For Insider Louisville
Published: APRIL 21, 2014
By RAE HODGE
Mission accomplished: Kentucky’s legislators displayed marathon endurance in passing a $20.3 billion biennial budget (more on the local impact of budget allocations coming later today). Before the Kentucky General Assembly gaveled down the 2014 legislative session, though, lawmakers also managed to pass a handful of high-impact bills affecting Louisville. Here’s a roundup from this session…
Cannabidiol: The University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky have both gotten the green light to begin research on cannabis-based anti-seizure medication Cannabidiol. With only a negligible amount of THC in the oil, the non-intoxicating substance has been authorized for prescription by the state universities on a case-by-case basis. The bill received wide support from both Republican and Democratic legislators in both chambers of the statehouse, both of which heard impassioned testimony from parents of severely affected children.
Juvenile Justice: Louisville may see a crack in the school-to-prison pipeline after the passage of a bill overhauling the state’s juvenile justice system. Running away, smoking, and skipping school are now the kinds of offenses that are likely to put kids in community-based treatment programs instead of detention centers. Unless they’ve committed weapons or sex crimes (or had a prior offense), kids can skip detention. Proponents of the measure say the changes would produce $24 million in savings.
Appliance Park: House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Louisville, has paved a path for a $325 million research and development investment in Louisville’s Appliance Park using House Bill 396. The enacted bill allows the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act to cover appliance manufacturers to the tune of $15 million a year in tax rebates. Appliance Park accounts for about 6,000 jobs in Louisville.
Human Trafficking: Instances of human trafficking see an uptick every year during Derby season, but this year those who are arrested for prostitution and found to be victims of human trafficking will now have their records cleared of the offense. Building on Kentucky’s 2013 legislation, which created harsher penalties for human traffickers and broader protections for victims, Senate Bill 148 goes a step further in paving the way for victims to re-integrate into society.
Voting Rights: Despite receiving Republican support from U.S. Sen. Rand Paul–and making a slow crawl all the way to the Senate floor (a task never previously accomplished)–a bill to restore the voting rights of former felons in Kentucky died at the 11th hour on the final night of the 2014 session. Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, D-Lexington, has sponsored the bill long enough to become synonymous with the issue. After 21 years serving in the Kentucky House, he retires this year while Kentucky remains one of four states with similar voting restrictions.
Heroin: Body counts are on the rise in Kentucky as state Attorney General Jack Conway reports a 650 percent increase from 2012 in heroin-related deaths. Even so, House Republicans killed an anti-heroin bill (sponsored by the retiring Senate President Pro Tem Kathy Stine, R-Southgate) by running down the clock to prevent it from receiving a vote on the final day of session. The bill would have delivered additional funding for addiction treatment facilities, while establishing a heroin education program and stiffening penalties against heroin traffickers. Democratic and Republican resistance to the bill centered on a provision they say is unconstitutional, which allows traffickers to be tried for homicide.
L.O.S.T.: Mayor Greg Fischer’s Local Option Sales Tax effort died without receiving a vote in the House. The proposed constitutional amendment would have allowed Louisville to temporarily raise sales tax by 1 percent to collect revenue for city projects. While proponents claimed the proposal would have raised up to $130 million in funds, opponents of the measure noted that an Urban Studies Institute study warned that the tax would disproportionately affect Louisville’s low-income residents, despite tax exemptions on food and utilities.
Smoking Ban: A bill which would have enacted a statewide smoking ban died before receiving a hearing on the House floor, after bill sponsor Rep. Susan Westrom, D-Lexington, reported waning support for the measure. Smoking bans are rarely favored by rural constituents, a concern held by several members of the House who are up for re-election this year, according to House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
Check back later today for a rundown of budget allocations affecting Metro Louisville.