As we make our way into March, more than halfway through the 60-day session, we are still waiting for the legislature’s changes to the Governor’s proposed biennial budget (you can find all of the budget-related bills at this link). Lawmakers still also have time to file a few more bills before the new bill deadlines this week.  So a busy week ahead.

Join us to Celebrate Kentucky’s Natural Lands on Tuesday!

But we are excited to kick off the upcoming week with our celebration of the state’s natural lands! We invite you to join many land conservation groups at the Capitol Rotunda on Tuesday, March 3rd from 1-2PM to celebrate Kentucky’s natural lands. Senator Stephen Meredith and Representative Daniel Elliott have both filed resolutions to honor the day, which you can read here. Please thank these lawmakers for their attention to these important conservation lands.

We will also be calling attention to other conservation-supportive legislation such as HB319 (KCC Support) establishing a fund for the preservation of battlefields and Underground Railroad sites in Kentucky and HB334 (KCC Strong Support) which calls for the Commonwealth to preserve its natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values for the benefit of all Kentuckians.

RSVP for Ky. Land Conservation Awareness Day HERE!

New Bill Highlights:

One bill we were pleasantly surprised to see filed this week was SB217 (KCC Strong Support). This legislation was filed by Senator Tom Buford, which provides that records of a utility relating to expenditure of funds paid for by its customers are public records. We applaud this effort to improve the transparency of these essential companies that serve the consumer. Please contact the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee and Senate Leadership in support of this bill. Please thank Senator Buford for filing it.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.

On the Move:

This week we saw HB44, regarding protesting of “Key Infrastructure Assets” pass out of the Senate Natural Resources & Energy Committee. Fortunately, the bill managed to pass through the Senate committee intact, unchanged from what came out of the House with those significant improvements negotiated by KCC, KRC, ACLU and others. While not perfect, KCC supports the House amended bill.

ACLU still chose to oppose the amended bill, stating to the Senate Natural Resources Committee: “…No individual or organization should face liability merely because other individuals who may be associated with those protected activities chooses to violate the law”  [full ACLU statement here] however we appreciate the substantial effort from participants to bring a wide range of interests to the table and make a controversial bill much better.

We also saw SB55 (KCC Monitor) pass out of the Senate and is now in the House Small Business & Information Technology Committee. The bill would create a nine-member “Blockchain Technology Working Group.” Blockchain is a technology that reports to allow secure peer-to-peer real-time sharing of data. This can be used for the management of energy utilities markets, including the management of renewables and carbon credits, as well as other business sector applications.

Stalled – Calls Needed!

We were disappointed to see that, once again, the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee neglected to hear several bills we support— Most notably HB323 (KCC Strong Support), the “net metering phase-in bill” which would create more certainty for solar installers. This bill came about due to an understanding between the bill sponsor and committee leader (mentioned on the House floor last year), that there would be an opportunity to fix some of the concerns with last year’s SB100 (Net metering rollback bill). Now is the time to make your voice heard on this bill.We ask for you to contact House Leadership and the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee and remind them that this bill is the outcome of an agreement to fix last year’s net metering bill and needs to be heard.

Work to Do:

This week, interest groups who are part of the Kentucky Infrastructure Coalition visited the House Budget Review Subcommittee for Transportation to make their pitch for a significant investment in funds for roads and bridges. As part of this initiative, they have been advocating for an increase in the gas tax, and also the addition of usage fees to hybrid and electric cars.

We were surprised that some who testified seemed to treat both hybrid and electric cars as the same, with one presenter even stating “these cars are not buying gasoline.” We are hoping that this was a misstatement, since hybrid drivetrain gasoline cars are certainly paying gas taxes. KCC has been advocating that while all users of the road should pay their fair share, flat fees targeting emerging technologies that are more efficient and improve air quality may not be the best path. And it is not always a fact that hybrid cars cannot be significant consumers of gas (A Ram 1500 Hybrid Pickup is only 20 mpg city and Ram promotes their hybrid system as a way to improve torque and performance as it is to improve fuel efficiency). So clearly this is an area where lawmakers may need to do additional research before imposing a fair solution. We encourage our members to engage in this dialogue with their lawmakers.

To leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.