Senate Bill 5 addressing heroin scourge to clears committee

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 5, dealing with the rising heroin epidemic, unanimously on Wednesday afternoon.

Sponsor Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, testified that heroin use has reached new catastrophic levels in Kentucky and affects not only our cities, families and communities, but also businesses.  He said the time has come for the members of the General Assembly to step up and help people that are affected by this epidemic and punish those that are dealing the substance.

Sen. McDaniel stated that the bill provides that money be allocated to county jails to help with intervention and rehabilitation, as well as programs operated by community mental health systems.

One of the main points of the bill is increasing the number of treatment beds in Kentucky and providing naloxone to responders and providing immunity for those administering this drug.  In addition to the treatment aspect of the bill, penalties for trafficking and dealing have increased.  Under this legislation a person can be charged with trafficking if they have any quantity of heroin and if convicted, must serve at least 50 percent of their sentence, unless the prosecutor recommends a lesser timed service.

The Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, Northern Kentucky Heroin Impact Task Force, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Kentucky Jailers Association all testified in support of the Senate Bill 5.

SB5 testimonyAlso joining McDaniel for testimony was a recovering heroin addict from Lexington who described his struggles to the committee, explaining he began experimenting with marijuana before beginning to sell it to support his habit. The young man went on to say he then became addicted to oxycontin before learning of heroin as a cheaper vice.

Another young woman joined McDaniel to discuss the loss of her sister to a heroin overdose in 2013—adding that she believes if legislation like Senate Bill 5 had been in place when her sister was struggling with addiction she would still be alive because she would have received the treatment she needed and potentially could have received naloxone and been saved from her overdose.

Currently, there are seven bills filed which seek to address the scourge of heroin in the state. However, the bills all have conflicting details. McDaniel told the committee he believes Senate Bill 5 is a comprehensive piece of legislation that tackles the issue.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote.  Please voice your support on this important issue to your legislator by calling 1-800-372-7181.

Right to Work measure clears Senate Committee

rtw committee meetingOn day two of the 2015 session, members of a state Senate committee heard testimony from business leaders on a key Chamber-supported measure why right to work legislation is important to the state of Kentucky.

Joining Senate President Robert Stivers, Chamber president Dave Adkisson testified in support of Senate Bill 1, a measure that would make Kentucky a right to work state. The measure cleared the Senate Economic Development committee Wednesday, moving the legislation forward for a vote by the full Senate expected Thursday.

President Stivers introduced right to work legislation as Senate Bill 1 for the 2015 session, a designation noting it as a key priority for the session. Stivers noted the importance of right to work in terms of job creation and making Kentucky more competitive.

“Thirty to forty percent will tell you that is the first thing they will knock you off the list for,” Stivers said about companies looking over Kentucky due to a lack of right to work law.

Adkisson noted the Chamber’s strong support for right to work legislation and drew from his experience as an economic developer.

“I know it is a factor in determining whether Kentucky is chosen by companies considering locating here,” said Adkisson. “I am convinced the lack of a right to work law is causing Kentucky to lose thousands of jobs per year.”

Hal Goode, President of the Kentucky Association for Economic Development, also agreed with Adkisson and presented the views of economic developers across the state who support a right to work law. He quoted a number of site consultants who agreed that it is a huge factor in attracting jobs and investment.

After some debate, the Economic Development Committee passed the measure with only three dissenting votes.

Caucus leaders chosen in each chamber

capitolAfter their first day back in Frankfort Tuesday, lawmakers in the state House held caucus meetings to select their leaders which ended with some holding on to their seats and some new faces joining leadership teams.

State Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, held on to his position of House Minority Leader after facing a challenge from Republican colleague Adam Koenig of Erlanger. Hoover’s re-election in the secret ballot contest means the 2015 session will be his eighth consecutive term in the top spot.

Of the members of the GOP leadership team, Hoover was the only one to run again as former caucus chair Bob DeWeese, R-Louisville, and minority whip John “Bam” Carney of Campbellsville each decided not to seek another term in their positions.

Replacing DeWeese, Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, was elected by his colleagues as caucus chair—ending up with more votes than Rep. David Osborne of Prospect for the position.

Beating out a crowded field, Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green was elected as the new minority whip. Others who were seeking the leadership position included northern Kentucky Representative Sal Santoro of Florence and Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello.

As for the majority party in the chamber, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, will serve another term in his position after being unchallenged. Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins was also re-elected after not facing a challenge to his post.

A former House Speaker, Rep. Jody Richards of Bowling Green, was elected back into the caucus leadership as House Speaker Pro Tem. Richards’ victory came after a runoff with Rep. Dennis Keene, D-Wilder as well as the elimination of other Democratic hopefuls including Rep. Daryl Owens of Louisville and Rep. Jeff Greer of Brandenburg. Richards replaces outgoing Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark.

