This past week was a key week in the General Assembly, where lawmakers reached their deadlines in the House and Senate for filing new bills, and the House passed an amended version of the budget (HB352) after a long Friday session. We were very pleased to see that the amended budget restores some of the funds that were originally proposed to be swept from the underground storage tank fund. We were also very pleased to see that the current bill continues to retain funding for the Heritage Land Conservation Fund, and not “sweep” portions of these funds as in previous sessions. Keeping the Heritage Fund intact has been a key priority for KCC.
To that point, KCC worked with many of our land conservation allies to start this past week off right with a celebration of natural lands in Kentucky. Land Conservation allies came to the Capitol Rotunda on March 3rd to celebrate and highlight the diverse work that is happening around our natural lands. We want to thank representatives from the Kentucky Office of State Nature Preserves, Kentucky
Natural Lands Trust, Bernheim Arboretum, The Explore Kentucky Initiative, Kentucky Heartwood, The Nature Conservancy,
Jefferson Memorial Forest, Kentucky Land Trusts Coalition, The Kentucky Invasive Plant Council and many others who came to Frankfort to show lawmakers the value of Kentucky’s natural lands. We encourage you to especially thank Senator Stephen Meredith for inviting these conservation leaders to the Senate floor this past week to recognize their important work through Senate Resolution 188. We also hope you thank Rep. Daniel Elliott for filing a similar resolution, HR95, in the House.
Fees on Cleaner Cars
One of the more significant bills filed in the past few days was HB580 (KCC Strong Oppose), a transportation bill that proposes to increase the gas tax for all cars, as well as impose higher fees for fuel-efficient cars and new fees on non-hybrid electric cars. This excellent summary by WDRB’s Marcus Green lays out the most significant changes. This is an issue that KCC has been working on long before the session began, sharing information we have gathered from Consumer Reports, Plug-In America, Sierra Club and others who have been monitoring the discussion on how efficient, cleaner vehicles contribute to the road infrastructure. We believe that all vehicles should pay their fair share, but we also believe that this current proposal does not take into account the significant advantages that EVs and high-MPG cars contribute. We are particularly concerned with the precedent of disproportionally penalizing lighter efficient cars, as opposed to heavier vehicles which cause more damage to our highways. We encourage you to read these resources, and contact your legislators, and local media, to express your views on these fees.
Highlight of New bills to oppose this week:
- HB570 Allows public agencies to participate in Interlocal agreements but we have concerns about transparency and accountability.
- HB574 Sets high/excessive requirements for historic preservation zoning.
- HB580 Concerns on excessive ($200) fees on non hybrid electric vehicles. Concerns on fees that penalize efficient and cleaner cars more than less efficient cars. See story above.
Highlight of New bills to support this week:
- HB583 Removes two-year employment requirement to reopen a claim for black lung benefits.
- HB591 Establishment of a Healthy Soils program.
- HB594 Attempts to correct adequate oversight to prevent water issues such as the crisis in Martin Co.
- HB601 Funding for park renovations through a 1% transient room surtax.