On Saturday, January 7th, I signed seven new bills into law. I want to extend my gratitude to the General Assembly for their hard work in getting these bills passed. I would also like to give special thanks to President Stivers and Speaker Hoover for the outstanding leadership they have shown throughout this process. One of the bills calls for greater transparency in our pension system. One of them cleans up the dysfunctional board of trustees at the University of Louisville. Two of the bills speak to the heart of who we are as Kentuckians. The other three eliminate impediments to economic development in our state.
Transparency in Our Government
Senate Bill 3 will allow Kentucky taxpayers to see the value of pension benefits that they are paying to lawmakers. This is a bill that was blocked in committee for years under the previous House leadership. Why would any lawmaker, elected to serve the people of the commonwealth, want to prevent taxpayers from seeing how their money is being spent? Kentucky’s pension funds currently have an $82 billion shortfall (more than $18,500 for every man, woman and child in the Commonwealth) because of these kinds of practices. With the passage of this bill, the General Assembly is setting an example of transparency needed throughout government.
The Heart of Kentucky
House Bill 2 and Senate Bill 5 provide protections for unborn children. House Bill 2, known as the “ultrasound bill,” requires physicians performing abortions to provide an ultrasound to patients prior to performing the procedure. The ultrasound will allow the prospective mother the option of hearing her baby’s heartbeat and allows her the option of seeing an image of the life within her. The least we can do for prospective mothers faced with such a difficult and life-altering decision is to provide them with the best information medical science has to offer about their baby.
Senate Bill 5 prohibits the performance or attempted performance of an abortion on an unborn child of twenty weeks gestation or more. At twenty weeks all anatomical links needed to feel pain are present. Therefore, babies aborted at this point of gestation or later, suffer terrible pain during the abortion procedure. Ending this horrific practice speaks to our basic humanity and I am proud that both these bills received significant bipartisan support, making it clear that in Kentucky we value the sanctity of life.
The Economic Vitality of Kentucky
In addition, I signed three bills that will better position Kentucky to become the engineering and manufacturing hub of excellence in the United States. House Bill 1 grants right-to-work protections to all of Kentucky’s workers. Contrary to claims by the bill’s opponents that this measure was somehow “against the worker,” studies show right-to-work laws spur economic growth. Tennessee, a right-to-work state, currently creates 20,000 more jobs per year than Kentucky. One third of Fortune 500 companies will not relocate to or expand in a state that is not right-to-work. One union worker in Western Kentucky told me that his fellow workers were going to Indiana and Michigan to find jobs, both of which are right-to-work states where job growth is expanding for both union and non-union workers.
I applaud this historic action by the General Assembly. It will be transformative in the way Kentucky competes economically and, as Kentucky begins to attract and retain more business, our workforce could see explosive growth. Likewise, Senate Bill 6, known as the “paycheck protection bill,” gives Kentucky workers the choice of whether they want union dues deducted from their paychecks. It is critical that hardworking Kentuckians have the ability to associate freely and do what they wish with their hard-earned dollars. By what American principle should a worker have a mandatory membership to anything, for which they must pay, be forced upon them? Who is better equipped to determine whether union membership is beneficial for an individual employee than the individual?
One other bill, House Bill 3, repeals Kentucky’s prevailing wage law. The original law required construction workers on certain public projects be paid a “prevailing wage.” The law made determining what the wage should be, both difficult and cumbersome. It also prevented the state of Kentucky from awarding construction projects to the lowest bidder, thus driving costs to the taxpayer upward. One policy paper estimated the prevailing wage law costs Kentucky taxpayers approximately $136.8 million annually.
The Best Version of Ourselves
These bills came to my desk during the first week of session. Speaker Hoover and the new majority in the House showed up ready to work. The Senate has been ready and waiting for years for this opportunity. Now is the time for action. These pieces of legislation will allow Kentucky to make great strides toward becoming the best version of ourselves. I am honored to have signed each of them and I am proud of the General Assembly’s bold action on these important matters. We are Kentucky!