Lobbyists win… we lose

It was a good year for some of Kentucky’s biggest lobbies. The major accomplishments of this year’s legislative session show the Republican supermajority was more concerned about its donors’ interests than in solving our problems.

Senate Bill 100, the solar bill, took away the requirement for one-to-one reimbursement for solar energy users who sell energy back to the utilities. It was a top priority of regional power companies — so much so that they outspent the pro-solar PAC almost 50-to-1 in political contributions. The bill stalled between the Senate and House and appeared to be so toxic that it was doomed to fail, despite enormous financial support. However, a late-night change of heart by GOP House members delivered the energy companies (and lobbies) the biggest victory of the session.

The GOP received 90 percent of the more than $320,000 donated by the four major utility companies during the 2018 election cycle, according to the Courier Journal.

Then, there’s the GOP’s old lobbying friends — the National Rifle Association.

No background checks, training or licenses are necessary now to carry a concealed weapon in the Commonwealth of Kentucky — another inexplicable push by the NRA to arm the entire country. It is willfully blind to the number of deaths this will cause.

The NRA will also be happy to see the legislature’s response to last year’s school shooting in Marshall County: more guns in Kentucky schools! Senate Bill 1 establishes a “school security marshal” as a statewide position and adds school resource officers. SB 1 also “sets goals” for hiring more school counselors and mental health workers, as well as requiring suicide training for school staffs and teachers, although no funding has been provided for these programs.

The bill does nothing to make it harder to keep guns out of the hands of kids or people who shouldn’t be have access to firearms.

So, how else did lawmakers improve the lives of Kentuckians?

Well, what had been sold as the “pension session” turned out to be more like President Trump’s “infrastructure week,” minus the adult film actress and Playboy Playmates… all talk, no action. In fact, all state GOP lawmakers have done is dig a deeper hole in the budget.

Lawmakers now seem poised to pass HB 354, a $105 million tax break, mostly for corporations and banks.

Thanks to the Kentucky Bankers Association, banks could see a $56-million-per-year tax break. That is $56 million in revenue the state will not see.

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The KBA has pushed this move for years: Its political action committee gave more than $160,000 to the campaigns and political committees for state legislators during the 2017-18 election cycle, according to a Courier Journal story.

There’s also a push to borrow up to $150 million over the next few years for a state park improvement plan.

(Reminder: All of this is happening while the state increased Louisville’s pension contribution requirement, which caused a $65 million deficit for the city and undoubtably will lead to local tax increases.)

Yes, it was a good year for some of Kentucky’s biggest lobbies, but not the rest of us.

Without the assistance of special interest groups, Republicans have proven to be incapable of real legislating. Promises of restoration of voting rights for former felons, medical marijuana and sports gambling were nothing more than conjecture.

Instead, Republican lawmakers returned to their default legislative agenda: a series of socially-divisive issues that don’t solve problems, usually end up in court and are ultimately ruled unconstitutional… and rightfully so.

House Bill 46 would require all public schools to display the phrase “In God We Trust.”

House Bill 166 would designate the last Wednesday in September as an annual “Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students.”

House Speaker David Osborne of Prospect introduced HB 3, which would cut benefits and add drug tests and work requirements to Medicaid recipients. What Fourth Amendment?

And, of course, the requisite attack on reproductive rights — SB 9 would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected… around the sixth week of pregnancy. Another in a long line of unconstitutional attacks on women’s rights, which will end up costing taxpayers in court.

Congratulations to all of the lobbyists on a big year! May all of your political contributions — investments — provide fruitful returns. We would love to toast your successes over a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to direct-purchase that wine thanks to the bourbon distilleries blocking SB 99, because it’s “not fair.”

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