Three High-Profile Bills Likely Dead in the Kentucky State Senate
Bills for the local option sales tax, public-private partnerships and a statewide smoking ban won't likely win approval during the 2015 Kentucky General Assembly session.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Ray Jones, a Pikeville Democrat, made a last minute petition to force an initial vote on the bills—but succeeded only in delivering the probable eulogies for the Democratic-House’s priority legislation.
All of the bills had support from Senate President Robert Stivers and some members of the Republican Caucus at some point during the session. But on the last legislative day before the governor’s veto session, all of the bills were defeated on solidly partisan lines.
The General Assembly will still be able to pass bills on March 23 and 24; but the prospects are grim for the following bills this year:
Local Option Sales Tax
Jones said the local option sales tax legislation's failure in the Senate—despite having support from the mayors of the state’s two largest cities and the chamber of commerce—showed that the “process was broken.”
“With the situation we find ourselves in—the economy has still not rebounded, our revenues have still not returned to the point where we can help local governments with economic development projects as we have in the past,” Jones said.
The local option sales tax would allow municipal and county governments to add up to 1 percent onto the sales tax temporarily to fund specific projects.
Senate support for the bill waned after interest groups started asking for carve-outs from the tax.
Called the P3 bill, it would have allowed private companies to front money for the construction phase major state projects and then recoup expenses through users fees or tolls.
The bill passed out of both chambers last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Beshear because it included an amendment that would have banned tolls projects on bridges between Kentucky and Ohio.
Taking the warning, this year the House passed a P3 bill without a toll provision, however support for the legislation dried up in the Senate soon after.
Jones said Republicans’ opposition to the bill was hypocritical.
“Conservative members of this Senate should be just ecstatic to support because it is truly small government,” Jones said. “It is the private sector creating jobs.”
The last bill Jones attempted to resurrect was the statewide smoking ban. The smoking ban received its fatal blow when it was assigned to a committee that didn’t give the bill an initial reading.
On Wednesday, the smoking ban’s Senate sponsor, Sen. Julie Raque-Adams, a Louisville Republican, declined to vote.
“Now if you truly support that piece of legislation you would think someone would stand up on the floor of the Senate and say, ‘It’s time to stop killing Kentuckians with second hand smoke,’” Jones said.
Though Stivers, a Manchester Republican, never gave outright support for the ban, he went on the record several times saying that he might consider a “local option” in which cities would be able to opt out-out of a statewide ban.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Sen. Ralph Alvarado declined to vote in favor of the last-minute petition for the smoking ban bill. Alvarado did pass on a procedural vote regarding Sen. Ray Jones' challenge, however, he voted with Democrats to suspend the rules and bring the smoking ban for a vote on the floor.