House Speaker Greg Stumbo draws from the political lexicon to use phrases like “home rule” and “local control” to describe the advantages of his top legislative priority. His House Bill 1 to create local option sales taxes has been endorsed by all living Kentucky governors, and similar legislation has been passed by 37 other states.
The constitutional amendment would allow local city or county governments to levy up to a penny of additional sales tax to repay a bond for a specific community project. When the project is paid off, the tax expires.
Stumbo said the move could free up state dollars to go towards essential government services like education and public safety. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover (R-Jamestown) is a sponsor of HB 1.
The mayors of the state’s two largest cities as well as a number of smaller communities support the plan. Rep. Larry Clark (D-Louisville), a state lawmaker for more than 30 years, said the legislation represents a shift in public policy, as state legislators would relinquish some budgetary responsibilities in funding projects.
Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) agreed with his Jefferson County colleague, and he argued that the tax would affect low-wage earners more than the more affluent.
House Bill 1 first establishes a constitutional amendment that if approved by two-thirds of the General Assembly would go on the November 2016 ballot. It would give state lawmakers the power to authorize local government bodies to petition their communities for the additional sales tax up to one percent. The additional penny would not be placed on food or medicine.
Rep. Tommy Thompson, (D-Owensboro) praised the measure for decentralizing some of the General Assembly’s power and giving it to counties and cities.
Ashland Democrat Rep. Kevin Sinnette wedged some comical commentary into the debate on why the bill is important to his Boyd County constituents. Given the beleaguered coal industry in eastern Kentucky, Sinnette sees the measure as a boon for his area.
Rep. David Meade (R-Stanford) said he favors local control but is unsure that’s what HB 1 actually does. He said his rural district won’t generate enough revenue to fund a significant project.
Because HB 1 is a constitutional amendment it needed at least 60 votes to advance. It inched over that threshold, 62 – 35. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration. The enabling legislation for the local option sales tax, House Bill 344, also advanced.
Restoring Felon Voting Rights
The Kentucky House took action on another constitutional amendment yesterday, the perennial House Bill 70 pertaining to felon voting rights. The chamber approved it for the eighth time since 2007. If voters green light the idea, the amendment would automatically restore voting rights for certain non-violent felons.
The House rejected a floor amendment requiring a three-year waiting period to have voting rights restored after a sentence is completed. The HB 70 passed on a 86 – 12 vote and now goes to the Senate.
Civil Protections for Dating Partners
The House also passed a bill extending civil protections to couples in dating relationships. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville), one in three women has been raped, experienced physical violence, or been stalked by an intimate partner. His House Bill 8 allows victims of domestic violence and abuse, stalking, and sexual assault by a dating partner to seek immediate civil protections called an interpersonal protective order.
The measure cleared the House without opposition, 98 – 0. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
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