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Capitol Notes: Phone deregulation bill, state minimum wage bill clear house committees

Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, presents a telecommunications bill in the House Economic Development Committee. (Photo from LRC Public INformation)

Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, presents a telecommunications bill in the House Economic Development Committee. (Photo from LRC Public Information)


Phone deregulation bill clears House panel

Supporters of a bill approved by a House Economic Development Committee say the measure will help lead to growth in Kentucky’s broadband network through deregulation of landline service.

House Bill 152 sponsor Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, said he rarely receives calls about landline service but is often asked if an area has broadband. He said his bill would enable telecommunications companies to move away from investment in landline and toward more investment in broadband, wireless and voice-over Internet protocol technologies.

“It is a big change. And I think change really is what this bill is about,” said Rand. A similar bill, Senate Bill 99, sponsored by Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, passed the Senate last year but died in the House at session’s end.

HB 152 would end Public Service Commission regulation over phone exchanges that include over 15,000 homes and reduce PSC jurisdiction in rural areas, while ending PSC authority over cell phone and broadband complaints from consumers.

“If you live in a rural area and have a traditional phone line you can keep it, period. If you live in an urban area you also have significant layers of protection under this bill,” AT&T Kentucky President Hood Harris told the committee.

Speaking with Rand in favor of the bill was Harris and Lee County Schools Superintendent Jim Evans, who told lawmakers that broadband in Lee County is unavailable outside of the schools but is needed in the broader community. Speaking against the bill was Kentucky Resources Council head Tom FitzGerald, who said HB 152 would allow AT&T and other basic exchange carriers to discontinue landline service to communities with over 15,000 homes.

HB 152 now goes to the full House for consideration.

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State minimum wage bill passes House committee

A bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $10.10 over the next three years has passed the House Labor and Industry Committee.

House Bill 2, sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would raise the state minimum wage incrementally to $8.20 on July 1, 2015, $9.15 on July 1, 2016, and $10.10 on July 1, 2017. Retail and service industries with gross annual sales of less than $500,000 would be exempt. The current sales threshold for state minimum wage is $95,000, said Stumbo.

The legislation also includes pay equity provisions that address wage discrimination on the basis of sex, race, or national origin “by prohibiting wage differentials for employees who perform equivalent jobs” with exceptions based on merit, seniority, or productivity. Stumbo said most minimum wage earners in Kentucky are women, adding that many are single working mothers.

Twenty-nine states and Washington, D.C., now have a minimum wage above the federal level, which is the same amount as Kentucky’s current minimum wage. “I believe it’s a bipartisan thing—you see people on both sides of the political spectrum who support this because these dollars go back into the local economies,” said Stumbo.

Among lawmakers opposing the bill in committee was Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, who said many of those earning minimum wage are teenagers.

“We’re decreasing the buying power of every family in Kentucky with this,” he said.

The last increase in the state minimum wage in Kentucky was passed by the 2007 Kentucky General Assembly.


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Ultrasound bill clears Senate

The Senate passed a bill by a 31-5 vote that would change the informed consent process required prior to an abortion.

Senate Bill 7 would require a medical doctor to perform an ultrasound prior to a woman giving informed consent to having an abortion, said Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, who sponsors the bill along with Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville.

“Full disclosure is so important to the health of the mother and her baby,” Adams said. “Kentucky women deserve no less. In closing, we need to stop chipping away at the right for Kentucky women to receive the health care and the answers they deserve.”

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, explained his vote against SB7.

“This is my third session here in the state Senate and I don’t think anyone’s opinion has been changed by the debate on this floor in those three years,” he said. “We talked a lot today about the court decisions and what those mean. We didn’t talk about what is actually in the bill. The one thing I would like to point out, in explaining my ‘no’ vote, is that do not see any exceptions for women who have been the victim of rape … .”

SB 7 now goes before the state House for consideration.

In January, the state Senate passed another abortion-related measure, known as Senate Bill 4, and sent it to the House for consideration.

SB 4 calls for a face-to-face meeting between the pregnant woman and a health care provider at least 24-hours before an abortion takes place. Adams explained last month that current law states a physician, licensed nurse, physician assistant or social worker must verbally inform the woman of the medical risks and abortion alternatives at least 24-hours before an abortion, but it does not specify that the information be given in a face-to-face meeting. She added that it is sometimes done via a recorded telephone message.

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, prepares for a floor speech in the Kentucky Senate. (Photo from LRC Public Information)

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, prepares for a floor speech in the Kentucky Senate. (Photo from LRC Public Information)


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School construction exemption OK’d by Senate

The Senate passed a measure that would exempt public schools from a statute requiring them to pay construction workers a specified minimum – often referred to as the prevailing wage law.

“While we can debate the policy of workers’ wages, we can all agree that our children of the Commonwealth deserve the best, and they deserve the best we can provide them now,” said Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, who sponsored the bill along with Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.

Schroder said the legislature’s own report found the measure (Senate Bill 9) would decrease construction costs of elementary and secondary education buildings by 7.6 percent.

“When we are dealing with multi-million dollar projects, this adds up quickly,” Schroder said. “Senate Bill 9 would simply allow more to be done with less with no change in quality of overall projects. More schools could be built from the savings, allowing more of our children to be placed in updated schools sooner.”

Sen. Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, was one of 12 senators who voted against SB 9, arguing that the measure would redistribute “money from hard working construction workers to construction company owners.”

Jones said prevailing wage laws across the United States date to the Great Depression when U.S. Congress passed the Davis-Bacon Act that mandated contractors pay prevailing wages on federally funded projects. He added that Kentucky passed its first prevailing wage law in 1940s.

SB 9 now goes to the state House for consideration.

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The Kentucky Legislature Home Page, www.lrc.ky.gov, provides information on each of Kentucky’s senators and representatives, including phone numbers, addressees and committee assignments. The site also provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s Message Line at 800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the TTY Message Line at 800-896-0305.

You may also write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s name to: Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601.

From Legislative Research Commission

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