Chamber president stresses importance of pension oversight

Referring to the state’s unfunded pension liability as a dark cloud over Frankfort, Kentucky Chamber President & CEO Dave Adkisson stressed the importance of oversight to the Public Pension Oversight Committee last week. With billions of dollars at stake, Adkisson suggested the committee strongly consider contracting with a professional investment firm to help provide adequate oversight of the investment of public dollars. His comments followed a formal presentation of the investment returns, which indicated the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) investment returns were lower than other benchmark funds for the last ten years.

Legislators passed a significant pension reform bill last year that will help with long-term costs. While 2013’s Senate Bill 2 was a tremendous step toward solvency; legislators must continue to meet their annual pension obligation or risk falling further behind. Not only does this strain concern retirees counting on their pension payments, it also makes it more difficult to fund the state’s priorities like education. Legislators funded the required payment for KRS, but were unable to meet the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) funding request. Both business and individual taxpayers are watching closely to ensure legislators continue their commitment to restoring solvency to the pension systems.

Kentuckians invited to comment on state academic standards

Kentuckians have an opportunity to make specific recommendations on ways to improve the state’s academic standards via a challenge process that the Kentucky Department of Education has launched.

The Kentucky Core Academic Standards Challenge is designed to increase awareness and understanding of the standards in English/language arts and math and to solicit feedback as part of the department’s regular review process.

Department officials emphasize that the process is not a referendum on the standards and that only comments tied to a specific standard will be considered.

The challenge will remain open until April 30, 2015. When it ends, the comments will be posted online. Comments on specific standards will be evaluated by a team of Kentucky educators who specialize in content areas at all school levels. That team will recommend any changes to the Kentucky Board of Education for its consideration; that is most likely to happen in the fall of 2015. Click here to take the challenge.

House Bill 369 Signed into Law

On Tuesday, Gov. Steve Beshear ceremoniously signed into law Kentucky Chamber-initiated House Bill 369, which lowered the statute of limitations for written contracts from 15 to 10 years.  Prior to the passage of HB 369, Kentucky had the highest statute of limitations on written contracts in the nation by five years.  Kentucky’s excessively lengthy statute of limitations for written contracts has had a negative impact on businesses defending against class actions, unnecessarily increasing exposure by expanding alleged classes to 15 years prior to the filing of a class action and allowing some plaintiffs to pressure defendants into settlements regardless of the merits simply because of the significant exposure.

Over time, documents are lost and destroyed, individuals involved with drafting contracts leave their employment or are otherwise unavailable, making the defense of actions extremely difficult and costly.

HB 369 will also help businesses save money on document retention in the future and make Kentucky more competitive in attracting new businesses and retaining existing businesses in the state.

Lt. Governor Jerry Abramson speaks on new health initiative to Chamber Health & Wellness Council

Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson spoke to the Kentucky Chamber’s Health and Wellness Council last Wednesday on the new statewide initiative, kyhealthnow, which aims to improve the state’s collective health. Kyhealthnow targets seven major health goals to be met within five years, by 2019:

  • Health insurance – Reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than 5 percent
  • Smoking – Reduce Kentucky’s smoking rate by 10 percent
  • Obesity – Reduce the rate of obesity among Kentuckians by 10 percent
  • Cancer – Reduce Kentucky cancer deaths by 10 percent
  • Cardiovascular Disease – Reduce cardiovascular deaths by 10 percent
  • Dental Decay – Reduce the percentage of children with untreated dental decay by 25 percent, and the percentage of adults with 6 or more teeth missing by 10 percent
  • Drug Addiction – Reduce deaths from drug overdose by 25 percent, and reduce the average number of poor mental health days of Kentuckians by 25 percent.

The next day, numerous health minded groups were asked to present in front of the kyhealthnow advisory council, which is co-chaired by the Lt. Gov. and the Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, and membership is made up of the Cabinet Secretaries.  Chamber Manager of Public Affairs, Ashli Watts, presented on behalf of the Chamber on the need for a smoke free workplace law.

The Chamber commends the Governor and Lt. Governor for acknowledging that Kentucky’s poor health status has a significant impact on the business community by increasing employers’ health care costs, contributing to higher costs for public health programs and hindering our ability to hire a healthy and productive workforce.

