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Recent News

This Week at the State Capitol - 01/07/17

Seven bills passed today by General Assembly, sent to governor - 01/07/17

Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar; will meet in session on Saturday- 01/06/17

Senate committee advances right-to-work bill - 01/06/17

Right to work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House - 01/05/17

Senate approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy - 01/05/17

Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to Senate - 01/05/17

Repeal of prevailing wage law gets House panel's OK - 01/04/17

Right to Work bill passes House panel - 01/04/17

 

 

 January 7, 2017

 

This Week at the State Capitol

Jan. 7, 2017

 

FRANKFORT -- An endless variety of instruments may be used for power-wielding, politics and governance. But the tool of choice for enshrining a historic shift of power in Kentucky this week was a Phillips-head screwdriver.

Just minutes after lawmakers convened the General Assembly’s 2017 session on Tuesday, a Capitol caretaker walked to the front of the House chamber with screwdriver in hand. After a minute’s worth of twisting screws into the mahogany of the Speaker’s rostrum, he stepped away and the gaze of a standing-room-only chamber fell upon his handiwork.

There, for the first time in 96 years, the name on the bronze nameplate affixed to the chamber’s focal point was a Republican’s. The moment highlighted that Kentucky has, for the first time, Republican control of both legislative chambers, as well as the governor’s office.

This ascendency of Rep. Jeff Hoover to the House Speaker’s chair and the arrival of a new Republican 64-member supermajority in the House this week certainly marked the turning of page in Kentucky politics. But, though there were moments of celebration and pageantry, the session’s first week wasn’t all about fanfare, or settling in, or even getting accustomed to the new dynamics in Frankfort. It was largely about action.

Over the course of five days, members of the Kentucky House and Senate pushed seven significant bills through the legislative process and delivered them to Gov. Matt Bevin’s office. Because emergency clauses were added to the bills, each one will go into effect the moment the governor signs his name to them.

What will the newest laws in our commonwealth do? They will affect pregnant women, unborn children, economic development officials and job recruiters, members of labor unions, university students, construction workers, manufacturers, open government advocates and citizens in every corner of this state. More specifically:

         Senate Bill 3 will expand openness in government by making information about the retirement benefits of state lawmakers available for public viewing.

         Senate Bill 5 will prohibit a woman from having an abortion if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

         Senate Bill 6 will prevent employees from being enrolled in labor organizations or having money withheld from their earnings for union dues unless they give permission in writing.

         Senate Bill 12 will reorganize the University of Louisville board of trustees by establishing a new, 10-member board.

         House Bill 1 will make Kentucky a right-to-work state. Under this measure, membership in a labor union would optional instead of mandatory for workers at unionized workplaces.

         House Bill 2 will require a woman seeking an abortion to first undergo an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows. Women could decline to see the ultrasound images if they choose.

         House Bill 3 will repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. That action will remove a guaranteed base wage to construction workers on certain public works projects.

In other business this week, lawmakers took care of matters typically required before they can start passing laws, such as adopting rules and electing leadership, which included the re-election of Sen. Robert Stivers as president of the Senate.

Senate and House members have now wrapped up the first part of the 2017 session and will return to their home districts for a scheduled break. They will come back to the Capitol on Feb. 7 to convene the second part of the session.

If you would like to offer feedback on the issues confronting Kentucky, you can share your thoughts with state lawmakers by calling the General Assembly’s toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181.

--END--

 

January 7, 2017

Seven bills passed today by General Assembly, sent to governor

FRANKFORT—Seven bills were given final passage today by the Kentucky General Assembly and delivered to the governor’s desk.

The bills, covering matters ranging from labor unions and their membership to changes in the state’s informed consent and abortion laws, all include an emergency provision to ensure that they take effect the moment they are signed by the governor. All seven bills were introduced on the first day of the 30-day 2017 Regular Session that began on Tuesday and received final passage within five days—the minimum time possible.