The one incumbent leader to lose their position in the elections was Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, who was defeated in his re-election race for majority whip by Rep. Johnny Bell of Glasgow.

Before the start of the 2015 session, leaders in the Senate chamber were elected in December.

After the defeat of former state Sen. RJ Palmer of Winchester in the 2014 elections, Senate Democrats elected Sen. Ray Jones as Democratic Floor Leader.

Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, replaced Sen. Johnny Ray Turner of Prestonsburg as caucus chair in the December elections while former governor and current Senator Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, replaced retiring Senator Jerry Rhoads, D-Madisonville, as caucus whip.

In the Republican caucus, Senate President Robert Stivers will serve another term in his leadership position after being unchallenged. Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown and Republican Caucus Chair Dan Seum also did not face challenges to their positions in the leadership elections held in November.

The two new faces of Senate Republican leadership are Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, for the chamber’s No. 2 position of president pro tem, and Jimmy Higdon of Lebanon as majority whip.

Settlement money being used to purchase heroin overdose reversal kits for hospitals

Governor Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway announced Tuesday they will put more than $100,000 toward providing state hospitals with a drug to counter the effects of a heroin overdose.

The Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory Committee, created by Beshear through executive order to distribute money from a $32 million dollar settlement with two pharmaceutical companies, will spend $105,000 to purchase approximately 2,000 Naloxone Rescue kits for the hospitals with the highest rates of overdose deaths in the state.

Naloxone, a drug with the ability to reverse the effects of a heroin overdose, has been widely discussed during discussions on how to address the state’s heroin issues but is currently only available through prescription and many say the availability of the drug needs to be expanded.

Beshear and Conway said the money for the kits is a good first step.

“Overdose patients will receive a kit free of charge when they leave the hospital, so that they or a loved one can prevent another overdose event and possibly save a life,” Beshear said. “I join with Kentucky families, with our attorney general, with our first lady, with both law enforcement and healthcare and treatment officials around this state in urging our General Assembly to make this one of their very top priorities, we cannot delay any longer.”

The kits will be provided to the University of Louisville Hospital, the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington, and the St. Elizabeth Hospital system in Northern Kentucky free of charge to give to the patients. And the officials said they would like to see the pilot project expand to 17 more hospitals in the state.

“Now this is important because when a patient who comes into the ER walks out after a Heroin overdose, if they get this kit they are not going to be walking out with a prescription that they can’t afford to fill because Medicaid doesn’t cover it,” Conway said. “They are not just walking out with a piece of paper.”

Conway also added that most pharmacies in the state and even many emergency rooms do not carry Naloxone, also known as Narcan.

Addressing the heroin issue is an issue with bipartisan appeal in the 2015 session as many bills have already been filed on the topic.

2015 session gets underway, Right to Work will be Senate Bill 1

With the first day of the 2015 General Assembly complete, a number of bills have been filed which are top priorities for the Kentucky Chamber.

Senate Bill 1 (Stivers), the Senate’s top priority, is legislation that would make Kentucky a Right to Work State, which would prohibit requiring any worker to join a union as a condition of employment.  The Chamber believes union membership should be a matter of personal choice, and the freedom not to affiliate with a labor union is no less deserving of protection that the freedom to affiliate.  As Kentucky struggles to recruit new businesses and retain existing ones, the failure to pass Right to Work legislation has greatly hindered our competitive edge.  Kentucky is the only southern state not to have enacted this legislation.

Senate Bill 3 (Hornback), modernizes Kentucky’s telecommunications law.  This bill has passed the Senate the past two years but has never received a floor vote in the House.  The Chamber supports Senate Bill 3 as it would eliminate unnecessary and outdated retail based regulatory burdens that serve only to stifle investment in the technology infrastructure upon which jobs of the future will depend.

Senate Bill 5, sponsored by Sen. Chris McDaniel, addresses the rising heroin epidemic in Kentucky by strengthening penalties for heroin dealers and increasing treatment resources. There is bipartisan support to address the heroin issue and lawmakers had pre-filed seven different bills related to the topic before the start of the session. The Chamber supports legislation to address this epidemic. In addition to families, an alarming number of businesses are greatly affected by this addiction.

The House announced their top priority on December 19.  House Bill 1 (Stumbo) would create a constitutional amendment to give local communities the option to place an additional sales tax of up to one cent on the ballot for voter approval. The Kentucky Chamber supports this initiative as it allows cities and counties the choice and flexibility to invest in their own community.

It is critical for success of these important business issues that you let your legislators know you support these initiatives.  Call 1-800-372-7181 and let your legislator know of your support.

