started a Facebook page: www.StandWithWI.com Please consider supporting and standing with principles and values.

Also In case you want to cheer on the Wisconsin legislatures who are fighting the teachers unions, here on the governors' and legislature email addresses....maybe you could pass them on. Just send them a "Good Job keep up the good work!"

Tell Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that KY9/12 and you are behind him!

Office of Governor Scott Walker
115 East Capitol
Madison WI 53702
govgeneral@wisconsin.gov
608-266-1212

February 17, 2011

Today in Frankfort - February 17, 2011

HB 421 - State Jurisdiction Over State Commerce
House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment
A good piece of legislation that asserts that the EPA and other federal agencies have no jurisdiction over coal that is mined and consumed in Kentucky. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

HB 433 - Paperwork for Tire Sales Working Group
House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment
This silly bill creates a working group to develop paperwork to require of tire sales. The ambition is to improve proper disposal of tires in Kentucky. The only impact will be the waste of paper products.

HCR 37 - The EPA and SD1
House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment
The resolution instructs the EPA to consider affordability when ruling on sewer control operations. A good sentiment if a fool's errand.

HB 462 - Tax Breaks for Large Existing Businesses
House Committee on Economic Development
Another $7 million admission that Kentucky's tax code is not adequate. Provides the state the ability to extend tax credits to businesses making $2.5 million investments in technology that employ at least 200. Instead of carving out so many exemptions from the tax code, just reform the code already.

HB 195 - Abolishing an Inactive State Agency
House Committee on Economic Development
Rep. Adam Koenig attempted this last year, and it never received a vote in the House. How hard can it be to abolish an inactive state agency? POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 353 - Large Animal Release
House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy
Not really an issue of economic freedom, but the legislation prohibits " the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources or any other state agency from releasing a species that in adulthood may weigh more than five hundred (500) pounds without the approval of the legislative body for the county into which the species is to be released."

"Dear Magistrate. I am writing to inform you that we are releasing a large bear into your county. Please do not take it personally. Sincerely, DFWR."

KEY VOTE HB 455 - Electric Rate Hike
House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy
As we wrote Tuesday:

HB 455 directs the Public Utilities Commission to consider an "power supply contract to be reasonable and prudent" if the utility purchases power derived from biomass and it "shall not increase more than three percent (3%) in any subsequent year" for the live of a 20-year contract.

The legislation allows the original cost of the purchased power to be 44% higher than current electric rates and then increase 3% a year and to pass that cost directly to the consumer.

HB 208 - Drug Screening for Recipients of Public Assistance
House Committee on Health and Welfare
Legislation requires recipients of public assistance - welfare, food stamps, Medicaid - to submit to random drug testing and remain drug free. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

HB 217 - Licensing "Diabetes Educators"
House Committee on Health and Welfare
Creates a new board of licencure so that individuals may pay a fee and submit to regulations in order to call themselves a "licensed diabetes educator". Because our health care system needs another regulatory agency. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 305 - Medicaid Bandaid
Senate Committee on Appropriations and Revenue
Attempts to plug a $350 million hole in the Medicaid budget this year by borrowing it from the next year. Will likely lead to a budget hole next year, as a year-on-year $625 million increase is now budgeted to be a $125 million decrease in spending next year. We'll see. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

February 16, 2011

Frankfort Today - February 16, 2011

In committee today, there are a few items of interest to the Kentucky Taxpayer.

SB 110 - Optometrist Surgery Bill
This bill with surprising momentum (it has already passed the Senate and in on schedule for consideration in House Licensing and Occupations) simply would allow non-physician optometrists to preform surgical procedures on your eyes.

HB 465 - Interstate Racing and Wagering Compact
This would create an interstate authority to set standard racing regulations among participating states. Interesting that the Kentucky Racing Commission would cede this type of authority.

SB 119 - 911 Telecommunications Tax Study
This legislation asks the LRC to investigate the creation of a 911 telecommunications tax and sets parameters that strongly encourage the LRC to report that the new tax in needed.

SB 151 - Electing the PSC LIKELY KEY VOTE
This bill would change the make up of the PSC, electing one member per US Congressional district and one at large. Politicizing the development of Kentucky's utility infrastructure in this way does not strike us as a good idea.

HB 165 - Consolidation of Counties
Creates new procedures to allow (and encourage) the consolidation of some of Kentucky's 120 counties.

February 15, 2011

Holsclaw Signs Taxpayer Protection Pledge

Republican Candidate for Governor Bobbie Holsclaw has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The pledge is a commitment of public officials that they will "solemnly bind themselves to oppose any and all tax increases."

The Pledge is promoted and monitored by Americans for Tax Reform, who are not afraid to hold candidates who sign the pledge accountable. In the last election cycle, ATR's PAC ran four weeks of television against pledge-breaker US Rep. Ben Chandler.