The legislation passed by the General Assembly and sent to Governor Matt Bevin for his signature are:

House Bill 1. HB 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would make Kentucky the nation’s 27th right-to-work state. Right-to-work states prohibit mandatory membership in or payment of dues to labor unions. HB 1 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 25-12.

Senate Bill 3. SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, would require that the retirement benefits of current and former General Assembly members be made public. Disclosure would include the member’s name and estimated or actual monthly allowance. SB 3 received final passage in the House by a vote of 95-1.

House Bill 2. HB 2, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, would require a woman seeking an abortion to have an obstetric ultrasound of her baby explained to her by her health care provider before she could give required informed consent for an abortion. Women could decline to see the ultrasound image or hear the fetal heartbeat if they choose. HB 2 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 32-5.

Senate Bill 5. SB 5, sponsored by Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, and Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, would prohibit abortions in Kentucky at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill would not apply in cases where an abortion is required to save the life or prevent serious risk of permanent bodily harm to the mother. SB 5 received final passage in the House by a vote of 79-15.

House Bill 3. HB 3, sponsored by Speaker Hoover and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law that dictates the hourly base wage for construction workers hired on for certain public works projects. HB 3 received final passage in the Senate by a vote of 25-12.

Senate Bill 6. SB 6, sponsored by Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, would require public or private employees (with some exceptions under federal law) to request membership in a labor union in writing before they can be enrolled in that organization. It also specifies that dues or fees paid to labor organizations cannot be withheld from earnings without employee approval. Existing agreements between employers, employees and labor unions made before the legislation takes effect would be exempt from the provisions. SB 6 received final passage in the House by a vote of 57-39.  

Senate Bill 12. SB 12, sponsored by Senate President Stivers, would abolish the current board of trustees of the University of Louisville and clarify the number of members allowed on the new board along with qualifications and conditions of membership. The bill would also require Kentucky Senate confirmation of board appointments. SB 12 received final passage in the House by a vote of 57-35.

The 2017 legislative session will adjourn today for a scheduled break and then re-convene on Tuesday, Feb. 7.  The session is scheduled to end on March 30.

--END--

 

 

January 6, 2017

 

Lawmakers adjust 2017 session calendar; will meet in session on Saturday

FRANKFORT – The Kentucky Senate and House of Representatives will convene tomorrow (Saturday, January 7) under a change in the 2017 legislative calendar approved by legislative leaders.

After working tomorrow, lawmakers will return to their home districts and are scheduled to come back to Frankfort for the second part of the 2017 session on February 7.

The second part of the session is still scheduled for final adjournment, as originally planned, on March 30. However, under the recent change to the session schedule, March 9 has been added to the days on which lawmakers will not be gaveled into session.

The latest version of the 2017 session calendar can be viewed online at http://www.lrc.ky.gov/calendars/17RS_calendar.pdf.

--END—

 

January 6, 2017

 

Senate committee advances right-to-work bill

FRANKFORT -- Legislation that would make Kentucky a right-to-work state was approved today by the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

The proposal, which would make membership in a labor union optional rather than mandatory for workers at unionized workplaces, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The House of Representatives has already approved the measure, known as House Bill 1, a designation given to House leadership’s top priority bill.

Testifying in support of the measure at today’s meeting, House Speaker Jeff Hoover, a primary sponsor of HB 1, said the legislation would boost Kentucky’s labor market.

“Right-to-work is simply the name given to the ability of an employee to negotiate his or her wages and negotiate his or her benefits directly with the employer without being compelled to be a member of a labor union,” said Hoover, R-Jamestown. “I don’t see why government should stand in the way of a worker opting to not join and be given the ability to negotiate on their own if they so choose.”

“…Recent history proves that not only is passing right-to-work not a hindrance to labor union membership, it can actually help labor unions grow. For example, both Indiana and Tennessee … are right-to-work states and they have more union members today then what they had prior to enacting this legislation. That is simply because of the economic development that has been brought to those right-to-work states.”