Many big bills pre-filed ahead of the 2015 session

With just weeks to go before the start of the 2015 session, many bills have already been pre-filed as legislators prepare to return to Frankfort. The Kentucky Chamber has compiled a brief overview of some of those bills, including:

  • Seven different bills have been pre-filed related to addressing the scourge of heroin in the state. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in each chamber have filed pieces of legislation with the same goal of dealing with the epidemic. The issue was debated in the 2014 session but no legislation was passed after disputes over provisions dealing with prosecution of heroin dealers and the idea of setting up a needle exchange.
  • Five separate pieces of legislation have been filed by lawmakers looking to restore the voting rights of felons. Each pre-filed bill has different criteria for that restoration, mainly focused on excluding certain felony charges. Offender re-entry and felon expungement—issues dealing with the employment opportunities of those convicted of a low-level offense—are also topics with pre-filed bills.
  • Addressing the ongoing problems in the state pensions systems is the subject of many pre-filed bills, including acts related to: the Kentucky Retirement System, the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, Legislators’ Retirement Plan and others.
  • A bill prohibiting smoking in public places and places of employment has been pre-filed by Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington. The idea of a statewide smoking ban has come up in many previous sessions but has yet to receive a vote on the floor of either chamber.
  • Bills related to energy issues include legislation to allow the construction of nuclear power plants as well as legislation to create Energy Project Assessment Districts—ePADS for short—to spark investment in energy efficient upgrades for commercial properties.
  • Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, has pre-filed a bill to permit local governments to raise the minimum wage above the state rate. The legislation comes as Louisville metro council recently voted to raise the rate to $9 over a three year period. However, Rep. Meek’s legislation implies the practice is not legal under current statute.
  • Legislation requiring all coal severance revenues be distributed back to the coal producing counties has been filed by Rep. Fitz Steele, D-Hazard.
  • Steele has also pre-filed a bill that would create a three day tax free holiday during the first weekend in August each year to exempt clothing, school supplies, computers and other items from sales and use taxes.
  • Tom Kerr, R-Taylor Mill, has filed legislation that seeks to repeal the common core standards—an act which would throw out Chamber-supported rigorous academic standards and cost the state at least $35 million, according to Education Commissioner Terry Holliday.

A full list of pre-filed bills with details of each piece of legislation can be found on the Legislative Research Commission website.

The Kentucky Chamber will be closely monitoring the progress of all legislation throughout the session. Stay up to date with all the latest news by checking the blog and following us on twitter @KyChamber.

To give feedback about any legislation, contact us at legislative@kychamber.com.

Ky. Chamber examines state’s economic growth since recession

A new economic study released by the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce shows the state has seen job growth in many of the large areas of the state during 2014 while the rural regions continue to experience some economic struggle.

The study, conducted by Kentucky Chamber Senior Economic Advisor Dr. Paul Coomes, analyzes the latest data on job and payroll growth for nine economic regions in Kentucky since the national recession. A map of the regions examined in the study can be seen below:

Picture1

Findings of the study include a statistic showing Kentucky has added jobs as a whole at a rate of 5.6 percent, a slower rate than the national average but surpassing the growth of many surrounding states.

But Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson said the study is meant to look deeper into the economic state of the commonwealth.

“There are very distinct regional economies in Kentucky. It is somewhat misleading to talk about a Kentucky economy because things can be so different within the regions and I think this report underscores that fact,” Adkisson said.

Coomes states the Louisville, Lexington, and Bowling Green-Hopkinsville regions had the highest growth rates in total jobs over the past five years, with forty-five percent of the growth statewide happening in just two Kentucky counties—Jefferson and Fayette.

Many of the new jobs created consist of manufacturing positions, according to Coomes. Those jobs were most prevalent in the Louisville, Northern Kentucky, and Bowling Green-Hopkinsville regions. (A chart of employment numbers for all regions can be seen below.)

Picture4

However, the numbers are not all good. According to the study, fifty mostly rural counties saw a net loss of jobs over the past five years. The Mountain and Ashland areas have fewer jobs than they did five years ago while the Paducah-Purchase region has seen a loss of manufacturing jobs.

All but two regions examined in the study posted slower than average growth when it comes to average pay per job, while manufacturing salaries continue to be ahead of the U.S. averages in most of the state’s regions.

But Coomes says Kentucky still needs to diversify the types of jobs that are being created in order to stay on the right track.

“The main economic challenge for Kentucky has been to replace high paying manufacturing jobs that we are losing with high paying service jobs and we haven’t done as well as the national average, that’s for sure,” Coomes told reporters Monday.

As for the overall economic outlook seen in the report, Adkisson said there is good and bad news in a report like this but it is important to continue to look at the growth on a county-by-county basis in order to see what is going on in Kentucky and what is affecting families.

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