Previewing the 2021 Kentucky legislative session

By Rachel Nix, Building Kentucky

Kentucky General Assembly state senators and representatives have a long list of items to address when they return to work in early Jan. for the next legislative session.

Legislative Leaders Share Goals

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne recently shared their policy goals at the Kentucky Chamber’s Legislative Preview Conference.

The need for a one-year state budget addressing challenges of the pandemic will be a top priority and limit the legislature’s ability to cover a wide range of issues in 2021.

Stivers and Osbourne the growing cost of doing business and frustrations of business owners trying to survive regulations, layoffs and growing unemployment insurance claims.

Investment in infrastructure and long-term solutions for transportation funding, pension reform, criminal justice reform, and historic horse racing bills may also be coming in 2021.

The conversation to increase the gas tax continues as a potential lifeline for infrastructure investment needs, especially now in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current 26-centers per gallon tax has not changed since 2011 while road construction costs have increased 42% in that time. Rep. Sal Santoro plans to sponsor a bill to address the issue in 2021.

A panel of legislators at the conference including Senate Judiciary Chair Whitney Westerfield, House Judiciary Chair Ed Massey, House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, Senate Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, and Sen. Gerald Neal agreed that criminal justice issues must be addressed next year but sweeping reforms in a short session are unlikely.

Governor’s Priorities For 2021

In an address to business leaders during the conference, Gov. Andy Beshear reiterated that 2021 will have some difficult months and the economy will be different but Kentucky will have many opportunities for real, bold change to help build a stronger, better Commonwealth.

“Our administration will focus on increased investment in education, short- and long-term solutions to ensure critical investments in infrastructure, and new jobs in industries of the future,” Beshear said. He pointed to revenue-generating measures like sports wagering and a bipartisan solution on historic racing and medical marijuana as potential steps forward.

More On Kentucky’s Legislative Session

You can read a full recap of the Kentucky Chamber Legislative Preview Conference on their website.

For more on the upcoming session, sign up for the Kentucky Chamber’s annual Kentucky Chamber Day. It will be held online this year Jan. 7. Register online to attend the free event. Governor Beshear and top elected leaders are expected to share their visions for Kentucky’s economy, government and politics in the year ahead during the event.

Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI) has also released its priorities for the state’s legislative agenda. Key items include protections for employers, addressing racial inequalities, reforming and rebuilding law enforcement systems, and supporting workforce development strategies.

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