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March 29, 2012

RS12 HB 499 - KEY VOTE - Insurance Premium Tax Hike

HB 499 was originally a tax amnesty bill which we're pretty indifferent about.

The House Committee Substitute, however added a few tax and fee increases, including an elimination of the sunset on the waste tire fee, and a new provision setting insurance premium taxes based on bonus programs for firefighters and police in Kentucky called the Firefighters Foundation Program Fund and the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund.

The Senate reinstated the sunset, but we're still concerned about the indexing of the insurance premium tax.

Originally, the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF) was created to encourage Kentucky peace officers to received certified training. It was and is funded through an assessment on property insurance, and the revenues from this assessment are split between the KLEFPF and a similar program for firefighters. Later, this training became mandatory, but the bonus remained.

Through the years, more and more peace officers have been added as eligible for the program, all under the suggestion that the fund runs a surplus. HB 499 HCS adds this language:

Section 24. Insurance Surcharge Rate: Pursuant to KRS 136.392, the insurance surcharge rate shall be calculated at a rate to provide sufficient funds in the 2012-2014 fiscal biennium for the Firefighters Foundation Program Fund and the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund. The calculation of sufficient funds for those programs shall include any Restricted Funds carried forward from fiscal years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 as provided by the General Assembly.

Now, the premium tax will rise with the demand for this ever-expanding bonus program, and that is a tax hike, which means we will KEY VOTE the entire bill.

Lip Service to Kentucky's Debt Problem

SB 1 is a good bill and a KEY VOTE.

SB 1 places a ceiling on Kentucky's debt, limiting the amount to a proportion of the amount of revenue the state is taking in.

In SB 1, the ratio of debt to revenue would be limited to 6%, unless the governor declared that an emergency existed. While this is a high ratio and a large loophole, it is nevertheless a positive recognition that Kentucky's debt should be limited.

SB 1 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-2 with Senators Walter Blevins and Perry Clark opposing and Senators Gerald Neal and Terry Pendleton not present. No credit to them.

The problem is, after these 34 Senators paid lip service to a responsible limiting of budgeted debt to a maximum of 6% of revenue, 30 of them turned around and supported a budget with a debt ratio of 6.5%!

Instead of listing all 30, here are the two Senators who supported capping the debt and opposed the indebted budget:

Sen. John Schickel
Sen. Kathy Stein

Senators Julie Denton and Brandon Smith supported SB 1 but did not vote on the budget.

Kudos to Senators Schickel and Stein for supporting a cap on debt and opposing this indebted budget.

March 19, 2012

RS12 HB 202 - KEY VOTE - A Health Care Mandate Without Precedent

HB 202 is a ridiculous health care mandate without precedent.

It would seek higher reimbursement rates for chiropractors by tying chiropractor reimbursement rates to the workers comp schedule., Not only will this raise health care costs for all Kentuckians, no other reimbursement rate is set in such a ridiculous way. While some reimbursements are tied to Medicaid or Medicare, none are tied into the Worker's Compensation System.

Who came up with such a novel approach to create a windfall for chiropractors at the expense of Kentucky insurance ratepayers? We certainly don't know. But here's a coincidence: the chiropractors' main lobbyist is Donna Brown:

DonnaBrown

Donna Brown just happens to be the wife of Mark Brown, the Secretary of the Kentucky Labor Cabinet.

If this bill is approved, Mr. Brown will be in charge of the agency setting these reimbursement rates in a way that is uniquely beneficial to Donna Brown's clients.

It's a sweet deal for chiropractors, but it's a rate hike for the ratepayers in Kentucky. Independent actuarial analysis of this bill estimates that this health care mandate could raise health care costs for insured Kentuckians by more than $43 million each year. That's almost $100 per insured individual.

Horrible idea driven by a frightening conflict of interest, right?

HB 202 has already passed the House 77-15. In the Senate, the bill's lobbyists have apparently succeeded at venue shopping.

First the bill was assigned to Senate A&R, conveniently chaired by chiropractor Bob Leeper. This conflict of interest proved too blatant, so the bill was reassigned to Senate Licensing and Occupations, chaired by Sen. John Schickel, a taxpayer champion. Mr. Schickel's committee was apparently inadequate, however, and the bill has now been reassigned to Banking and Insurance.

HB 202 is a health care mandate we don't need and a KEY VOTE.

Don't let this bill slip by because of special interest maneuvering. Call your legislator today at 1-800-372-7181 to oppose this mandate.

March 15, 2012

RS12 SB 10 - KEY VOTE - A Constitutional Amendment to Guarantee Legislative Oversight of Regulations

SB 10 proposes a Constitutional amendment to explicitly allow legislative approval and disapproval of newly issued regulations.

Currently, the legislature may review and disapprove of regulatory proposals, but any rejection does not stop the regulation. SB 10 will clarify and strengthen legislative authority, making the process more accountable, which is why it is a KEY VOTE.

RS12 SB 4 - KEY VOTE - Improving Regulatory Accountability

SB 4 will create better legislative oversight of the regulatory process and limit the ability of the state government from promulgating regulations stricter than those required by law.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Creates a one-year moratorium on any new regulations not expressly provided for by legislation.
  • Sunsets all regulations within two years, allowing the administration to reissue regulations deemed necessary and proper.
  • Requires an economic impact analysis of any new or reissued regulations.
  • States that regulations may not be broader than what is mandated by the federal government.

These are solid improvements designed to protect businesses and create better accountability in the process. This bill is a KEY VOTE.

March 12, 2012

Clarifying Redistricting, Maybe

Sen. Robert Stivers must be tired of people being upset with him about redistricting. He may be getting more calls.

We called his latest bill a "horrible idea" when we read the description of SB 18, his Constitutional Amendment to clarify the state legislative redistricting process:

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Friday that he supports Senate Bill 18, an amendment that would give the legislature permission to split medium-sized counties to balance the population of legislative districts.

Allowing the legislature to split counties that do not contain sufficient population to constitute an entire legislative district IS a horrible idea. We have seen the legislature's quick willingness to divide community populations along lines designed to protect incumbents, placing their political careers above any consideration of community.

The language of SB 18 is unclear, giving seemingly conflicting instructions on the division of counties. It seems to allow the legislature to divide counties at will before setting forth requirements that require the legislature to place a county's whole population in a single district, or the fewest number of whole districts before placing the remainder of the county's population in a separate district.

Here's the relevant language from the amendment:

The General Assembly may divide any county that in its judgment is reasonably necessary to divide to achieve the population equality required by subsection (2) of this section, provided that any divided county shall first be given as many whole districts as it has sufficient population to constitute and that the number of divisions in any divided county be kept to the minimum possible.

If a county's population is less than the population required for a district, then the minimum number of divisions possible is zero. The requirement to keep county populations whole could be stronger language to protect counties from division than currently exists.

We are withholding judgment on this amendment. We believe the current requirement NOT to divide counties is the preferred policy. If this language clarifies that policy, then this is a good amendment. If it allows the legislature to divide any county at will, than it is just the horrible allowance to gerrymander we were afraid of, and this amendment is a KEY VOTE.

March 8, 2012

House Passes Budget Quickly with Eight Percent Spending Increase

Yesterday, the Kentucky House passed a budget for FYs 2013-2014.

While most of the legislative discussion centers on cuts, the General Fund budget totals $19.5 million which represents an 8% increase over FY 2011-2012.

Even if you compare it only to FY 2012, it represents a 5% increase in spending.

The details of the budget are sparse, but it was revealed that the budget maintained a debt ratio of 6.7%, which is the highest in Kentucky's history and sure to worry the commonwealth's already concerned creditors.

There are no doubt other details that will disappoint taxpayers, but the weight of the debt alone is enough to sink this proposal. A cynic might propose that the legislature is deliberately financing the budget with record debt because they intend to approve the tax increases that will be proposed by the Governor's tax reform commission...

It is a KEY VOTE, and all the more reason to pass SB 1.

March 7, 2012

Governor Beshear's Tax Hike Commission Meets, Spends

About a month ago, Governor Beshear appointed members to his blue-ribbon commission on tax reform in Kentucky. Not only did he stack it with several liberal interest groups, the business interests he appointed were donation bundlers to his campaign, and he appointed zero economists (unless the George Soros-affiliated Kentucky Center for Economic Policy representative, Jason Bailey, is an economist. Oh, he's not.)

Not only is the commission membership set up to push for higher taxes, higher taxes is written into the mission of the commission:

The five goals for the Commission's work include:

Adequacy: The Commonwealth's tax structure should generate sufficient funds to support critical state services. The Commission is charged with reviewing the adequacy of revenues from the current tax structure and making recommendations for improvement.

Yesterday, the commission held its first meeting. First they heard from Greg Harkenrider, deputy executive director of the Governor's Office for Economic Analysis. Mr. Harkenrider could probably do the project by himself if someone would lend him their political capital to do so, and he pointed out that the state's tax code has been studied repeatedly, with little action, over the last 30 years.

Second, they decided to hire a consultant. There is no public information about the budget for this consultant. While it is clear that this panel does not have the expertise necessary to make a reasonable attempt at tax reform, we can save the commonwealth money.

The tax increases the consultant is likely to recommend are bad for Kentucky and will fail as a legislative package.