Hoover said private sector employment grew 17.4 percent in right-to-work states between 2001 and 2013, more than double the 8.2 percent in states that don’t have right-to-work laws.

Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, a primary sponsor of HB 1, said Kentucky has lost job-creating opportunities to other states that have right-to-work laws. “The governor has an initiative to make Kentucky the epicenter of advanced manufacturing in the world. … There’s no reason why we can’t expand our economic opportunities by passing right-to-work legislation,” he said.

Opponents of right-to work legislation testified that Kentucky’s manufacturing sector is already strong compared to neighboring right-to-work states.

“Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that among all states, Kentucky already has the fifth-highest manufacturing employment as a share of total jobs,” said Anna Bauman, a research and policy associate for the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. “A larger share of Kentucky workers are in manufacturing than workers in both Virginia and Tennessee, two of our three neighbors with active right-to-work laws.”

Bill Londrigan, president of the Kentucky State AFL-CIO, also testified against the right-to-work proposal, emphasizing that unions come to workplaces where a majority of eligible workers vote in favor of them.

“…Workers have a variety of options if they are unwilling to financially support or become union members,” he said. “They have the freedom not to seek employment in unionized workplaces if they are displeased that a union was voted in to a workplace by a majority vote. In such cases, the individual can seek employment in the 89 percent of workplaces in Kentucky that are not unionized.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, predicted the state’s economy will quickly enjoy a boost if Kentucky becomes a right-to-work state.

“We will see the results very quickly across this commonwealth as the numbers, the leading economic indicators in this state, start pointing in the right direction,” he said.

House Bill 1 contains an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Right to work bill, repeal of prevailing wage pass House

FRANKFORT—Legislation that would make Kentucky the 27th right-to-work state by outlawing mandatory membership in a labor union as a condition of employment passed the House today by a vote of 58-39.

Supporters say House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would boost jobs by allowing employees to negotiate benefits and wages directly with their employers. Committee testimony on the bill yesterday said job growth in right-to-work states has been more than double that in non-right-to-work states like Kentucky in recent years.

Rep. Chris Fugate, R-Chavies, whose grandfather worked for 43 years in the coal mines, said he voted in support of HB 1 to try and bring jobs to his district where, he said, 3,000 people are out of work.

“I reluctantly vote yes,” said Fugate, adding some of his constituents are for right-to-work and some are against it. Fugate said he isn’t against unions, but “our coal miners are not working in the mountains in case anybody didn’t know that.”

“I’ll work my rear end off to make sure that I do everything I can for them to get jobs so they don’t have to move to another state or another place to provide for their families,” Fugate said.

Opponents of right-to-work legislation like HB 1, however, claim such bills weaken wages of the working and middle classes. Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively told House members that studies show right-to-work legislation hurts the wages of working men and women in Kentucky.

“I proudly stand with my union brothers and sisters and all workers across this Commonwealth and vote no,” said Jenkins.

Also passed by the House today was HB 3, sponsored by House Speaker Hoover and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. That legislation, which passed the House 57-40, would repeal the state’s prevailing wage law which guarantees an hourly base “prevailing” wage to construction workers on certain public works projects. Koenig said the process for determining that base wage “is unlikely to yield wages that are representative of market wages.”

Koenig said the only reason the bill was filed is to save the taxpayers money. “That is our motivation for filing this bill,” he said.

Among those voting against the bill was Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, who said prevailing wage was designed to ensure quality work done by local workers.

HB 1 and HB 3 now go to the Senate for its consideration. They both include emergency provisions, which make them take effect immediately if signed into law.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Senate approves ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy

FRANKFORT -- The state Senate today approved legislation that would prohibit a woman from having an abortion in Kentucky if she is 20 weeks or more into a pregnancy.

The legislation, Senate Bill 5, would “protect pain-capable children from the horror of having an abortion performed on them,” said a primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard.

