Kentucky Political News Headlines

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Special Election Results

Special Election Results

Kentuckians in two legislative districts went to the polls on Tuesday to fill two open legislative seats, the 13th Senate seat vacated by Kathy Stein and the 7th House seat vacated by John Arnold. Results and some narrative about the races is below: 

7th House - Suzanne Miles (R) defeated Kim Humphrey (D) by a mere 112 votes to become the new State Representative for the 7th District. The seat was previously held by a Democrat, so this is a net pick up for House Republicans. The Democrat Majority in the House now stands at 54-46. Historically, this is a very narrow margin in the House, which has been exclusively controlled by Democrats in modern times. This article has more on the race, including how Miles was able to capitalize on new Daviess County precincts added during redistricting.

13th Senate - Reggie Thomas (D) beat out two opponents to replace Kathy Stein as the new Senator from the 13th District in Fayette County. Thomas garnered 4040 votes to Independent candidate Maloney's 2617 and Republican Michael Johnson's 851. The vote totals were very low with only 11% turnout for this special election. Maloney, the Independent and former Democrat, had run hard against Thomas in a heavily registered Democrat district. The seat was previously controlled by Democrats, so it doesn't impact the balance of power in the Senate which is controlled by Republicans 23-14 and 1 Independent. This article has more on the race.

We will have more analysis in the days ahead. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

2014 Session Calendar

HERE you will find the recently released 2014 Regular Session legislative calendar. A few items of note:

- Due to this being the 60 day "long" session and the session not starting until January 7, 2014, there is not as much wiggle room for the Leadership to juggle days late in the session or take extra days off for bad weather. The last day of the 2014 session on this calendar is April 15, 2014, which is the last day the General Assembly can meet per the constitution. 

- The last day for new bills is March 3 in the House and March 5 in the Senate.

- Concurrence Days, used primarily for the purpose of concurring in the other Chamber's amendments to bills though other business can be conducted, are scheduled for March 28 & 31. 

- The General Assembly has set the veto recess for April 1-11, before returning for the final two legislative days on April 14 & 15. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Consensus Forecasting Group Mtg - 8/15

Guest post by Rachel Phelps Bayens

The Consensus Forecasting Group (CFG) met for most of yesterday afternoon, reviewing tax receipts and determining which economic models will best forecast Kentucky's revenues for the next several years.  This meeting follows last week's CFG meeting when the group of non-partisan economists met to look at economic trends and national forecasts setting the stage for yesterday's meeting.  At the end of the four hour meeting, the CFG chose to use the "control' scenario for the estimates during this planning process, in both the General Fund and Road Fund. State law required the group to adopt a forecast, although it's only for preliminary planning purposes.  The CFG will reconvene in October and December to put together a more targeted forecast to be used by the Governor and General Assembly in putting together the state's biennial budget during the 2014 legislative session. Here's a break down of the forecast:

General Fund - The Forecast adopted by the CFG yesterday has 2.7% growth in FY 15 and 2.8% in FY 16.  The CFG does show a small decline in FY 14 revenues from the enacted forecast, a difference of 4.5 Million.  Overall, the coal severance tax and cigarette tax appear to be on a declining path with some growth in individual income and corporate taxes.  The sales tax is expected to be flat for the most part.  The primary reason is that sales tax growth is in areas that are currently exempt under Kentucky law, like groceries, utilities, and prescription drugs.

Road Fund - The CFG chose the control forecast for the Road Fund as well.  The primary takeaway though is that the one area of growth in the Road Fund for the past several years - the motor fuels tax - will not continue to increase.  The national forecasts that the CFG uses, predicts fuel prices will moderate, which will prevent the index included in KY law from being triggered.  As one of the staffers said in yesterday's meeting "we are likely not going to get any more pennies" within the period of time the group is forecasting.  In FY 15 the RF is estimated to decline by 3.1% and increase by 0.1% in FY 16.  The CFG also revised their current year (FY 14) estimate to reflect a difference of 28.4 million from the enacted estimate. 

The Office of the State Budget Director will put together a preliminary planning document based on yesterday's actions.  The CFG will have the opportunity to revise these estimates in October and December, if the landscape changes and as more information becomes available.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Consensus Forecasting Group - 8/7 Meeting

Guest Post by Rachel Phelps

The Consensus Forecasting Group (CFG) met this morning in Frankfort.  The CFG is appointed by the Governor and consists of eight non-partisan economists charged by statute to develop budget forecasts and estimates that the Executive Branch and the General Assembly use to put together the state biennial budget. The group meets in August and October and then again at the end of the year, to meet the obligations of developing final budget estimates on or before the 15th legislative day in January.

Today's meeting consisted of a discussion of economic forecasts and then a review of the General Fund and Road Fund. The CFG also elected a new chair, Frank O'Connor, who replaced long time member and chair Lawrence Lynch.  There's been some turnover on the group, as at least four new members were present at today's meeting.