March 6, 2012

RS12 HB 458 - POSSIBLE KEY VOTE - Granting Health Care Monopolies Drive Up Costs

HB 458 would allow an innovation to the delivery of health care in the form of an "ambulatory surgical center". An ambulatory surgical center would be a health facility where physicians can provide outpatient (non-dental) surgical services. In theory, a group of physicians or surgeons could open a center and offer these health services, probably in competition with other providers, most likely hospitals.

As David Adams points out:

Surgery in a hospital is much more expensive than surgery in a doctor's office and Kentucky's House Health and Welfare Committee wants to keep you going to the hospital.

The committee voted this afternoon to require doctor's seeking to establish outpatient "ambulatory surgical centers" in their office's to apply to the state's archaic and inefficient Certificate of Need department so the state can prevent them from providing these services in competition with hospitals.

Competition is one way to help reduce prices in health care, and prices are the driver of high health care expenditures in the US. Unfortunately, this legislation subjects this new innovation to the state's "Certificate of Need", meaning that the state will only approve these innovative centers if they are not too much in competition with others offering the service.

Subjecting ambulatory surgical centers to state rationing will limit the impact of these centers, is anti-competitive and anti-growth, which is why this bill will likely be a KEY VOTE.

RS 12 HB 427 - PROBABLE KEY VOTE - Granting Scarce Taxdollars to Private Conservation Groups

HB 427 makes a dubious practice a waste.

Apparently, Kentucky has a "Kentucky Land Heritage Conservation Board", and this board administers a grant fund that is supported by tax revenues.

While such a fund is of dubious need to a state facing annual shortfalls of hundreds of millions of dollars, this bill would allow this funds to simply be given away to private conservation groups.

With a budget containing six percent cuts, it does not seem to be the wisest use of state resources to be granting tax dollars to the Sierra Club, Ducks Unlimited, or any "private nonprofit land conservation organization" that can raise funds on its own.

What is even more suspect is that it is sponsored by the corrupt Rep. Keith Hall. Last year Rep. Hall was reprimanded for appropriating state funds to himself:

Specifically, he worked to appropriate funds to a company that turned around and awarded Mr. Hall hundreds of thousands of dollars-worth of no-bid contracts. As the Legislative Ethics Commission Recently found, he broke the law:

State Rep. Keith Hall, D-Phelps, broke the law by using his public office to benefit himself, the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission ruled Tuesday as part of a plea deal.

In a rare punishment of a legislator, the commission fined Hall $2,000 and notified House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, that it had publicly reprimanded Hall.

Specifically, Hall voted in 2005 to appropriate coal-severance taxes for a Pike County sewer project from which one of his companies was given more than $171,000 in no-bid contracts.

Does Mr. Hall have any involvement with a "private nonprofit land conservation organization"? Is this his newest path to riches?

Setting dubious priorities for tax revenues, and Mr. Hall's involvement are both reasons HB 427 will likely be a KEY VOTE.

March 5, 2012

Pseudoephedrine Bill Passes Senate; One Candidate Intends to Make It an Issue

On Friday, SB 3 passed the Kentucky Senate 25-11.

One candidate for Kentucky Senate is making an issue of his opponent's vote in favor of the bill:

Tea Party Republican state Senate candidate Don Butler criticized his incumbent opponent for voting in favor of the Sudafed bill today in Frankfort.

"David Givens is the only Republican Senator with a Republican opponent to vote to make innocent Kentuckians pay a doctor to buy allergy medicines," Don Butler of Metcalfe County said. "The people of the 9th district won't soon forget this and allergy season is just about to start."

"The people I've been talking to are already upset with Sen. Givens for voting to increase gasoline taxes at such a bad time," Butler said. "I may have to hand out Kleenex all over the district between now and May 22. Every time Republican voters sneeze this spring, they will know what to do."

Before the final vote, the legislation was amended in a positive and significant way to address concerns that the legislation would cumbersomely limit access to allergy medicines to all allergy and cold sufferers. Instead of limiting consumers to only 15 days of allergy medicine each month, it now allows the full month, for three months each year. It remains an inconvenient and expensive requirement to visit a doctor and obtain a prescription for chronic allergy sufferers who need a decongestant for more than 100 days in a year.

March 2, 2012

RS12 HB 215 - POSSIBLE KEY VOTE - Forcing City Regulatory Preferences on Entire State

HB 215 creates a massive new state bureaucracy to set up oversight of electricians in every county in the state. The sponsors apparently want to force every local government to create this regulatory bureaucracy regardless of whether the local citizens find it necessary, otherwise the state will regulate it for them. This reads to us like big Kentucky cities forcing their regulatory preferences on the rest of the state. Possible KEY VOTE.

RS12 HB 240 - KEY VOTE - Adding to the Public Pension System

While HB 240 would seem to be bill helping to eliminate government by eliminating the elected office of constable, constables are actually cost-effective for the taxpayer. The office is self-supporting by charging fees for the service they provide, namely serving papers.

On the other hand, were the office eliminated, this job would fall to the sheriff. Sheriffs do not currently have the manpower to execute these responsibilities and would have to expand their personnel. While the fees would still help fund the personnel, the employees of the sheriff fall under the County Employees Retirement System, an underfunded pension system backed by the taxpayer.

Eliminating constables actually means more cost to the taxpayer, which is why this bill is a KEY VOTE.

RS12 HB 326 - POSSIBLE KEY VOTE - Assuming Medical Diagnosis for Firefighters

HB 326 would create a legal assumption that, if a firefighter has cancer, the firefighter has cancer because he or she is a firefighter. Amendments offered would improve the legislation, but the law should not assume medical diagnosis. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

RS12 HB 366 - POTENTIAL KEY VOTE - The Annual Nepotism Bill

HB 336 is a new edition of HB 415 from the Regular Session last year.

Both bills specify special circumstances where nepotism is OK in a school system. Back in 2011, nepotism would be OK in a school district if the person in question is the spouse of a Superintendent and has worked in school systems for 16 years.

This year, only 12 years of experience are required. This is a POTENTIAL KEY VOTE, because it does not seem that nepotism would create conflicts in a school system no matter the circumstances.

March 1, 2012

RS12 SB 3 - KEY VOTE - Still Requiring a Prescription for Allergy Medicine

This is the second year that several in the General Assembly have attempted to ban decongestants, and while they continually weaken their proposal, they are still going to require a prescription if you need to take Claritin-D for a month.

Specifically, SB 3 would allow "ephedrine-based, pseudoephedrine-based, or phenylpropanolamine-based legend drugs available without a prescription to 15 grams per year and 3.6 grams per month". That is a limit of 15 Allegra-D a month. If you somehow fail to plan for your allergies lasting longer than two weeks, you'll have to get an appointment with your doctor, your doctor will be responsible for evaluating whether you're cooking Meth, and eventually, you'll get allergy relief.

There may be a workable solution to this issue, like the alternative proposed earlier this year. But this bill remains a KEY VOTE in its current form as it infringes too much on the health of citizens in order to prevent criminals from engaging in criminal activity.

February 27, 2012

Legislation -- RS12 Day 35

HB 115
On House Orders
It may be nice to know where your catfish are from, but this legislation is too heavy handed. Instead of imposing an enormous regulatory burden on Kentucky restaurants, requiring them to constantly reprint menus to always denote where their catfish are from, the General Assembly would do well to accept the amendments offered by Rep. Jim DeCesare that will promote Kentucky Proud catfish, and allow restaurants to make the information available upon request. PROBABLE KEY VOTE.

HB 202
On House Orders
This is a ridiculous health care mandate without precedent. Tying chiropractor reimbursement rates to the workers comp schedule is not only wrong because no other reimbursement rate is set in such a ridiculous way, but it is estimated to raise health care costs for insured Kentuckians by more than $43 million each year. That's almost $100 per insured individual. It's a health care mandate we don't need and a KEY VOTE.

HB 240
On House Orders
This legislation to eliminate to elected office of constable would seem to be bill helping to eliminate government. Constables are actually cost-effective for the taxpayer. The office is self supporting by charging fees for the service they provide, namely serving papers. On the other hand, were the office eliminated, this job would fall to the sheriff, whose employees fall under the County Employees Retirement System, an underfunded pension system backed by the taxpayer. Eliminating this office actually means more cost to the taxpayer which is why this bill is a KEY VOTE.

HB 255 and its amendments regarding prevailing wage requirements remain KEY VOTES on House Orders.

HB 326
On House Orders
This bill would create a legal assumption that, if a firefighter has cancer, the firefighter has cancer because he or she is a firefighter. Amendments offered would improve the legislation, but the law should not assume medical diagnosis. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

February 16, 2012

Legislation -- RS12 Day 30

Legislation of concern to the taxpayer on the agenda:

HB 83
On agenda House Economic Development
Rep. Adam Koenig just wants to eliminate one agency that was investigated by the FBI in 2003 and then didn't meet for years. This is at least his third attempt. Why is it so hard to kill of even a non-functioning government program? The Club will KEY VOTE a 'yes' on our 2012 Legislative Scorecard.

HB 137
On agenda House Health and Welfare
Yet another new bureaucracy, this one to license and regulate radiation imaging and therapy. Does Kentucky not already have a medical licensing board that can handle specialties?