Smith said books for expecting parents describe a 20-week-old fetus as capable of sucking its thumb, yawning, stretching, making faces and responding to pain.

SB 5 passed on a 30-6 vote. It now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, was among the opponents of the measure, arguing that women should be able to make decisions on their pregnancies without the limitations of SB 5.

“My fear is that by adopting this bill that we’re going to ultimately go back to what we saw in the 50s and 60s when we had back-alley butcher shops to take care of situations rather than having a safe medical procedure,” Thomas said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, a primary sponsor of the legislation, says it focuses on the wellbeing of the unborn child. “We’re not just talking about these women who are seeking abortions. ... We’re talking about the child that is a life. That life deserves a chance to survive. Twenty weeks – that’s five months. … We’re not stopping anyone from getting an abortion. We’re not doing anything that gets in the way of (women’s) conversations with their partner, their spouse, their physician, their priest or minister. We’re not stopping any of that. But we are going to recognize that life exists there.”

Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, a medical doctor, said that medical advances are reducing the age at which fetuses are viable, or able to survive outside the womb. “All we’re trying to do here with this bill is give those children an opportunity to survive,” he said.

Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, voted against SB 5 and urged lawmakers to focus on other issues. “One in four children in Kentucky are living in poverty and over 7,000 live in foster care. Our young people, if they are fortunate enough to graduate from college, come out with huge student loans and can’t find jobs. Four-hundred-thousand people may fall through the cracks and lose their health insurance. My question is: why do we spend our precious time in this body attacking a woman’s right to choose … when Kentucky faces so many more demanding issues?”

While casting his vote in favor of the legislation, Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, also quoted statistics.

“We heard statistics earlier … But I want to say there are also statistics of 58,586,256 abortions that have been performed in the United States since 1973. That’s an average of over 1 million abortions per year,” he said.

SB 5 contains an emergency clause, which would make it effective immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

--END--

 

January 5, 2017

 

Ultrasound bill passes KY House, goes to Senate

FRANKFORT—Women seeking an abortion would be required to have an obstetric ultrasound and receive a medical explanation of what that ultrasound shows under a bill that today passed the state House of Representatives on an 83-12 vote.

Rep. Addia Wuchner, R-Florence, who is a primary sponsor of House Bill 2 along with House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said the ultrasound proposal is about informed consent.

“In this Commonwealth, it is important that we give women full and informed consent. We have moved historically from a time when women were just given the bare information about medical procedures to making sure that we respect their autonomy and their decision-making process in issues…that impact their lives,” said Wuchner.

Any woman seeking an abortion would have to comply with the proposed ultrasound requirement before she could give informed consent for an abortion, according to the bill. Revised in 2016, Kentucky’s informed consent law requires women seeking an abortion to have an in-person or teleconferenced medical consult at least 24 hours before the procedure.

The bill would also require the woman’s physician or health care provider to display the ultrasound images to the woman and allow her to hear her fetus’ heartbeat, although the women would not have to look at the images or listen to the heartbeat. Signed certification would be placed in the woman’s medical record noting that she was presented with the required information and noting if she viewed the images and listened to the heartbeat or declined to do so.

No ultrasound would be required in cases of medical emergency where an abortion is considered a “medical necessity,” according to HB 2. Health care providers who do not comply with the requirement would face fines of $100,000 for a first offense and $250,000 for additional offenses.

Several floor amendments were proposed to the measure, including amendments to outlaw all forms of abortion in Kentucky, provide an exception to the proposed ultrasound requirement in cases of rape or incest and ban abortion after 20 weeks gestation. Each floor amendment called stalled on a procedural vote.

One freshman member who voted against HB 2 was Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who said half of her constituents are female. “I have spent years mentoring women who are older than me, younger than me and in my own age group and have found the importance of trusting women to make their own decisions,” said Scott. 

Among those voting in favor of HB 2 was freshman member Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Mill. The former neo-natal intensive care nurse said HB 2 will give pregnant women a clear understanding of their medical condition so they can make informed decisions.

