FRANKFORT — During the second week of the 2016 General Assembly, state legislators settled into the familiar rhythm for a session.
Bills began to be introduced, debated in committees and brought to the Senate floor for a vote. It is the institution’s customary way to bring order out of a chaotic-appearing democratic process that has worked for a century and a half.
Three bills – tackling everything from what construction workers are paid to build public schools to how much Kentucky bourbon visitors can drink on distillery tours – made it through that time-honored process. The bills, on issues that have been debated for years in the Capitol, will now go to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.
This week I stood up for Kentucky’s construction workers when I opposed Senate Bill 9 that exempts public schools from requiring contractors from paying them a specified minimum wage rate for work on certain projects.
Data shows that wages and benefits for workers are driven down when you do away with prevailing wage and I do not believe the government should be in the business of driving down wages.
This proposal would impact 75,000 Kentucky workers. Data shows that construction workers make 22 to 25 percent less on average in states that have repealed prevailing wage laws. The bottom line is if we repeal the prevailing wage on public construction projects in Kentucky we cut the wages of every man and woman who works in the construction industry throughout this state.
Prevailing wage simply promotes paying decent wages to workers on government contracts. Prevailing wage laws encourage a skilled workforce that does quality work.
The omnibus alcohol bill tackling the amount of bourbon that can be handed out on distillery tours is known as Senate Bill 11. It would also allow Kentucky microbreweries to double their production levels to 50,000 barrels and small-farm wineries to double their production to 100,000 gallons.
With the growing number of microbreweries and small farm wineries across the state, this bill not only helps this industry and these entrepreneurs, but will also open the door for additional economic development in the various regions across the state. These industries are already starting to show up in our region like the microbrewery in Prestonsburg and the moonshine distillery in Whitesburg. We anticipate that others will follow.
Also passed this week was Senate Bill 12 that will allow a major sporting venue to sell alcohol outside the prevailing times for local sales of alcohol, including Sunday, if the venue is hosting an event that will begin outside the normal hours for alcohol sales. The venue must have a seating capacity of 75,000 or more and have adequate licenses.
During each session, groups advocating for children, seniors and our other most vulnerable citizens come to Frankfort to make their voices heard and lobby for or against legislation. That was the case this week. Thursday was declared Children’s Advocacy Day. This day was established in 2004 as an effort to raise the profile of children’s issues among Kentucky’s elected leaders. Giving a voice to young people serves as a powerful vehicle reminding us all that Kentucky’s children are the key to a sustained and prosperous future for the Commonwealth. I enjoyed meeting and talking with the young people when they stopped by my office.
I also had the pleasure to meet with members of the National MS Society to discuss issues related to multiple sclerosis. This is an issue that has my full support and each year I hold a golf tournament to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis and to help raise money for this important organization.
The legislature will gavel back in session on Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Our most important task of the 60-day session still lies ahead – passing a new $20-$21 billion budget to carry Kentucky through the next two years. First, Gov. Matt Bevin will present his budget recommendations during a combined State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address on Jan. 26.
The recommendations are converted to legislation and are first introduced in the House in the form of a spending plan for the state. When the budget bills are passed by a majority of the members of the House, they are sent to the Senate where they follow the same procedures.
Typically, the budget bills passed by each chamber are different. The differences must be worked out in a conference committee of senators and representatives. Compromises agreed to by conference committee members are then subject once again to approval by a majority of both members of each chamber – all before the last day of the session on April 12.
Please stay up-to-date on the budget negotiations, and legislative action of interest to you, throughout the session by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free bill status line at 866-840-2835. For committee meeting schedules, please call the LRC toll-free meeting information line at 800-633-9650. To comment on a bill, please call the toll-free legislative message line at 800-372-7181.
Citizens can write to any legislator by sending a letter with a lawmaker’s name on it to: Legislative Offices, 702 Capitol Ave., Frankfort, KY 40601. You can also e-mail me directly at [email protected]