HB 215
On agenda House Labor & Labor
Here's a massive new state bureaucracy to set up oversight of electricians in every county in the state. The sponsors apparently want to force every local government to create this regulatory bureaucracy regardless of whether the local citizens find it necessary, otherwise the state will regulate it for them. This reads to us like big Kentucky cities forcing their regulatory preferences on the rest of the state. Possible KEY VOTE.

HB 216 regarding the age of compulsory education remains a KEY VOTE on House Orders.

HB 255 and its amendments regarding prevailing wage requirements remain KEY VOTES on House Orders.

HB 364
On agenda House Health and Welfare
The greater scrutiny of child placement that this bill requires is helpful. The COLA included in reimbursement rates will escalate costs at a rate of an additional $2.3 million annually. Such reimbursement rates are unsustainable and should not be considered outside the scope of the budget. KEY VOTE in its current form.

SB 50
On agenda Senate Judiciary
Fresh off their strong stand for incumbents in redistricting, the Stivers-Jensen team renew their efforts to ban helpful decongestants in the name of preventing criminals from buying them in Kentucky for misuse. We won't list all of the reasons this approach is unnecessarily burdensome for dubious effect again, but you can revisit them here. What's new in this version is an exemption "persons temporarily present in the Commonwealth in certain situations," creating a "Sorry gov, just passing through" loophole for transient criminals. Perhaps most interesting is the fact that the five cosponsors of the bill include Kentucky's two Senators who have been convicted of crimes! Our 2012 Scorecard will KEY VOTE this legislation negatively.

SB 77 remains a KEY VOTE on Senate Orders.

February 15, 2012

Legislation -- RS12 Day 29

Legislation of concern to the taxpayer on the agenda:

SB 77
On Senate Orders
This is a pro-growth bill that clarifies the process for dealing with employee misclassification in contracting. The classification rules in Kentucky are jumbled and vary from county to county. This legislation sets up a clear process for responsibility and correction of classification issues. The Club will KEY VOTE a 'yes' on our 2012 Legislative Scorecard.

SB 87
On agenda for discussion in Senate Natural Resources & Energy
This bill creates authority for a new telecommunications tax. Regardless of the merit of the intention of the bill, our phones are already overtaxed and the program should be funded out of existing funds. We oppose this tax increase and it will be a KEY VOTE on our 2012 Scorecard.

HB 88
On House Orders
This legislation seems to create a loophole for litigation in arbitration agreements, the very expensive litigation that arbitration agreements are designed to avoid. This legislation is pro-trial lawyer and anti-business. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

HB 202
On agenda in House Banking and Insurance
This legislation is health care mandate that could cost Kentuckians over $33 million annually in increased health insurance costs, which breaks down to almost $100 per policyholder annually in Kentucky. The Club will KEY VOTE 'no' on our 2012 Legislative Scorecard.

HB 216
On House Orders
This is Governor Beshear's legislation to raise the dropout age in Kentucky. You can read our previous post about why this approach costs taxpayers money without actually addressing the problem. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

HB 255 HFA1, HFA2
On House Orders
We are skeptical about the merits of the overall bill. It seems to create a new agency with bonding authority and instructions to lend to the next Solyndra, it will require further analysis and is only a POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HFA1 and HFA2, however, are definitely KEY VOTES. If Kentucky wishes to maximize its school construction dollar, then exempting that construction from artificial prevailing wage requirements will save 20%.

HB 282
On agenda in House Banking and Insurance
This legislation creates a giant new bureaucracy in an anti-competitive attempt to regulate certain providers of medical equipment. The new regulation and bureaucracy is also a new expense to state government. It also creates new crimes. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE.

HB 324
On agenda in House Local Government
Creating an automatic spending increase will inevitably go unchecked and get out of hand. While it has been ten years since this statute was created, if the rates need revision, they should be revised through the legislative process, not put on automatic pilot. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE.

January 31, 2012

Thayer Provides Remedy for Fighting Bureaucracy in NKY and Elsewhere

Last July, patriots in Northern Kentucky attempted to "Ax the Tax" created to fund a wasteful planning commission.

Unfortunately, their effort to gather the requisite amount of signatures was thwarted by an unfriendly judge protecting the government from the will of the people.

Sen. Damon Thayer wants to help the petition to eliminate the tax succeed, as does cosponsor Sen. John Schickel

SB 62 will not only lower the signature threshold to gain ballot access for this sort of petition by 60%, but also lengthen the window to collect them and even create a strong presumption that signatures are valid in order to make them harder to disqualify.

Today, SB 62 passed the Senate 23-12. This legislation will be a KEY VOTE on our 2012 Legislative Scorecard, and we may even award cosponsorship.

January 27, 2012

Legislation -- RS12 Day 17

Even though it's early, some bills have already seen action in one committee or another. Some bills have even passed one chamber. Here is a first installment of a few bills that are of concern to the taxpayer and to the free market.

HB 21
Passed House 91-0
This anti-competitive measure seems unconstitutional. It would allow the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to require national providers of durable medical equipment to maintain an office in Kentucky.

HB 88
On House Orders
This legislation seems to create a loophole for litigation in arbitration agreements, the very expensive litigation that arbitration agreements are designed to avoid. This legislation is pro-trial lawyer and anti-business. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

HB 216
On House Orders
This is Governor Beshear's legislation to raise the dropout age in Kentucky. You can read our previous post about why this approach costs taxpayers money without actually addressing the problem. POSSIBLE KEY VOTE

SB 86
Passed Senate Committee on Education
This legislation would create opportunities for early graduation in grade school and specify how Kentucky scholarship funds would be affected by graduating early.

Bill to Eliminate Treasurer's Office Moves Forward

While it may seem like nothing good is happening in Frankfort, there are a few positives.

Possibly the best right now is that Sen. Damon Thayer's bill to eliminate the Constitutional Office of State Treasurer is moving forward.

SB 51 is also cosponsored by Sen. Mike Wilson.

As we have written before:

The office of the Treasurer has little responsibility outside of printing checks and sitting on a few boards. It serves no role in checks or balances on the system that would support an argument for it continuing to be an elected office, serves no function that is exclusive to the office, is an unnecessary use of taxpayer dollars and should be eliminated.

This legislation is an obvious KEY VOTE for the 2012 Scorecard, and we may also award cosponsorship of this legislation.

The bill has received its second reading and should be voted on the floor of the Senate soon. Contact your legislator and let them know you support this great legislation.

December 12, 2011

Rep. Mike Harmon on a Roll

We are generally fans of Mike Harmon. He scores consistently near the top of our scorecards, although we were disappointed with his initial support of a budget that depended on a $184 million tax increase in 2010.

Harmon has already started 2012 out right by pre-filing two bills that will make Kentucky better. One will lead to a better political process and the other will put a real "debt ceiling" on Kentucky's finances.

The first, prefiled as BR 327 would allow candidates for Governor to select their Lt. Governor running mate after the May primary.

"I think people are comfortable with the way we elect a President and Vice President and this mirrors that process on the state level. It allows parties to put forth the most qualified candidates for both offices in the General Election," said Rep. Harmon. "It is my hope that these proposed changes will in some part reduce voter apathy and gets more people engaged in having their voices heard."

Delaying the selection of running mates until after the primary may also encourage more primary participants.

Harmon's second bill, pre-filed as BR 264 would create an effective limit on Kentucky's runaway debt, placing a limit relative to Kentucky's expected revenues.

From the press release:

Rep. Harmon's proposal seeks to change Section 50 of the Kentucky Constitution that would dictate any authorization of appropriation-supported debt service by the General Assembly shall not at any time exceed the ratio to the Commonwealth's revenues by five percent. The bill makes exceptions in times when the Governor declares an emergency related to loss of life or property, such as a major natural disaster, and the Governor determines that it is necessary to exceed the five percent debt-to-revenue ratio. In those cases it would require a 4/5 vote by both the House and Senate to approve the request. Any funds borrowed under those situations would not be included in calculating the five-percent ratio cap.

Amen. As David Adams points out, Kentucky is currently above this threshold.

We are now almost 30% above this so Rep. Harmon's bill would stop the accumulation of bonded debt for several years.

Constitutional amendments are difficult to gain momentum. The Kentucky Club for Growth will help by scoring cosponsorship of this amendment on our 2012 scorecard. You can help by contacting your legislator and asking them to cosponsor HB 108 in January.

March 4, 2011

Today in Frankfort - March 4, 2011

Legislative Day 27

Most of the action starts in the Senate today.

On House Orders

SB 75 - Another Health Care Mandate
While the original language would result in a 1% premium hike, the HCS should not have great effect on costs. Both HFA1 and HFA2 however would result in higher health care costs.

HB 305 - Budget Reduction
The original language kicked the can down the road, pushing a difficult budget situation into the next fiscal year. Current language is much improved, imposing real cuts to balance a budget shortfall. Freshman legislators can blame the rest of their colleagues for creating the shortfall in the first place, relying on a second federal bailout that no one other than a legislator in Frankfort could have actually expected to happen.

On Senate Orders

HB 333 - Fireworks Tax
This legislation imposes huge new fees and taxes on the fireworks retailers who set up shop every year around Independence Day and New Years. In fact, such shops are practically banned by requiring new building codes, fees to the fire marshal and paperwork to the Department of Revenue. The statute sets out to criminalize most Kentuckians by allowing aerial fireworks but banning them within 200 feet of any vehicle structure or person. This is an act that protects big businesses at the expense of the small entrepreneur. POTENTIAL KEY VOTE

March 2, 2011

Today in Frankfort - March 2, 2011

Legislative Day 25

So much for ending six days early.