The Pledge reads:

I,________________________, pledge to the taxpayers of the State of ____________________ , that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.

A release from ATR quotes president of ATR Grover Norquist as saying:

"I applaud Bobbie for her leadership and dedication to the ideals of limited government and for putting taxpayers' wallets ahead of government coffers."

Candidate Phil Moffett has also signed the pledge, leaving David Williams as the only Republican candidate for governor who won't pledge not to increase taxes.

Like Beshear, Holsclaw Opposes Progress on Tax Reform

Clumsily, Republican Candidate for Governor Bobbie Holsclaw wascalled out this weekend by the Lexington Herald Leader for misstatement in a press release.

The statement: "Placing a tax on groceries -- as proposed by David Williams ... is a tax that I and other Republicans strongly oppose."

-- Bobbie Holsclaw, in a Feb. 1, 2011, news release

The ruling: False

As we've detailed ourselves, Williams proposes nothing of the sort:

SB 1 creates a task force instructed to review and recommend improvements to the Kentucky tax code. It specifies that any recommendation would be subject to an up or down vote in the House and the Senate without amendment.

Additionally, the instructions to the task force laid out in the bill are sound:

  • Focus on the creation of jobs and enhancement of production capacity;
  • Examine the tax and revenue structure based on its adequacy, equity, sustainability, predictability, and efficiency;
  • Focus on the impact of the tax and revenue structure on the competitiveness of the Commonwealth and our ability to attract businesses and individuals to locate, live, work, and invest in the Commonwealth; and
  • Place an emphasis on making the Commonwealth a low-taxed state;

That's a fair prescription for a more pro-growth tax code.

We've criticized Governor Beshear for maintaining a similar position, resorting to complaints about the complexities of tax reform as an excuse for inaction.

The 2011 Governor's race offers the opportunity to put real proposals forward that address the challenges Kentucky faces. We have seen substantial proposals from Phil Moffett and some legislative progress from the Williams-led state Senate. Yet we noted of Holsclaw:

Stepping into the political arena is a brave act for any individual, but we would advise Ms. Holsclaw to continue to develop her ideas until she has a better sense of what sort of leadership she is proposing to provide the state.

We're interested in hearing some positive vision for Kentucky out of the Holsclaw campaign. The only thing we know about her so far is that she thinks she's a better administrator than David Williams.

KEY VOTE: HB 455 - Stumbo Pushes Electric Rate Hikes for Biomass

While we're all for the development of new resources, we don't think consumers should be subject to 3% annual increases on their electric bills for 20 years to pay for them.

Speaker Greg Stumbo (2010 score: 21/100) thinks so.

HB 455 directs the Public Utilities Commission to consider an "power supply contract to be reasonable and prudent" if the utility purchases power derived from biomass and it "shall not increase more than three percent (3%) in any subsequent year" for the live of a 20-year contract.

The legislation allows the original cost of the purchased power to be 44% higher than current electric rates and then increase 3% a year and to pass that cost directly to the consumer.

No energy taxes in the name of your political buddies, please!

February 7, 2011

Williams-Farmer Claims Substantial Lead in Governor's Primary

The Republican Gubernatorial ticket of David Williams and Ritchie Farmer released a poll today of the Republican Primary. In it, they found themselves receiving 47% of the vote, with 10% going to Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw and 9% going to Louisville Businessman Phil Moffett.

The poll, conducted by GOT-FOCUS of Alexandria, Virginia, shows Williams and Farmer at 47%, Bobbie Holsclaw and Bill Vermillion at 10% and Phil Moffett and Mike Harmon at 9%. The survey was conducted February 1-3 among 1,015 likely Republican primary voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

While the poll is likely mostly a reflection of name ID at this point in the contest, Williams' pollster points out that the name ID differential is likely to grow:

"The Williams-Farmer ticket also has a large fundraising advantage that will allow them to advertise and talk about their conservative agenda for Kentucky."

February 4, 2011

US Labor Force Still Shrinking

The US labor force participation rate is at it's lowest point since the early '80's.

This Ain't No Red Light Hal

The 'Make Doctors Police Meth' Bill passed Senate Committee yesterday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee ultimately voted Thursday to pass the measure 6-4. Those who voted against the bill were Sens. Perry Clark, D-Louisville; Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger; John Schickel, R-Union; and Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville.

Those who voted in favor were Sens. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville; Carroll Gibson, R-Leitchfield; Tom Jensen, R-London; Robin Webb, D-Grayson; Robert Stivers, R-Manchester; and Dan Seum, R-Louisville.

Thanks to the strong defense put forward by Sen. John Schickel and Pat Davis, wife of US Congressman Geoff Davis.

