People over profits

For more of LEO’s preview coverage of the 2019 legislative session, go here.

The 2019 legislative agenda for Greater Louisville Inc. is surprisingly progressive, albeit for the wrong reasons — it is all about making money.

To be fair, GLI is the self-proclaimed “voice of the Greater Louisville business community,” so it exists to help businesses make mo’ money (or at least that is what they tell us). And, of course, businesses that make money can employ more people and enhance the community and so on. All good, but people are not commodities and machine parts that exist just to make money for companies.

Here’s where we agree and disagree with Louisville’s chamber of commerce:

Free money.
GLI is for expanded gambling and sports betting. It’s free money! Agree!

Marijuana.
GLI isn’t for or against legalizing medical marijuana. All it cares about is that if weed is legalized, the legislature must create “drug-free workplace” laws that extend protections from lawsuits to businesses. Makes sense.

Healthcare.
GLI seems to support expanded Medicaid but doesn’t want to say it, possibly out of fear of Gov. Matt Bevin. Does GLI want to see sick people get help to improve and save lives?

No.

The reason is all about money: “A healthy workforce is vital to economic development but must come at a cost to the state that is sustainable.” Essentially, people are just a resource, like good ol’ coal or Bevin’s aluminum.

The goal of Medicaid should be achieving a healthier population and removing the burden of healthcare costs from climbing the economic ladder. Medicaid should not be seen as a path to profits and growth.

Smoking tax.
GLI must have read my random thought from last week’s column on a cigarette tax. It supports raising the sale age of tobacco products to 21 and increasing the cigarette tax. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of a smoking employee to a business is $6,000 a year more than for a nonsmoking employee.

Could not agree more — tax tobacco into oblivion.

Environment and energy.
“GLI encourages investment and research in renewable, domestically-produced alternative energy resources and the development of “green” infrastructure, including green building construction and rehabilitation, green roofs, and the expansion of tree cover in urban areas through partnerships and targeted incentive programs.”

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In!

Especially on the trees.

Disagree on the “targeted incentive programs” part, though. Government should require, fund and help restore the tree canopy.

Disagree with GLI’s opposition “to mandates that threaten to drive up costs for energy providers and consumers.” The government has artificially kept energy prices down by suppressing competitors to old, dirty forms of energy — coal. Mandates must match incentives to force energy companies to evolve, or stay competitive with new, clean technologies.

Education and workforce.
“State support of higher education should be fully funded or restored to 2007-2008 per student levels to help keep student costs down.”

Agree.

The Great Recession has long been over for Wall Street and the wealthiest Americans. The fact that public services and support — for things such as education — have not rebounded along with the markets means that others are still paying the price for the recession.

Students today shouldn’t be covering for the cuts made as a result of the mistakes of others.

GLI is for “empowering local school districts to create more dynamic and modern compensation systems for education professionals.” Generally, I agree that compensation should be modernized. However, GLI is proposing that pay, raises and bonuses should be tied to teacher performance.

This is currently impossible. Too many teachers see too much turnover among their students within a given year. How can a teacher’s performance be assessed when half of their students will turn over within a school year?

Completely disagree with GLI’s position to fund charter schools.

Completely agree with “upgrading from STEM to STEAM” — science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. Art must be part of the curriculum.

I find it difficult to agree with an organization that views all issues through the lens of profits and economic growth. Yet, if the voice of greater Louisville business for whatever reason is advocating for arts education and trees, then I can live with that.

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