In Committee

HB 433 - Paperwork for Tire Sales Working Group
Senate Committee on State and Local Government
Since we last discussed this bill, the bill has been greatly improved. Not only will it require coordinated thought behind the goal of waste tire reduction in Kentucky, it requires the Cabinet to dedicating at least 75% of waste tire funds to waste tire reduction programs.

SB 75 - Another Health Insurance Mandate
House Committee on Banking and Insurance
Our lengthy discussion on health insurance mandates yesterday neglected to include this bill, although we did mention last year's effort to mandate chiropractor coverage. This year's effort is estimated to increase insurance premiums and health care costs up to 1%, so the total effect of mandates - if they all passed - would be to raise premiums 2.6%, above and beyond whatever cost increases are caused by the general trend of increasing health care costs and the effects of Obamacare. A 2.6% premium hike is just the General Assembly's small part of making your health care more expensive. LIKELY KEY VOTE.

Still on House Orders

HB 23 HFA1/HFA2 - Price Controls on Pawnbrokers
HB 141 - Collective Bargaining Rights to Corrections Employees
HB 210 - Decals for New Drivers
HB 230 - Another Health Insurance Mandate
HB 386 - Harsh Penalties for Plumbing Violations
HB 394 - Fake Education Innovation
SB 151 - Electing the PSC

March 1, 2011

Today in Frankfort - March 1, 2011

Legislative Day 24

Bills in Committee

HB 318 - $1 Billion Tax Increase
House Committee on Appropriations and Revenue
This legislation would increase taxes by $1 billion for the biennium, or over 5% of current revenues, expand the sales tax to some services used by every Kentucky family including car washes, dry-cleaning, carpet cleaning and exterminators, target family farms with an estate tax increase, and hike cigarette and income taxes. WILL SCORE COSPONSORSHIP NEGATIVELY

We have already discussed:

SB 41 - Dismantling the Political Party System in Kentucky
  House Committee on Elections

HB 247 - Licensing Radon Contractors
House Committee on Licensing and Occupations

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 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.

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?

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

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 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.

January 10, 2011

Senate Passes Charter Schools Bill

As a part of Senate Leadership's first-week legislative agenda, they passed SB 3 which allows the establishment of charter schools in Kentucky. Here is what the Bluegrass Policy Blog posted about this legislation:

This historic event marks the first time charter school legislation has met the approval of either chamber of the Kentucky Legislature. It is an important step forward in an effort long supported by the Bluegrass Institute to provide the commonwealth's students and parents more educational options and control.

The bill, Senate Bill 3, will allow local school boards, at that local board's option, to create these innovative public schools in Kentucky. It opens new doors for the state to develop these education crucibles where real research on educational methods can take place outside of the 'one size must fit all' restrictions and red tape that stifles the regular public school system.

SB 3 will provide real opportunities for innovation in education in Kentucky, and provide real choice for Kentucky students and families. SB 3 is a likely KEY VOTE for the 2011 session.

January 7, 2011

Palmer Attempts to Kill Tax Reform

Sen. Palmer today attempted to amend SB 1 in committee and on the floor of the Senate. The amendment has three parts. The first would add three members of the House and three members of the Senate to the task force. This would answer our earlier concern about the task force and and Sen. Leeper seemed agreeable to this part of the proposal.

But the other provisions are killers. Sen. Palmer would put the government in charge by appointing the Commissioner of Revenue as the Chair. It would also take the teeth out of the proposal, by removing provisions allowing the task force's recommendations to be considered by the General Assembly.

Humorously, Palmer stated that he needed to add the six legislators so that the tax issue wasn't left only in the hands of professionals.

Next, Sen. Blevins attempted to add children's advocates to the tax-experts on the task force, because he said the commission doesn't have a heart.

KYCFG will Key Vote sfa1 and sfa2 negatively.

SB 1 passed the Senate 25-13. Democratic Sens. Jones and Neal supported the measure.

January 6, 2011

Senate Committee Approves Two Steps in The Right Direction

Yesterday, the Senate A&R Committee approved two pieces of process-related legislation that could help create a better environment in the General Assembly to pass pro-growth legislation.

First is SB 5, a potential KEY VOTE for the KyCFG's 2012 Scorecard. SB 5 simply requires a 48-hour viewing period on any legislation that would raise taxes or appropriate funds.

The second is SB 1, which 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.

The sponsors of SB 1, David Williams and Bob Leeper, should be commended for their leadership in creating this novel approach to attempt real reform. As Williams notes in a Herald-Leader report:

Williams said Beshear and the Democratic-controlled House, where a tax bill must originate, have not taken the lead on the issue. This bill would allow the Senate to push for tax reform.

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.

It is also great that the effort includes direction to examine not just state but local taxation as well:

Develop criteria for assessing the effectiveness of the current state and local tax and revenue system, as well as the systemic impact of any proposed changes affecting revenues.

Our only concern lies in the makeup of the task force. Five university economists, two CPAs, one PVA, and a tax attorney. While the task force is instructed to solicit advice from business associations, the associations and their advice are hardly adequate substitutes to the input real job creators should have. Kentucky business owners should be a part of the team, not simply offer advice through association lobbyists.

It will probably not matter. House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the proposal is D.O.A. in Kentucky's Good-Ol'-Boy House:

The panel will not include any legislators that can vote on the potential changes. For the legislature to approve a far-reaching overhaul of how the state generates revenue, legislators should be part of the process, Stumbo said.

"In the end, tax modernization is going to have to be decided by the members of these two chambers," Stumbo said. "I'm not for abdicating the authority or the responsibility, really, of the legislature."

We actually partially agree with the Speaker -- it would seem to us that the task force's recommendations would receive guidance and an improved chance of passage with the right legislators included on the panel.

So there's a test of Stumbo's leadership: will he commit to improving Kentucky's tax code, make a small amendment and move the legislation forward, or will he sit on his hands, keeping Kentucky on the same path we've always been on?

June 1, 2010

The 2009-2010 Scorecard

For the Fourth Year, the Kentucky Club for Growth is proud to present our ultimate voter tool - our Legislative Scorecard. We have ranked Kentucky's legislators based on their votes on issues of fiscal responsibility and economic freedom.

Follow the links below to see how your legislators ranked. We have ranked the 2009 and 2010 Sessions together in our overall ranking so that you can see how they've voted cumulatively during the budget cycle (and the political cycle). To look at each year's ranking, you can view the individual vote tallies for each year. Additionally, you are encouraged to view the Scorecard Justifications to see the ridiculous, and sometimes good legislation that we score.

Please pass these tools along to your friends who are concerned about protecting the Kentucky taxpayer!

2009-2010 House Scorecard
2009-2010 Senate Scorecard

2009 Votes House | Senate
2010 Votes House | Senate

2009 Vote Explanations
2010 Vote Explanations

March 24, 2010

Bills in Frankfort Today - March 24, 2010

Legislative Day 54

House

A New Costly Set of Regulations
The House Committee on Agriculture will consider HB 304 which places new regulations on stockyards, and will cost the state an additional $70,000/year to enforce.

Senate

Another New Spending Program
The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare will consider HB 72 which creates a $600,000 colon cancer screening program.

Revamping Another Board that Costs Money
The State is full of boards and commissions that bleed the General Fund, but, fortunately, many of them do not actually meet. The Senate Committee on State and Local Government will consider HB 170, which will resurrect Commission on Fire Protection Personnel Standards and Education and spend more money to be sure it is adequately staffed.

More Tedious Regulations to Suffocate Small Businesses
Possible KEY VOTE: The Senate Committee on State and Local Government will also consider HB 185, a bill requiring businesses to post various statutes on the wall somewhere and creating new penalties for non-compliance.

March 23, 2010

Bills in Frankfort Today - March 23, 2010

Legislative Day 53, 7 more to go...

House

Did You Know We Had A State Beekeeper?
Under SJR 177, he or she will be required to put bees in rights-of-way.

Senate

A Stealth Spending Increase
Possible KEY VOTE:Senate A&R will consider HB 295 a bill that reduces funds dedicated to the "Building Inspectors' Financial Incentive Training Program Fund", but requires that any fees collected in excess of this fund are dedicated to the Office of Housing, Buildings, and Construction's building inspection program. Not knowing the amount of revenue the fee creates, this may overfund the operation of the office, while removing resources from the General Fund.

Another New $1.7 Million Spending Program
Senate A&R will also consider HB 376, a bill creating a new $2000 salary supplement for speech-language pathologists and audiologists. While no funding is appropriated in this legislation, it creates a program that would cost over $1.7 million to fulfill.

Raising the Dropout Age
The Senate Committee on Education will consider HB 301 which raises the age for compulsory school attendance to 18.

Another New Board
HB 308 is on the Senate Orders, and will more or less replace the wood-products-related board that Rep. Koenig repealed. So much for reducing government.

March 18, 2010

Bills in Frankfort Today - March 18, 2010

Legislative Day 49

House

Energy Price Hike Mandates
Likely KEY VOTE: HB 3 is on the agenda in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment again this week. The Kentucky House must think President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are doing things right. Yesterday, they created a debt-based stimulus program for Kentucky. Today, they're creating energy portfolio mandates and their own sort of Cap and Trade program. This is a convoluted bill, full of new energy bureaucracy that will increase energy prices for all Kentuckians.

