By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor
The first Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Eggs ‘N Issues meeting of the new year Tuesday at the Receptions banquet center in Erlanger offered a view of the political process in Frankfort.
It was also billed as a preview of the upcoming General Assembly session, but lawmakers surprised everyone by passing key legislation in the just-completed first week of the session.
The General Assembly sent seven bills to the desk of Gov. Matt Bevin, including right-to-work, the repeal of prevailing wage on public works projects and pro-life legislation protecting unborn children after 20 weeks of gestation.
All contained emergency clauses and became effective immediately after Gov. Bevin signed them into law .
A panel that included the leading lobbyist of Babbage Cofounder, Bob Babbage, Jeff Busick, principal at McCarthy Strategic Solutions and Sarah Davasher-Wisdom COO of Greater Louisville Inc. (GLI), provided insights into that legislation and what might lie ahead.
Babbage explained how the General Assembly was able to accomplish so much, so quickly.
“In the early days, there wasn’t a lot happening in the short session, just a few fix-ups or repairs,” Babbage said. “Then it began to evolve into a long session in a short amount of time – everything came back in – but the organizational weeks, like the one we just experienced…were organizational, no big moves.”
It takes five days to pass a bill from start to finish. In a special session the General Assembly can work Monday through Friday and get that accomplished, but the organizational week traditionally only goes four days.
“So, borrow a day from the back of the session and putting it on Saturday gave you five days and therein history was made,” Babbage said. “The top priority of (the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce), which I’m certainly proud to represent is the Right-to-Work law that passed. Site selectors look at that item early, if not at the top of the list and we missed some site considerations because we haven’t been a right to work state.”
Busick said that while there was a lot of legislation passed in the first week, nothing was new to the table. As Davasher-Wisdom pointed out, “It’s right-to-work – if you haven’t read the bill by now, you are probably not going to.”
Republicans now control the House, the Senate and the Governor’s mansion and used that power to get long-sought-after legislation passed quickly.
“The bills that passed this past week…these are issues that have been debated for a while and they have been top priorities for Republicans for a long time,” Busick said. “Most of the focus this session, if you listen to the Governor, Speaker (Jeff) Hoover and Senate President (Robert) Stivers is that it’s going to be business focused. Everything is going to be focused on business and getting people to work now and then setting everything up for the special session to come later this year.”
Discussion moderator Pat Crowley of Strategic Advisers pointed to the number of Northern Kentucky legislators in committee leadership positions and asked if it that provided an opportunity to raise the profile of the region.
Babbage said that, combined with the momentum provided by recent announcements, such as Southwest Airlines’ decision to begin operating out of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, are an image changer for Northern Kentucky.
“We’re certainly proud of Candace McGraw and the Airport Board and everybody pulling together for that win and we should spike the ball and celebrate over and over again,” Babbage said. “Those kind of benchmark events are part of the brand.”
Davasher-Wisdom said that, as an urban chamber of commerce, there are a few items on GLI’s radar when the session resumes on February 7.
“We’re certain looking at charter schools and also elements of tort reform,” Davasher-Wisdom said. “That’s a big priority for us and something that we have wanted for quite some time.”
The monthly Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Eggs ‘N Issues meeting brings community leaders together to discuss issues of regional importance.
For more information on Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce events and activities, click here
Contact Mark Hansel at firstname.lastname@example.org