It is a tough vote. Meth is a problem, especially in our state. But, as we've recently written, this bill is a hindrance. It will drive up health care costs, clog our health care system, decrease the amount of information available to law enforcement, and place the burden of policing onto physicians which is both inappropriate and ineffective.

At the committee hearing, US Rep. Hal Rogers proposed this analogy:

People will be inconvenienced, said Rogers, but "you're inconvenienced by a red light."

If this bill is a red light, it's a red light where you have to park your car, walk to the police station, get the cops to write you a certificate of green light, pay the cops, the cops will have to complete pages of paperwork for reimbursement, return to the car and go.

It's not an inconvenience. It's a misappropriation of our health care system to accomplish law enforcement objectives.

February 2, 2011

Williams Proposes Shorter Session -- Preparing for Special Session?

Yesterday, Senate President David Williams sent a letter to Speaker Stumbo proposing that the House and Senate adjourn 6 days early this session.

According to Williams, this is a cost saving measure that would save the taxpayers $384,000.

We certainly approve, and Stumbo seems agreeable.

"I think you will agree this change provides the time necessary for General Assembly action while saving the taxpayers of the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of dollars by eliminating six days for which legislators would be compensated," Williams said in his letter to Stumbo.

The legislative session costs roughly $64,000 a day.

Later Tuesday, Stumbo told reporters that he would not object to Williams' plan, although he was not certain exactly how it would be implemented.

"I don't have any problems with it," Stumbo said. "I don't think anyone wants to be here any longer than they have to be, anyway."

But we wonder if there's an ulterior motive. We've heard rumors of interest in a special session to consider redistricting prior to the 2012 Regular Session.

A redistricting Special Session would make sense. The Census is making the necessary data available over the next few months, so it can't be considered during this session. It also makes political sense - it would have districts drawn before the January filing deadline, and keep the consuming political activity outside of the budget-writing session.

Is Williams, always planning ahead, simply proposing to reserve the funds for six days for the Special Session he expects?

February 1, 2011

KEY VOTES: HB 15, SB 45 - Banning Decongestants

If you've ever had a stuffy head, you know that the only real decongestants contain pseudoephedrine. Unfortunately, the pseudoephedrine contained in these products is also a key ingredient in the illegal production of methamphetamines. That is why, a few years ago, the General Assembly acted to put pseudoephedrine products behind the pharmacist's counter and track purchases by requiring a photo-ID and signature to purchase them.

Apparently, it is not enough for anti-drug advocates and law enforcement to know exactly who purchased what and when. One of the biggest pushes currently in the General Assembly would make pseudoephedrine products a controlled substance and require a doctor's prescription. HB 15 and SB 45 would do just that.

Besides the inconvenience, here's a short list of reasons this is wrong:

  • It will drive up health care costs as now doctors, nurses and pharmacists are all required to participate in the process to obtain cold medicine.
  • As more time is consumed in our health care system to address everyone's stuffy head, the cost of all health care will marginally increase.
  • The limited supply of medicine will drive up its cost, making the remedy more expensive.
  • Less information becomes available to law enforcement, as our current tracking system is rendered unavailable, while even more is required of our doctors to identify abuse. Not only are we taxing our doctors by requiring a silly prescription for a stuffy head, we would now be requiring them to act as law enforcement.

There is no question that Meth is bad. Not only as an addictive drug, but as an extreme hazard to the homes and environment where it is produced.

This effort is one step too far. Because all purchases are tracked, our actual law enforcement has all the information they need now. This legislation just shifts the burden of policing away from where it belongs (with the actual police) onto physicians and ERs.

Doctors are not successful law enforcement. As the Consumer Healthcare Products Association points out:

Mandy Hagan, director of state government relations for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, says requiring a prescription may not alleviate Kentucky's meth problem. "Prescription drugs are abused at a higher rate than methamphetamine," Hagan said.

These bills are likely KEY VOTES on the KYCFG's 2011 Scorecard.

If you want to keep your access to cold medicine, ACT NOW and send your legislators a message by clicking here.

2011 Session Returns Today

The 2011 Session resumes today after a three week break.

They return for five weeks, then a two-week veto period and are scheduled to adjourn finally on March 22.

Some notes on the schedule:

February 1 - Tonight, Governor Beshear will address the General Assembly to give his 'State of the Commonwealth' speech. We imagine he will use it as an opportunity to launch his campaign for reelection and list what he considers his accomplishments, because we haven't seen any proposals from him, and it's too late in the session to bring up new things.

February 4 - Friday is the last day for bill requests. No new proposals can be made after this week (although there are a few ways around this).

February 11,14 - Next Friday is the last day for new bills in the Senate and next Monday in the House. No more bills can be filed after this day.

March 4,7 - These days are reserved for 'concurrence' where the House and Senate will try to resolve the legislation that has passed the other chamber. If a bill has not passed its original house by this point, it is dead for the session.

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