Trails Bureaucracy
The House Committee on Tourism and Energy will consider HB 173, a bill to grant the Kentucky Trails Authority the actual authority to create trails on public lands. It also authorizes the Trails Authority the authority to charge access fees and sets up a fund to receive the fees to be used for trails maintenance and development.

Senate

Outdated Medical Guides Are Better
Likely KEY VOTE: In what has become an annual occurrence, Senate Judiciary will consider HB 38, this year's bill to mandate that the AMA 5th edition, not the current 6th edition, should be used in disability determinations for workers' claims. The Senate seems to have finally given up on protecting modern medicine this year.

Driving While Texting
Also on the agenda for Senate Judiciary is SB 23, the ban on texting while driving. The bill would fine an individual $100 for the first offense, $300 for subsequent offenses, and $200-$600 if the incident caused an accident.

Obviously, More State Corrections Employees Are Needed
In what appears to be a needless but costly rearrangement of deck chairs, the Senate Committee on Education will hear HB 164, transferring all KCTCS employees who are engaged in providing educational services and support to inmates to the Department of Corrections. Here they will join the state retirement system and the state health plan. Not only will it cost more to hire people into the Department of Corrections than KCTCS, just because of the association, but the benefits will be more expensive too. What a great plan.

March 17, 2010

Bills in Frankfort Today - March 17, 2010

Legislative Day 49

House

Another New State Board
This one's so redundant that the bill has to specify that the authority of other boards is not diminished. SB 105 is heard in the House Committee on Agriculture.

Another New Spending Program
Still on the agenda from last week is HB 594, a new tax and subsidy program for dairy farmers.Not only is this a new tax designed to increase the price of (and therefore reduce the demand for) milk, it puts a new burden on retailers to apply and collect the tax. Still a likely KEY VOTE.

Professional Charitable Gambling
The House Committee on Licensing and Occupations will consider HB 515 that will allow eight people to be paid to operate charitable gaming. How charitable is that? Are there really no volunteers to operate church bingo?

Another Health Care Mandate
The House Committee on Banking and Insurance will consider HB 460 mandating coverage of oral cancer medications. All new mandates increase health costs for us all.

Senate

First Step in The Next American Car Company Failure
The Senate Committee on Transportation will consider HB 217, a bill placing new state restrictions on car manufacturer-dealer relationships. While much attention is given to the roll the unsustainable union contracts played on American car company sluggishness, GM, Ford and Chrysler were also greatly constrained by a bog of state laws governing their relationships with dealers. Here, once again, the state is dictating to the car companies who should operate their dealerships, once again preventing them from making the economic choices they might make in a free market.

How Many Employees Are In Kentucky Government?
Because no one knows the answer to this question, the Senate Committee on State and Local Government is considering HB 387, which will require this information to be reported quarterly.

March 16, 2010

Bills in Frankfort Today - March 16, 2010

Legislative Day 48

House

Allowing SEEK Funds For Early Graduation
The House Education Committee will hear SB 67 which encourages early graduation and allows students to maintain SEEK-funded scholarships when leaving the school system early.

An Independent Commission To Set Salaries of Elected Officials
The House Committee on Elections will consider HB 554, a strange constitutional amendment to create an independent commissions responsible for setting the salaries of public officials and allow the public to dispute them by referendum

Independents Allowed to Vote In Partisan Primaries
The committee will also consider SB 53, which was debated in the Senate on CNN.

Glorious Entitlement for the Benefit of Teachers
Likely KEY VOTE: House A↦R will consider HB 540 newly guaranteed perpetual health benefits -- like no employees in the private sector enjoy -- to all teachers forever. We discussed this legislation a few weeks ago.

Another New Board and Spending Program
As if the state is looking for new ways to spend. HB 490 in House Welfare Committee.

Senate

Big Brother Philanthropy
Likely KEY VOTE: The Senate Committee on Appropriations and Revenue will discuss SB 227, a horrible proposal to create a charitable trust operated by the state government for the purpose of receiving and disbursing charitable donations. In the list of things the government should not be doing, this is near the top.

Budget
Senate A&R will also discuss the budget.

Another Health Care Mandate
The Senate Committee on Banking and Insurance will consider SB 154 mandating coverage of acquired brain injuries. All new mandates increase health costs for us all.

March 15, 2010

Frankfort Today - March 15, 2010

Legislative Day 47

House

Another New Board/Commission
HB 498 leads off the House orders creating yet another railroad advisory board

Another New Spending Program
HB 513, which we mentioned on Tuesday, is a new spending program which will potentially take educations funds out of the classroom.

Anti-Contract-Preference Legislation
Likely KEY VOTE: SB 45 evens the playing field in the state procurement system by creating a reciprocal preference penalty. If another state gives unfair preference to local companies in bids for contracts, then Kentucky will penalize applications from companies in that state by the same amount. This is a good disincentive for the anti-competitive practice of geographic discrimination.

And Another New $3,000,000 Spending Program
Possible KEY VOTE: HB 436 creates a $3,000,000 new program to fund school nurses. Wile we do not take issue with nurses in schools, we question whether this is the appropriate time to create new funding burdens. There is a committee substitute deleting the funding language.

New Entertainment Tax
As we mentioned on Wednesday, HB 206 is a KEY VOTE on a new tax.

Recidivism Reduction
From Committee on Tuesday, HB 340 would allow prisons to enter in cooperative agreements with private enterprises.

Dueling Allowed
Also from Tuesday, HB 36 would remove the language swearing public officials have not participated in a duel.

Abolishing One Non-Existent Board
Likely KEY VOTE. As we mentioned a few weeks ago, HB 309 eliminates the Kentucky Wood Products Competitiveness Corporation

Attempting To Circumvent Parole Board
The Governor has not hidden his plan to help balance the state's budget by releasing more criminals from state jails. The problem as he sees it is that the Parole Board is trying too hard to keep violent criminals in jail. Beshear is pushing HB 564 so that he can take better control of the parole process and release more prisoners from jail early to save money.

Transparency in Spending
Likely KEY VOTE of support: HB 492, from last Monday, would require the legislative and judicial branch to post their finances online.

Transparency for Quasi-Governmental Agencies
Likely KEY VOTE of support: SB 87 creates new transparency in spending requirements for entities like KACo and KLC.

Wage Litigation

Potential KEY VOTE: HFA2 to HB 435 is an amendment that softens legal language prohibiting wage discrimination, opening the door to less clarity and greater litigation.

March 11, 2010

What Frankfort's Up to Today - March 11, 2010 - Part I

Two-Parter today because we're busy.

Legislative Day 46

House

Energy Price Hike Mandates
Likely KEY VOTE: HB 3 will be heard in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment. The Kentucky House must think President Obama and Nancy Pelosi are doing things right. Yesterday, they created a debt-based stimulus program for Kentucky. Today, they're creating energy portfolio mandates and their own sort of Cap and Trade program. This is a convoluted bill, full of new energy bureaucracy that will increase energy prices for all Kentuckians.

Kentucky's Own Housing Bubble Generator
The House Committee on Economic Development will seek to put taxpayers on the hook to pay back banks if construction loans fail in HB 553. Imagine what would have happened to the state if this program had been in place before the financial crisis hit!

Unionizing State Employees
KEY VOTE: The House Committee on Labor and Labor will hear HB 493 allowing state employees to enter collective bargaining. This idea will only serve to make it more difficult to set more realistic benefits for state employees, and generally violates the principle that the government should be responsible to the taxpayers.

March 10, 2010

What Frankfort's Up to Today - March 10, 2010

Legislative Day 45

House

Another New Spending Program
Likely KEY VOTE: The House Agriculture Committee will take up HB 594, a new tax and subsidy program for dairy farmers.Not only is this a new tax designed to increase the price of (and therefore reduce the demand for) milk, it puts a new burden on retailers to apply and collect the tax.

New Eminent Domain Powers for State-Run Sequestration Service
KEY VOTE: The House Committee on Resources and the Environment will hear HB 491, making all sequestration in Kentucky a state-run endeavor. The bill grants the state condemnation rights based on geologic features favorable to carbon sequestration, establishes a board which has the authority to charge a fee for "carbon storage" in the confiscated property. This government takeover of an emerging private enterprise is, well, the antithesis of the free market.

Corporate Organization Bills
The House Committee on Judiciary will hear SB 150, SB 151 and SB 152, all which change the rules of business organization in Kentucky.

Zoning Fee Increase
The House Committee on Local Government will consider HB 431 which allows local governments to raise fees for planning and zoning violations.

Senate

Anatomical Gifts
The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare will consider SB 4, a bill creating procedures for individuals to bequeath body parts.

Personal Care Homes
The Senate Committee on Health and Welfare will also consider SB 143, creating a regulatory structure to certify 'personal care homes' and explore the ability to include such facilities in Medicaid.

$1,000,000 Public Health Accreditation
HB 258 will be discussed in Senate Health and Welfare, which creates a new public health accreditation program that apparently costs $1,000,000.

March 9, 2010

What Frankfort's Up to Today - March 9, 2010

Legislative Day 43

House

Forcing Tax Hikes
Potential KEY VOTE: The House Education Committee discusses HB 168, a bill that punishes Kentucky School Districts that do not force the maximum tax hike on the district's taxpayers each year.