Chamber releases statement on new EPA carbon emission standards

Regardless of how people view the scientific evidence or political motivations behind it, President Obama’s proposal to reduce carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030 will negatively impact Kentuckians, perhaps more than any other state in the country. There is no question the impact will be felt drastically and personally by Kentuckians employed in the coal industry – an industry already pummeled in the past few years. However, employees in power-intensive industries like the auto and aluminum industries will also be negatively impacted. 

More broadly, all Kentuckians – from small business owners to retirees on fixed incomes – will see a dramatic increase in their electric rates because Kentucky is more dependent on coal for its electricity than virtually any other state. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s long-standing advantage of offering low electric rates has allowed our state to recruit tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs that now support Kentucky families. Under this energy proposal, that advantage would be wiped off the board and Kentucky would suffer the consequences for generations to come.

The Kentucky Chamber recognizes that affordable, reliable energy provides a critical operating advantage for Kentucky in an increasingly competitive global economy. We are very concerned that this proposal will do tremendous harm to Kentucky’s economy without significantly changing global carbon emissions. We will continue to monitor the implementation of this and work to advocate and support efforts to mitigate the impact on Kentucky employers and families.

Download Results for Business

Download Results for Business

The Kentucky Chamber’s wrap-up of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly and what it means to businesses is now available for download. Click the image to read Results for Business and find out what passed, what didn’t and what it means to your bottom line. The publication contains bill descriptions as well as a legislative voting record that will help you determine how your local legislators voted on important business issues.

Session ends with many issues unaddressed

The 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly came to an abrupt end at midnight last night, the constitutionally-mandated end of session. Lawmakers were literally left standing on the House floor in the middle of a debate on how to address the heroin epidemic when the clock struck midnight. Senators were also standing on the Senate floor waiting to see if any additional bills would make it before the deadline. Despite having 60 days every even-numbered year, lawmakers routinely find themselves debating issued until the last moment and important measures fail as they are pushed later and later in session and eventually remain unaddressed as the clock strikes midnight.

After a flurry of activity for the final two days of session, there were a handful of good bills passed and several bad ideas thwarted, but many good bills fell victim to the legislative process. 

Good bills passed

  • The $20 billion state budget funds P-12 education better than the past several budgets, but enacts higher education cuts. It also funds the pension reform promises of 2013, but shortchanges the teachers’ retirement system.
  • Bourbon barrel tax credit to encourage investment and job growth in one of Kentucky’s signature industries.
  • Angel investor credit to help entrepreneurs grow start-up companies into successful Kentucky businesses.
  • Lowering the statute of limitations on written contracts from 15 years to 10 years.
  • Clarifying the current small business tax credit.
  • Juvenile justice reform bill to give youthful offenders a better chance of turning their lives around and save money for the system.
  • Requiring financial accountability for school districts by increasing reporting requirements.

Good bills failed

  • Despite passage of a significant job-creating public-private partnership (P3) bill in the first part of the session, legislators failed to address the governor’s veto.
  • Telecommunications reform failed to pass the House for the third consecutive year.
  • An effort to address the medical liability climate failed to gain passage in the House.
  • Expanded gaming wasn’t take up by either legislative chamber.
  • Tax reform was never considered by lawmakers in 2014.
  • Efforts to reform prevailing wage and consider right-to-work legislation was thwarted by the House Labor committee.
  • Efforts to enact charter schools to address persistently low achieving schools failed in the House.
  • Numerous legal liability reform efforts were stopped.
  • An effort to allow voters to vote for a local tax to fund local projects never garnered the support necessary for passage.
  • An effort to enact a statewide smoke-free law never received a floor vote in the House, nor a committee vote in the Senate.
  • Education reform efforts to professionalize teaching in the classroom were stopped by the
    House committee.
  • An important small business tax relief measure clarifying how the Limited Liability Entity Tax (LLET) is calculated was bogged down by outrageous fiscal estimates.

Bad bills stopped

  • Efforts to abolish the new, rigorous academic standards were stopped by heavy lobbying by the Chamber and education groups.
  • The Chamber led the fight to stop efforts to increase workers’ compensation costs.
  • Efforts to increase Kentucky’s minimum wage higher than surrounding states was stopped.
  • The bill to politicize the Public Service Commission was stopped dead in its tracks.
  • Onerous coal mining restrictions were defeated.
  • A bill to hike business taxes was never considered.

The Chamber’s public affairs team is combing over the final actions of the 2014 session and preparing our annual Results for Business: What passed? What didn’t? And what it means to your bottom line? Keep an eye out for it in your upcoming chamber newsletter. 

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