With Christmas approaching, state agencies and public agency representatives are hoping the Kentucky General Assembly plays Santa when the 2018 session opens January 2.
Here are two reports of legislative wish lists from those agencies that developed this week:
Legislative wish list from state constitutional officers
A panel of state lawmakers got an idea Wednesday of the legislation some of Kentucky’s statewide constitutional officers will advocate for during the upcoming regular session.
“We have a couple of things percolating,” Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Harmon said while testifying before the Interim Joint Committee on State Government. “I’ll let you peek under the hood, as it were, at a few things we are working on.”
He said the legislature could help Kentucky’s 120 counties by passing a bill modeled after an Ohio law that allows for an occasional, less-expensive audit of counties with a history of sound financial recordkeeping.
Another piece of suggested legislation from Harmon would close a loophole he said his office found that allows cities to receive state road funds even if they haven’t completed a yearly audit.
Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball said her No. 1 legislative priority is reform of Kentucky’s unclaimed property law. Part of her office’s duties is to handle unclaimed property such as uncashed payroll checks, inactive stocks, dividends and savings accounts.
Ball said her office returned $25 million in unclaimed property last year. She attributed the figure, in part, to going out and identifying entities such as school boards and nonprofits that normally wouldn’t think to check to see if they have unclaimed property.
“I’m a big believer in property rights and getting people’s property back to them,” Ball said. “It is good for the economy because it is their money and they now can do what they want to with it.”
Ball said additional legislation is needed, however, to deal with 21st-century creations such as gift cards and Bitcoins.
Kentucky Department of Agriculture General Counsel Joseph Bilby said his department will ask for legislation to clear up some regulatory issues that may not seem too important to the public but are of top concern for some in agricultural industries.
He said that while his department has been issuing certificates of free sale for years, it will request for that authority to be written into law. Some countries require the certificates to show that the products offered for entry into their country comply with U.S. laws and regulations.
Bilby said his department would like to exempt state agricultural producers from having to install expensive electronic logging devices on their trucks if they are making deliveries less than 150 miles away. The current exemption is 100 miles. Electronic logging devices are attached to commercial motor vehicles to ensure compliance with the federal law regulating how long a driver can be behind the wheel.
Co-chair Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said it was good to get a heads-up on the legislative needs of the constitutional offices.
“This is the last meeting of the interim session,” he said. “We have taken up some very timely topics and some topics I’m sure that will be addressed in the upcoming session of the General Assembly.”
Cities, counties share 2018 legislative platforms
Kentucky cities and counties need more revenue, their representatives told state lawmakers today. They also want to protect pensions earned by their workers, they say.
Being able to fund pensions and “safe, clean and economically healthy communities” requires more flexibility than cities now have, said Jonathan Steiner, the executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) who told the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government that cities want more autonomy.
“Local elected officials need a way to mitigate these changes to ensure they can continue to meet their obligation,” said Steiner. “They’re seeking more control over their local pensions, and they’re looking to the legislature to create a culture in the state that helps grow our local workforce.”
“(We) reiterate our pledge to work with the legislature … to further address the pension crisis while also protecting the investment to public service made by our members,” Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) President and Jefferson County Circuit Clerk David L. Nicholson told the panel.
Cities asked the committee to fully support “home rule”— broad self-governance granted to cities by the Kentucky General Assembly under state law. County organizations that are members of KACo who also presented today asked for more funding options for roads, jails, and a number of other services.
“Jails will always be on our priority list,” said LaRue County Judge Executive and Kentucky County Judge Executive Association legislative chairman Tommy Turner. The longtime county official was one of a few local leaders today who hinted at tax reform, with KLC President and Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes advocating expansion of the restaurant tax and Turner mentioning the possibility of a local option sales tax. Local option sales tax legislation has been proposed but failed to pass the Kentucky legislature in previous years.
Acknowledging the complex needs of local governments was Interim Joint Committee on Local Government Co-Chair Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, who said he heard local officials call for both more revenue and pension reform in today’s meeting. Bowen explained that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.
“The reform that many of us have been wrestling with over the past six months or so has met opposition from many of you,” Bowen told the officials. And, while he said he understands their position, “without pension reform, we can’t identify those additional funds,” he said.
Calls for tax reform have also been greeted cautiously by Bowen who said tax reform is a long-term fix that will not meet immediate revenue needs at the local level.
“In order for us to be able to address these critical budgetary needs … we have to get pension reform done,” said Bowen.
The General Assembly’s 2018 session begins Jan. 2 and is scheduled to last through April 13.