Creating New Spending Programs
Potential KEY VOTE: The House Education Committee also discusses HB 513, a bill to create a new spending program. This a bad idea for two reasons. First, because the state is grappling with cutting back to reasonable levels after years of overspending, this is hardly the right time for new spending programs. Not only that, but this is an enhancement program. The problem with just about any enhancement program in education it that it gets considered "education spending" but inevitably draws education funds out of the classroom. This bill exemplifies the problem in Frankfort. It is feel-good legislation with no consideration for the longer-term consequences or how the spending fits in to the overall priorities of the state.

Senate

Tax Bill:

Potential KEY VOTE: The Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee takes up HB 530, a bill of assorted new taxes and tax hikes and administrative reforms to help avoid necessary spending cuts. The bill does recognize that maybe now is not a good time for taxpayers to be subsidizing Hollywood producers millions of dollars a year, but ironically (or maybe typically) the bill simply limits the subsidy to $5 million this year and $7.5 million the next. Aren't you glad to know what our legislators' priorities are?

March 8, 2010

What Frankfort's Up to Today - March 8, 2010

We hope to feature this summary every day from now until the end of session...

Day 42

On the House Floor:

New Entertainment Tax

KEY VOTE: HB 206 gives county fiscal courts the ability to levy a new 3% tax on events at private facilities.

Recidivsm Reduction:
HB 340 would create a "Prison Industries Enhancement Program" that will allow prisons to enter in cooperative agreements with private enterprises. Similar programs in other states have been promoted as recidivism reduction because prisoners gain work experience that better prepares them to reenter the workforce once time is served. Provisions of the bill attempt to prevent unfair competition from the not-quite-forced labor by requiring some demonstration that adequate resources are not otherwise available in the state.

Dueling Allowed:

HB 36 would remove the language swearing public officials have not participated in a duel.

Eliminating a Non-existant Board:

Well, it's a start.

New Health Care Mandate:

SB 18 would mandate coverage of experimental cancer treatments. All new mandates increase health costs for us all.

Transparency:

HB 492 would require the legislative and judicial branch to post their finances online

March 3, 2010

KEY VOTE: HB 540 - Guaranteed Health Care for Not You

Today in the General Assembly a bill will be taken up that creates a new guaranteed health benefit for all future retirees from the state.

This is a guarantee not typically available anywhere else in the workplace.

While the bill makes some paltry commitment to increasing the amount of funding for the program from participants, the real cost recovery is borne by requiring Kentucky taxpayers to support its funding solvency.

There are good ideas in the bill. It attempts to prevent the legislature from borrowing from the fund, and it requires more reasonable contributions from participants. But the cost of a permanent guaranteed cadillac heath benefit is too great.

Health costs are rising, and likely to rise much faster if Nancy Pelosi is successful in cramming health entitlement expansion through Congress. The current $6.2 billion unfunded liability will expand and taxpayers will be on the hook to pay for benefits they themselves don't have, and (as Caleb Brown points out) that go to people who are no longer contributing to the state.

Call and email your representative today to prevent tax hikes in the future!

This is likely to be scored as a Key Vote on the KyCFG's 2010 scorecard.

January 7, 2010

KEY VOTE and RALLY: HR 10 - State Sovereignty

The session has only just begun, but there's one item we're already likely yo key vote in 2010.

HR 10 simply declare state sovereignty over powers not given to the federal government by the U. S. Constitution, a reaffirmation of the Tenth Amendment.

This principle has been too often overlooked as our federal officials consider regulating the air we exhale and attempt to mandate we purchase privately-provided services under penalty of jail.

What can you do to get this important piece of legislation passed?

First, visit KENTUCKYKNOWSBEST.COM to find out more about this important legislation.

Next, call and email your legislator today to ask them to cosponsor this resolution.

Finally, show up in Frankfort on January 21 for a rally in support of our state's right to oppose federal mandates

The Kentucky Club for Growth will definitely Key-Vote cosponsorship of this resolution for our 2010 scorecard.

June 23, 2009

Session Could Finish Tonight; KEY VOTES

Belated UPDATE: It won't. See you tomorrow.

Kentucky.com reports that the House and Senate have reached a budget agreement, and that two of the important initiatives from the economic incentives bill have been moved into the budget: the land transfer for the battery plant, and a privately-funded project at UK.

This creates the possibility for the Senate to agree to this and adjourn. However, they are still working on the tax giveaways bill, so it may survive as well.

There is a strong likelihood that these bills will be key votes for the Kentucky Club for Growth's 2009 scorecard. Kentucky taxpayers are already concerned about the unnecessary length of the special session. If the Budget bill cuts spending any less than the Governor's original proposal, or if tax giveaways to Hollywood are included in the incentives, Kentucky taxpayers should be very concerned.

June 22, 2009

KEY VOTE: HB 1

The Kentucky Club for Growth encourages you to contact your legislators and encourage them to vote "No" on HB 1, the budget proposal.

The special session of the general assembly was called to address a supposed $1 billion shortfall. This bill increases spending. This bill does not identify specific spending cuts.

It is completely irresponsible to increase spending when a shortfall is projected, regardless of expectations of potential new revenues.

The Club may score many of the votes of this session, but this vote is guaranteed.

UPDATE: 5:44 -- And the Club will expose all members who voted against having a fiscal analysis before they voted on the bill

March 11, 2009

Key Vote: HB 236 - Taxing IPTV

HB 236 - Taxing Technology That Doesn't Exist

It's not that it doesn't exist at all, it's that it doesn't exist in Kentucky. "Television Over Internet Protocol" or IPTV is a new effort by telecom companies, particularly AT&T and Verizon, to provide multi-channel cable over the internet. This new competition is good news for consumers in Kentucky, because:

A recent FCC study showed that cable rates increased at more than 3.5 times the rate of inflation between 1998 and 2003-but in the few places where cable faces competition from another wireline provider, prices are substantially lower than the average. The increased competition provided by the telcos will no doubt drive prices down further, as has already happened in Texas (where several telco TV projects are undergoing trials).

So how does the legislature react to the potential new technology? Instead of passing regulation that would ensure that franchise agreements would be available for providers that wanted to bring IPTV to Kentucky (which we should add brings significant investment in high-speed infrastructure to make it possible), they pass a new tax to make sure Kentucky is a less attractive place for the technology to expand to. And that's what HB 236 does: taxes IPTV before it even exists.

March 9, 2009

Key Vote: HB 102 - Tolls

KEY VOTE ALERT

"NO" to HB 102 - Tolls on top of Taxes and Debt!

The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "NO" on HB 102, which will create new tolling authorities in Kentucky. This key vote will be part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.

So far, the legislature has voted to hike the gas tax by four cents, bond an additional $400 million in debt to build roads, and that's all on top of an expected $441 million in federal stimulus road building. Now in addition to saddling drivers of the commonwealth with higher gas taxes and debt, they are trying to bring back tolls.

Even if one believes that tolls are a fairer way to apportion fees for use of the road system, that is no excuse for piling Kentuckians with multiple tax and spending schemes. They've already voted to hike taxes and pile debt above levels that were already at record highs. Apparently debt and tax hikes are not sufficient for those addicted to spending in Frankfort, and they need to create an entire new system of taxation on top of those measures.

When will this tax frenzy stop? (March 24 27) Who will stand up against it until then?

Key Vote: HB 374 - Gas Tax Hike

While we mentioned this in our e-newsletter, we haven't yet posted that HB 374, a bill that raises Kentucky's gas tax by $0.04, will be scored as a part of the Kentucky Club for Growth's 2009 Legislative Scorecard.

The bill passed the House on Friday, 82-17-1.

So far, the 14 Representatives who have voted against the alcohol and cigarette tax increases, the new sales tax on IT services, and now the gas tax increase are:

Stan Lee (R-Fayette, 2008 Rank #2)
David Floyd (R-Nelson, #4)
Kevin Bratcher (R-Jefferson, #6)
Jim DeCesare (R-Warren, #7)
Mike Harmon (R-Boyle, #7)
Bill Farmer (R-Fayette, #10)
Tom Kerr (R-Kenton, #12)
Adam Koenig (R-Kenton, #12)
CB Embry (R-Butler, #15)
Alicia Webb-Edgington (R-Kenton, #15)
Tim Couch (R-Leslie, #22)
Myron Dossett (R-Christian, #25)
Tim Moore (R-Hardin, #29)
Brent Housman (R-McCracken, new)

March 3, 2009

Key Votes: Some Good Legislation

SB 72 - Honoring the Spirit of HB 44

The legislation that set forth the annual 4% cap on property tax increases is commonly referred to as HB 44, even though there's a new HB 44 every year. While the cap has kept property taxes lower in Kentucky there are many taxing authorities that do not fall in the cap, and effectively create annual increases larger than 4%. SB 72 would require the fiscal court to approve increases by these other taxing authorities, bringing better accountability and helping create an honest cap. SB 72 is currently sponsored by Senators Damon Thayer (R-Scott, #2 and John Schickel (R-Kenton, new) and the Kentucky Club for Growth will reward them and other cosponsors of SB 72 on its 2009 scorecard.