“As a medical professional, it is my obligation to ensure patients have accurate access to medical information regarding their medical diagnosis and that it should be available to them,” said Moser.  “It is with accurate information that a patient can make an informed decision regarding their treatment, whether it is treatment for a brain tumor requiring an MRI or a CT scan, or if it is to determine the health and the progress of a pregnancy through an ultrasound.”

HB 2 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

--END--

 

January 4, 2017


Repeal of prevailing wage law gets House panel's OK

FRANKFORT—A bill that would repeal a state law requiring payment of an hourly base wage—or prevailing wage—to workers on public works construction projects has passed a House committee.

House Bill 3, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, would apply to projects for which bids have not yet been awarded at the time the bill, should it pass, takes effect. An emergency clause included in HB 3 would ensure the bill takes effect immediately upon being signed into law by the governor.

Koenig, who presented HB 3 to the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee before the committee approved the bill today, said prevailing wage laws are “unlikely to yield rates that are representative of market wages.” They are also a financial strain on local governments and school districts, Koenig said, emphasizing that saving money was the motivation for filing HB 3.

The bill has the support of Boone County Schools Superintendent Dr. Randy Poe who testified alongside Koenig. Poe told the committee that higher construction fees on prevailing wage projects have cost his school district as much as $50 million over the last 19 years.

“The higher fees we pay through prevailing wage keeps us from improving upon traditional space versus portable space (for) our students,” said Poe. “This is about creating more space for our students.”

Speaking against the bill was Bill Finn, the state director of the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council. Finn said that nine out of 11 economic studies since 2001 have showed no increase in overall construction costs due to prevailing wage. “Twenty three percent is the entire pie that prevailing wage affects,” said Finn.

HB 3 now goes to the full House for its consideration.

--END--

 

January 4, 2017


Right to Work bill passes House panel

FRANKFORT—A House panel has passed right-to-work legislation that would prohibit Kentuckians from being required to join labor unions as a condition of employment.

House Bill 1, sponsored by House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, would prohibit mandatory membership in or payment of dues to labor organizations with few exceptions involving federal law and agreements entered into before HB 1 would take effect. Violators would be subject to prosecution.

The legislation passed the House Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee favorably after an hour-long discussion that began with comments from Governor Matt Bevin. “Jobs come from private sector employers and they’re incentivized by the kinds of things you’re going to hear in coming days,” said Bevin. “This is a zero-sum game.”

Right-to-work bills have been filed several times in past legislative sessions said Speaker Hoover, who told the committee that HB 1 will give employees the ability to negotiate benefits and wages directly with their employer without being part of a union.

“I personally have no problem with an individual opting to be part of a labor union,” said Hoover. “… But government shouldn’t stand in the way of someone who opts not to join a union.” He said HB 1 would make Kentucky the 27th Right to Work state in the country, putting it on par with most Southern states as well as Indiana and labor-heavy Michigan.

Hoover said private sector employment in right-to-work states increased over 17 percent between 2001 and 2013 compared to around an 8 percent increase in non-right-to-work states like Kentucky.

Those opposing the bill included Rep. Gerald Watkins, D-Paducah, who told the committee that  tax code changes and the paring-down of regulatory burdens could do more for Kentuckians than right-to-work legislation.  “I don’t believe personally a right-to-work law is (a) silver bullet,” he said.

Also speaking against the bill was Kentucky Center for Economic Policy analyst Anna Baumann who said Kentucky’s manufacturing sector is strong without right-to-work—Kentucky has the fifth-highest manufacturing employment as a share of total employment nationally, she said. But Hoover, backed by officials from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce as he gave his testimony, said data shows the economy is stronger in right-to-work states. 

“Economic development is not only my primary, but my sole motivation in proposing this legislation,” said Hoover.

HB 1 would also prohibit public employees in Kentucky from engaging in work strikes. The bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

--END--

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