The Office of the State Budget Director presented to the group using forecasting models from Global Insight. Here are the highlights:

General Fund
  • All Global Insight predictions on the Economy and recovery are heavily guarded by multiple caveats and the optimism is offset by uncertainty.
  • KY sales and use tax receipts were down in FY13 and that represents the third decline in the previous five fiscal years.  Prior to this recent run, sales tax receipts fell only one time since 1979.
  • Staff explained that a possible explanation to the declining sales tax is that the areas of sales that are growing are currently excluded from the tax in KY - not included in our base.  Examples are services, groceries, utilities, and prescription drugs.
  • The sharp drop in coal severance tax receipts in FY13 erased all of the recessionary gains and returned the tax to pre-recession levels.  You will remember that coal severance was one of the highlights in terms of tax growth for KY during the recession.  Uncertainty going forward further clouds the outlook for coal.
  • The individual and corporate income taxes have grown rapidly during the last three fiscal years.
  • The LLET (Limited Liability Entity Tax) has doubled since the first full year of tax collections, after instituted in 08.
  • KY is seeing growth in taxes based on income or gross receipts and declines in consumption based taxes.
Road Fund
  • Since the gas tax index has been triggered, the Road Fund has grown from $1B per year to almost $1.5B.  
  • The Motor Fuel tax has been the only area of growth within the Road Fund.
  • With the price of gasoline expected to flatten, staff predicts challenges ahead for the Road Fund and anticipate a difficult time in forecasting for the next several years.
The CFG will reconvene on August 15th, take the data shared today and determine whether they plan to use a pessimistic, controlled, or optimistic outlook. They will discuss estimates at this meeting.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fwd: LRC eNews

See the press release below from LRC in regards to new laws taking effect on June 25.

News Release
June 17, 2013

New Kentucky laws go into effect next week

FRANKFORT -- New laws approved during the Kentucky General Assembly's 2013 regular session go into effect on June 25.

That means laws against human trafficking will soon be strengthened. More DNA testing will be allowed as evidence in post-conviction felony cases. And school districts can start deciding whether they want to raise their compulsory attendance age to 18, though the 2015-16 school year would be the first year any changes could actually impact students.

The state constitution specifies that new laws take effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislature, except for general appropriation measures and those containing emergency or delayed effective date provisions.

This year's regular session adjourned on March 26, making June 25 the day that most laws will take effect.

The laws taking effect that day include measures the following topics:

Child protection. House Bill 290 will establish by statute an independent review panel to investigate cases of child deaths and near-fatal injuries. The panel will be given access to complete records of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, as well as information from law enforcement and other agencies involved in the cases.

Crime. Senate Bill 15, named the Bryan Durman Act in honor of a Lexington police officer who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2010, will ensure that a person convicted of criminal homicide in the killing of a police or firefighter on duty doesn't become eligible for probation or parole until 85 percent of a sentence is served.

DNA testing. HB 41 will allow some felony offenders in prison or under state supervision to request testing and analysis of their DNA as case evidence.

Hemp. SB 50 creates an administrative framework for the growing of hemp in Kentucky if the crop is legalized by the federal government.

Human trafficking. HB 3 will strengthen human trafficking laws while protecting victims from prosecution for crimes they were forced to commit. The legislation will offer assistance to agencies responsible for helping human trafficking victims by creating a "human trafficking victims fund" supported by service fees paid by convicted human traffickers, proceeds from seized and forfeited assets of traffickers, and any grants, contributions, or other funds that may become available.

Proof of insurance. HB 164 will allow people to use electronic insurance cards on their smart phones or other electronic devices as proof of motor vehicle insurance. Drivers will still be required to keep paper insurance cards in their vehicles.

Religious freedom. HB 279 specifies that government shall not burden a person's freedom of religion. The legislation states that an action motivated by a sincerely held religious belief can not be infringed upon without a compelling governmental interest. (HB 279 was vetoed by the governor; the veto was overridden by the House and Senate.)

Scholarships. SB 64 will ensure that students earning Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships aren't penalized in the amount of scholarship money they receive if they graduate from high school in three years rather than four.

School dropouts. SB 97 will allow school districts to increase the compulsory attendance age to 18 beginning in the 2015-16 school year. Districts that do so must have programs and resources in place for students at-risk of not graduating. The increased compulsory attendance age will become mandatory statewide four years after 55 percent of Kentucky school districts adopt it.

Student health. HB 172 will encourage schools to possess at least two epinephrine auto-injectors in case one is needed for a student having a life-threatening allergic or anaphylactic reaction.

Suicide prevention. SB 72 will require attendance at suicide prevention training programs at least once every six years for social workers, marriage and family therapists, professional counselors, fee-based pastoral counselors, alcohol and drug counselors, psychologists, and occupational therapists.

Teacher evaluations. HB 180 will require the Kentucky Board of Education to establish a statewide evaluation system for all certified personnel. The Department of Education, in consultation with teacher and principal steering committees, will develop the system prior to the 2014-2015 school year.

Tuition waivers. SB 95 will extend the five-year tuition waiver eligibility period for adopted children who serve in the military.

Victim protection. HB 222 will establish a crime victim protection program in the Secretary of State's office to allow domestic violence victims to have personal information, such as addresses, redacted from public voter registration roles. The legislation will also allow victims in the program to vote by mail-in absentee ballot.


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Sunday, March 24, 2013

General Assembly Session to Resume

With the Veto Recess period ending this weekend, the General Assembly is set to reconvene on Monday, March 25 for the final two days of the legislative session. Although these final two days are generally reserved for overriding vetoes and not considering legislation yet to pass both Chambers, it is likely that we will see the General Assembly do just that on Monday and Tuesday. We expect at this point that March 26 will be the final day of the 2013 Regular Session, however by the constitution the General Assembly could hold the last day of the session as late as Saturday, March 30 if needed. The only foreseeable reason for legislators to need the extra time next week would be in regards to final negotiations for a compromise on the pension reform issue. Right now that doesn't seem necessary, but as the two sides continue to meet that may change. The pension reform issue has dominated the politics of this session and if a compromise cannot be reached surrounding how increased future contributions will be funded a special session on the topic may be necessary.