SB 49 - Repeal the Rain Tax

Senator Thayer (R-Scott, #2) again has taxpayer fairness in mind, as this bill prohibits a citizen or business from being charged storm water taxes if they are unserved by the sanitary or storm water system. The government should either provide the service to an area or exempt the area from the fees related to the unprovided service.

HB 411 - Combining the KVE into the KSP

HB 411 eliminates Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement and merges its operations and functions into the Kentucky State Police. They really are duplicative agencies, ever since the KVE was rules to have the authority of officers of the peace. When is the last time you remember a major state agency being eliminated in more than name? Sponsors are Representatives Mike Cherry (D-Caldwell, #78) and Sal Santoro (R-Boone, #11).

Key Votes: Driving Businesses Out of Kentucky

SB 56 and HB 333 - Outdated Medical Guidelines Are Better For Organized Labor

SB 56 and HB 333 are two verions of the same legislation that would roll back the state's standard to the outdated 5th edition of the American Medical Association's "Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment" because organized labor thinks the new edition is less lucrative valid. So in the pocket of organized labor that they're willing to ignore modern medicine: Senator Ray Jones (D-Pike, #30), Representatives Brett Yonts (D-Muhlenberg, #78), Dwight Butler (R-Breckinridge, #36), Tommy Turner (R-Pulaski, #26), Robin Webb (D-Carter, #69)

HB 392 - Double Penalties for Misclassification of Employees

HB 392 creates potential for double penalties in the construction industry where the Office of Workplace Standards and a contractor disagree on which workers are 'independent contractors' and which are 'employees'. The bill creates not only restitution, but additional civil penalties, and overall simply makes it harder and more risky for two people to agree to do business with each other in the Commonwealth because the state may not agree with the way they have arranged to do business. Representative Sannie Overly (D-Bourbon, #62)

HB 455 - Destroying the Workers Compensation System

The workers compensation system exists to be an orderly way for injured workers to be compensated for injury and to provide businesses with clear obligatons to care for injured workers. It is a mediation system designed to reduce the delay, uncertainty and costs of going to court. In exchange for the relinquishment of the original civil court claim, workers are relieved of the burden to prove the fault of the employer. HB 455 would open the workers compensation system up to litigation before any administrative hearing. While we're sure the author thinks the bill leaves the old system in tact, there will no longer be any reason to be forthcoming or agreeable in workers compensation claims because it can be challenged in court anyway. The system designed to reduce litigation will no longer serve a purpose. Sponsors: Representative Rick Nelson (D-Bell, #48) or Representative Tim Firkins (D-Jefferson, #95).

March 2, 2009

KEY VOTES: SB 188 / HB 540 - Creating an Unaccountable Office of Accountability

House and Senate leadership want to create a new auditing office in the legislative branch. Senate President David Williams describes it as "a good government sort of thing."

If it's good government, then why make it a secretive organization?

Even if there was reason to ignore the existence of the Office of the State Auditor and the Office of Policy and Management, there's no justification for a new office with law enforcement authority, and it's unfathomable why you would try to shield the findings of the "accountability office" from public records and public meetings laws.

At their press conference Friday, Speaker Stumbo suggested he might make some changes to elements that probably wouldn't pass constitutional muster: that the activities of the office would be protected from subpoenas and that the office would hold some authority over the elected offices of Attorney General and State Auditor. Still, no discussion about why an office designed to ensure good government would be exempted from the typical government transparency requirements, lax as they are.

There are many changes required before this is anything other than a bad idea. Sponsors: Representative Greg Stumbo (D-Floyd, 2008 House Rank #88) Senator David Williams (R-Cumberland, 2008 Senate Rank #19)

February 12, 2009

KEY VOTE ALERT: HB 117 - Pension Unreform

KEY VOTE ALERT
 
"NO" to HB 117 - Delaying the reforms of HB 1
 

The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "NO" on HB 117, which delays the responsible deadlines set forth in ES08 HB 1. This key vote will be part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.

ES08 HB 1 was a small step forward in dealing with the overwhelming pension liability facing the state. Of the main reforms, one was a commitment to responsible funding of pension plans. What was a small step forward in the first place is now slowly unraveling.

Instead of addressing the future liability by creating a new plan for future employees that would more greatly resemble retirement benefits in the private sector, the General Assembly chose to require adequate payments to support the plan as it is. HB 143, just passed, borrows significant sums from the retirement system. Now HB 117 would delay payments into the system. How much will the next bill take from the system?

February 11, 2009

KEY VOTE ALERT: HB 144, "Riggs Amendment", HFA1, HFA2, HFA4

KEY VOTE ALERT
 
"NO" to HB 144 - Alcohol, Cigarette and Other Tax Increases
 
The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "NO" on HB 144 and any related pieces of legislation that raise taxes and create new taxes on Kentuckians. These key votes will be part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.
 
These proposals compound tough economic times for Kentuckians by raising taxes and imposing brand-new taxes like a sales tax on alcohol purchases. Frankfort has averaged a 5.1% increase in General Fund spending each year over the last five years, and that's including this year's decrease. Our economy is hurting, and these tax hikes will only cause further hardship and negatively impact economic growth.
 
Alcoholic beverages are one of the most heavily taxed products in Kentucky. More than half - 53 percent - of the retail cost of a typical bottle goes to taxes of some sort. Kentucky already ranks HIGHEST in comparative spirit taxes to most neighboring states. The idea of raising those taxes even higher will cost jobs in businesses related to our signature bourbon, tourism, hospitality and agricultural industries, which are already experiencing tough economic times.
 
Kentucky currently has one of the highest tax rates on alcohol in the country. This tax increase would make Kentucky's THE highest in the nation.
 
"YES" on the 'Riggs Amendment' to the Alcohol Tax
 
The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "YES" on the amendment that has been proposed by Representative Steven Riggs that would dedicate alcohol tax revenues to counties where the tax is generated. This key vote is likely to be part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.
 
Higher alcohol taxes unfairly target the 30 wet counties that allow sales - even though ALL of Kentucky benefits from alcohol taxes. If more revenue is the desire, increase the freedom of Kentucky consumers to purchase alcohol. Kentucky's economy will grow as economic freedom is increased. Singling out certain populations to fund government is more of the same for a state that needs something new and different.
 
"YES" on Ballard and Brinkman Amendments to HB 144: HFA1 and HFA2
 
The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "YES" on the amendments that have been proposed by Representatives Eddie Ballard and Scott Brinkman.
 
Ballard's Amendment, HFA1, makes a statement against future tax increases. While it would be meaningless in effect, because it is simply ignored by passing another tax, it is a good statement against tax hikes in the future.
 
Brinkman's Amendment HFA2, sunsets the new alcohol sales tax at the end of the budget cycle.
 
These key votes are likely to be a part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.
 
"NO" on the 'Marzian Amendment' HB 144 HFA4
 
The Kentucky Club for Growth urges all Representatives to vote "NO" on the amendment that has been proposed by Representative Mary Lou Marzian. While it would repeal the alcohol tax proposal, it would permanently raise the Kentucky sales and use taxes to 7%, a permanent 'fix' to a temporary and dubious 'problem'. This key vote will be part of our 2009 Congressional Scorecard.
 
Even including this year's 1.5% decrease in appropriations, spending has grown on average at 5.1% a year over the last five years. Even if there is a budget shortfall this year it does not justify a permanent hike in the sales tax. Kentucky needs jobs, not an increased tax burden on its citizens.

September 11, 2008

The 2008 Legislative Scorecard

For the second year, the Kentucky Club is proud to present our Legislative Scorecard.  We have ranked Kentucky's legislators based on their votes on issues of fiscal responsibility and economic freedom.  Follow the links below to see how your legislators ranked.

The 2008 Legislative Scorecard
The Press Release
2008 House Votes Scored
2008 Senate Votes Scored
Explanations for Scoring

 

April 17, 2007

2007 Kentucky Club for Growth Scorecard

The Kentucky Club for Growth is proud to announce its 2007 scorecard rating members of the Kentucky General Assembly on fiscal issues.

How did your legislators do?

March 26, 2007

House Bill 228 shields porkers from scrutiny

In the waning hours of the Kentucky General Assembly, leaders in the Kentucky Senate have just approved a measure that would allow them to place an even tighter vice grip on legislation.

The Herald-Leader’s John Stamper sums it up (March 22 Herald-Leader story):

The proposal would clarify that lawmakers have the ability to set aside existing laws and create new laws within the executive branch budget bill, which appropriates billions of dollars once every two years. It was put into an unrelated House bill by a Senate committee last week.

Unlike most other bills, the final details of a budget bill are usually hammered out in closed-door meetings of leading lawmakers from the House and Senate. Most rank-and-file legislators have no opportunity to even read the mammoth document before casting a vote on the measure in its entirety.
The size and secrecy of the last two Kentucky state budgets should serve as a reminder to all fiscal watchdogs that the General Assembly continues to actively seek opportunities to spend more of your money with less scrutiny. Lawmakers who vote for the current version of HB 228 do not represent fiscal conservatism. They do not represent the interests of all the Kentucky families on tight budgets who have to pay the bills for the state. House Bill 228 is little more than a cynical repackaging of House Bill 184.

 

UPDATE: The bill in its current form no longer contains the offensive elements. The bill is, though not perfect, far better than it was a few weeks ago. 

March 9, 2007

Kentucky's senate votes to raise minimum wage

The Kentucky Senate passed a hike in Kentucky's minimum wage Thursday. What does this decision mean for voters, businesses and unskilled workers?
 
