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Capitol Notes: Budget Clears House, Roofers & Snow Day Bills Advance

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak…”

Time and again, as debate on the state budget stretched into Thursday evening, House members rose from their seats and took their turns. Maybe there was a new idea to share. Or a need to respond to another member’s comments. Or a point that needed emphasis before votes were cast.

For any number of good reasons, lawmakers kept their discussions going, eager to provide a voice for their constituents. Point. Counterpoint. Dinner hour came and went with lawmakers still making cases for and against the $20.3 billion spending plan in front of them 

This is what a marketplace of ideas looks like.

In the end, the House passed its version of the proposed budget on a 53-46 vote and sent it to the Senate, where more changes are likely to come quickly. There are only two weeks before the lawmakers’ scheduled veto recess, and they intend to get the budget to the governor’s desk before then. Considering that it usually takes tremendous efforts and negotiations to iron out difference between the House and Senate on budgets, it’s likely that lights will be burning well into the night at the Capitol in the days to come 

At this point, the budget plan still looks a lot like the one submitted by the governor in January. Per pupil school funding would go up more than $70 million in the first year of the budget cycle and an additional $30 million the next year. Spending would increase on textbooks and preschool programs, but at levels lower than the governor proposed. Capital construction plans at postsecondary schools would go forward. Most state agencies would see 5 percent cuts. Universities, community and technical colleges and the State Police would see 2.5 percent funding reductions to their operating budgets 

On the Senate side of the Capitol, this week’s activity included the passage of SB 124, which would allow medical use of cannabis oil to treat pediatric seizures and other diseases. In recent weeks, lawmakers have heard emotional testimony from parents desperate for a new treatment for their children’s seizures. SB 124 was approved by the Senate and sent to the House for further action.

Snow day waiver bill clears House, 82-8

School districts would be allowed to excuse up to 10 instructional days missed this school year under legislation that today passed the Kentucky House.

House Bill 410, sponsored by Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, would take effect immediately upon becoming law. Although students would be excused on the waived days, teachers and other school employees would still work.

Many of the state’s 173 public school districts have missed over 10 days of school this winter due to snow, ice, or bitter cold.

“HB 410 is simply the bill that allows some relief for our struggling school districts after the disastrous winter that we’ve had,” Stacy said. “It allows them to go ahead and plan the remainder of their school year.”

Supporting the bill was Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, who explained that it will be a help rural school districts like his that “don’t have delays (when there is bad weather). If the weather is bad, we miss the whole day.”

Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who voted against the bill, said that in the eight years he has served in the Kentucky House “this is the third time we will have forgiven 10 days. And I vote against it every time. And it’s bound to catch up with us at some point.”

HB 410 passed the House 82-8 and now goes to the Senate. 

Roofing bill heads to Senate on 52-37 vote

Roofing contractors would be required to be licensed, permitted, insured, bonded, and knowledgeable of roofing issues under legislation that has cleared the Kentucky House.

The legislation would “make the industry more professional by licensing and requiring some education of the proper way to do roofing,” said Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, the sponsor of the proposal, House Bill 207. He said shoddy roofing construction has become and problem in the state.

“It is a problem in Kentucky, and the reason why we know it’s a problem is the Better Business Bureau says it’s their number-one source of complaints,” Riggs said.

The legislation would exempt building owners or farm owners and tenants doing roofing work on their own property from the requirements to be established under HB 207 by the proposed board, which would be called the Kentucky Board of Roofing Contractors.

A permitting system established under HB 207 would be located online. Contractors would be required to apply for and receive a permit before beginning any job except for new construction, jobs valued at less than $1,500, emergency repairs requiring immediate attention, and—per an approved amendment sponsored by Rep. Ken Upchurch, R-Monticello—any other permitted construction projects.

The education requirements under HB 207 would be approved by the state Department of Housing, Building, and Construction with input from the new board, and would require passage of a final exam that would carry a fee of up to $100 per test. Contractors would have to receive a “minimal passing score” on the exam before they could be licensed.

Rep. Richard Henderson, D-Mt. Sterling, who voted against HB 207, explained that he feels the bill would be a burden on business.

“It appears to me that we’re going to regulate another part of the construction business. We don’t have that problem in my neck of the woods; the market takes care of that,” Henderson said of the bill, adding that contracts and the ability to sue in court are already available for the protection of property owners.

“I feel this is another attack on an industry that is already suffering,” he said.

Licensing fees of up to $250 for the initial license and up to $200 for renewal would also be required by the bill. Those who contract to do roofing work without a license would face state fines of up to $2,500 for a first offense, up to $5,000 for a second offense, and a fine of up to $10,000 for each offense thereafter under HB 207.

HB 207 cleared the House by a vote of 52-37 and now goes to the Senate.

From the Legislative Research Commission