It means that the Kentucky Senate has little to no understanding of basic economics. When lawmakers decide that employees are worth a minimum amount, they are not making workers more valuable. When a legislature decides that you must pay a worker a minimum amount - and decides that no worker may accept an amount below a proscribed minimum - that legislature has decided that the free market cannot be trusted to set prices for labor.
 
It means that the business community realizes that lawmakers don't trust them to do what's best for their own bottom lines. Businesses often exist on very narrow profit margins. When a government arbitrarily forces businesses to pay more for labor, that government is harming the businesses that will have to endure the additional cost. It means that businesses will have to make myriad difficult hiring and firing decisions to preserve those narrow profits. A minimum wage is a tax on labor.
 
It means that the poor and unskilled workers will find a harsher labor market. Those workers who need experience and job skills the most will have a harder time getting hired knowing that their value may not measure up to the new minimum wage. These workers deserve a chance at the first rung of the employment ladder. A hike in the minimum wage simply puts that first job out of reach for many workers.
 
The bottom line is that any lawmaker who supports a wage control or a price control is not a lawmaker who wants Kentucky's economy to grow. That lawmaker may know that the economics of wage controls work against Kentucky's best interests, but feels compelled to obey the misguided notions of certain voters.
 
The Kentucky Club for Growth endorses the free market as the best means to assign prices to goods, services and labor. Wage and price controls do not support growth. Lawmakers who support minimum wages do not support Kentucky's future!

February 24, 2007

HB 305: Wage controls

What share of House Republicans voted to impose a higher wage floor on small businesses in Kentucky? 73%.

Just a quarter of House Republicans voted to stop additional wage controls in Kentucky. Here are the lawmakers who stood up for the free market this week:

 
Any questions?

February 22, 2007

KEY VOTE ALERT

The Kentucky Club for Growth announces its support for the following bills now under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly:
HB 224, HB 228, HB 249, HB 295, HB 317, SB 108
The Kentucky Club for Growth announces its opposition to the following bills under consideration in the Kentucky General Assembly:
HB 184 (withdrawn), HB 222, HB 223, HB 247, HB 305, HB 324, HB 267, HB 292, HB 310, HB 313, HB 318, HB 411, HB 418, SB 5, SB 12
More to come ...

January 7, 2007

Key Vote: Budget Transparency

Any Kentucky House member who wants transparency to return to state budgeting should seriously consider signing on as a cosponsor of Joe Fischer's bill to give the public greater access to the state budget and all the spending contained therein. It's a basic nonpartisan piece of legislation to make Kentucky's government more transparent and accountable. In short, it's a no-brainer.

So far, Mr. Fischer is totally alone in supporting the bill. Will the real government watchdogs please stand up? We'll be watching.

November 30, 2006

A constitutional amendment to reduce lawmaker accountability?

Julie Denton has pre-filed a bill to extend the terms of lawmakers. Sooo, lawmakers should be held accountable for their actions less often?

The bill is in the form of an amendment to Kentucky's constitution.

At the federal level, studies show that lawmakers who have been in Washington the shortest time typically are willing to spend less than lawmakers who have been there longer.

Several others are already jumping out in opposition: David Adams, Mark Nickolas and Daniel Solzman. Looks like the groundswell of opposition is already moving. Read the comments, too.

November 5, 2006

Hazard pay for social workers?

House Bill 52 (Expand definition of 'hazardous duty' for state workers): Introduced by Rep. C.B. Embry, Jr on January 2, 2007, to change the definition of a hazardous position to include positions classified in the social services series that involve child protective services investigations or ongoing face-to-face contact with families whose children have been placed in the custody of the cabinet.

November 4, 2006

Minimum Wage!

Minimum Wage Hikes could be coming in 2007. Here's a roundup:
Increase Kentucky minimum wage by 17%
Increase Kentucky minimum wage 41% by 2009
Raise Kentucky's minimum wage 36% by 2008
Increase Kentucky minimum wage 41% by 2009

November 1, 2006

Tax Me More!

Hey, if you want to pay more in taxes, why shouldn't you be able to?

House Bill 47 (Create 'tax-me-more' fund): Introduced by Rep. David Floyd on January 2, 2007, to establish the tax-me-more account within the state general fund to receive voluntary contributions from individuals and entities that believe they are undertaxed. The bill would require the Finance and Administration Cabinet to promulgate administrative regulations to establish a contribution process. The billl would require the Department of Revenue to provide an opportunity for taxpayers to make contributions with their income tax payments. The billl would require that amounts in the fund be appropriated by the General Assembly as part of the biennial budget process.

03/29/12 : RS12 HB 499 - KEY VOTE - Insurance Premium Tax Hike

03/29/12 : Lip Service to Kentucky's Debt Problem

03/19/12 : RS12 HB 202 - KEY VOTE - A Health Care Mandate Without Precedent

03/15/12 : RS12 SB 10 - KEY VOTE - A Constitutional Amendment to Guarantee Legislative Oversight of Regulations

03/15/12 : RS12 SB 4 - KEY VOTE - Improving Regulatory Accountability

03/12/12 : Clarifying Redistricting, Maybe

03/08/12 : House Passes Budget Quickly with Eight Percent Spending Increase

Lexington Herald Leader 5/10:

"Thayer, 44, responds by calling Hostetler "a little desperate." Thayer touts his conservative support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the National Rifle Association, the pro-business Kentucky Club for Growth (which ranks him best among 38 state senators) and the anti-abortion Kentucky Right to Life."


Last weekend, the Kentucky Club for Growth's strong anti-tax stance was recognized in the Courier Journal.

But other political experts say they aren't convinced outside groups will want to get involved, especially with public polling showing Beshear with a double-digit lead and Williams' record of occasionally supporting tax increases failing to excite conservative groups such Club for Growth or the tea party-related FreedomWorks.

"They're adamant about the 'no tax' thing," said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor with the non-partisan Cook Political Report.

We are adamant about the 'no tax' thing, and we will continue to be the taxpayer's advocate in Frankfort.


Drees: Raise gas tax to fund bridge - Pat Crowley, NKY.com

Ky. House nears tax vote - Pat Crowley, NKy.com


Donor records might have similarities - Lexington Herald-Leader

Club for Growth launches in Oregon

The Kentucky Club for Growth is proud to announce its 2007 scorecard rating members of the Kentucky General Assembly on fiscal issues.

How did your legislators do?


House Passes Budget Quickly with Eight Percent Spending Increase
Yesterday, the Kentucky House passed a budget for FYs 2013-2014. While most of the legislative discussion centers on cuts, the General Fund budget totals $19.5 million which represents an 8% increase over FY 2011-2012. Even if you compare it only...

What Farm Receipts Say About the Health of the Horse Industry in Kentucky
In 2011, Kentucky's farm receipts are expected to top $5 billion for the first time, thanks to Kentucky's health agriculture economy as well as high prices for corn. Looking at Kentucky's top crops by receipts, the landscape continues to change....

The Outlook for Small Businesses is Bad, and Bad for the Economy
The NFIB reports: For the fifth consecutive month, NFIB's monthly Small-Business Optimism Index fell, dropping 0.9 points in July--a larger decline than in each of the previous three months--and bringing the Index down to a disappointing 89.9. While the national...

Employment Trends and Rates
Unemployment in Kentucky inched downwards this month: Kentucky's unemployment rate fell to 10 percent in April, down from 10.2 percent a month earlier. The state added 3,800 jobs in the month, as "Kentucky's economy continued to show signs of improvement...

State Budget Surplus Good News for Kentucky Economy
At the end of every fiscal year in June, the state always runs a small surplus. No matter the economic circumstances or budget cuts, because the state is constitutionally required to balance the budget, the state will end up with...

Legislature, Governor Probably Shouldn't Count on Revenue Improvements
As the legislature debates plugging a $166 million shortfall in the Medicaid budget, it seems many legislators are just hoping that revenues improve and that the hole they're digging in next year's budget would just go away. Yesterday's housing news...

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

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Federalist
Flash Report
Grassroots PA
Kudlow's Money Politics
Manufacturers' Blog
Marginal Revolution
NTU's Government Bytes
Newmark's Door
One Man's Trash
PoliPundit
Politics1.com
Politics of Money
Poor and Stupid
Porkopolis
Professor Bainbridge
Raising Farrahzona
RedState.com
Rossputin.com
Sibby Online
South Dakota Politics
Sports Economist, The
Tax Guru

Kentucky Blogs

Bluegrass Policy Blog
Blue Grass, Red State
ConservaChick
Conservative Edge
Conservative Musings
CyberHillbilly
Elendil's Blog
Jefferson Review
Jim Clark's Muckraker
Kentucky Pachyderm 2
Kentucky Progress
KY Wordsmith
On the Right!
Osi Speaks!
Page One Kentucky
The Pure Investor
Vere Loqui

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The KY Club for Growth seeks principled candidates who are committed to the following:

* Free market principles
* Lowering taxes
* Reducing spending
* Decreasing the size of government
* Judicial reform
* Protecting property rights
* Expanding school choice
* Reducing needless regulation

We will hold endorsed candidates accountable for these principles by monitoring each candidate on a vote-by-vote basis. As a Club member, you will receive candidate monitoring updates and scorecards on a regular basis. Join us today.