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Kentucky Chamber President Adkisson in NKY; speaks on 2019 legislative priorities, pension reform

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Kentucky Chamber President and CEO David Adkisson was in Northern Kentucky Wednesday to talk about the Kentucky business community’s priorities for the 2019 legislative session.

“The relationships we have with local communities and chambers of commerce are pivotal to the Kentucky Chamber’s success,” Adkisson said. “We always look forward to this annual tour to discuss key issues that advance the business community and the Commonwealth.”

Kentucky Chamber President and CEO David Adkisson speaks to a group of Northern Kentucky stakeholders Wednesday about recent changes enacted by the General Including pension reform and the organizations legislative priorities for the 2019 session (photos by Mark Hansel).

The event took place at the Receptions banquet facility in Erlanger and was sponsored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Addison said the Northern Kentucky region is unique in the Commonwealth and that allows the NKY Chamber to play a pivotal role.

“The Northern Kentucky Chamber, because of this region that is so broad and so wide – there is no one mayor, there is no one judge – and the chamber has the unique opportunity to be the glue,” Adkisson said. “The first time I ever came to one of your meetings, some years ago, it struck me that there was a community in that room, it felt like a community, and the chamber provides that platform.”

During Adkisson’s thirteen years at the Kentucky Chamber, the organization has doubled in size, increased its staff to thirty professionals including five lobbyists, expanded its headquarters in Frankfort and placed a major emphasis on public policy, governmental relations and improving education.

Before focusing on the 2019 legislative session Adkisson spoke about the recent changes in the makeup of the General Assembly.

Since January 2017, Adkission said, the climate in Frankfort has changed because Republicans have controlled the House, the Senate and the Governor’s mansion.

“We’re a nonpartisan organization, just like your chamber, but we work with the people you send to Frankfort and this has made some difference in our agenda,” Adkisson said.

He described the 2017 General Assembly’s work as “historic,” because so many changes took place in a short session.

He remembered finding a brochure form the 1960s which described enacting right-to-work as a one of the Kentucky Chamber’s legislative priorities.

He pointed out that in the 2017 session it was approved in five days. He said a colleague from another state chamber asked him how that was accomplished.

“I said, well, it was kind  of like 30 years and five days – it was actually like 60 years and five days,” Adkisson said

He also talked about the more recent developments including tax reform, and changes to workers compensation, which he said has yielded a 10 percent saving, on average.

“Everybody is saving because of the work that our chamber led with a coalition of other folks,” Adkisson said. 

A crowd of more than 100 was on hand at the Receptions banquet facility in Erlanger to hear Kentucky Chamber President and CEO David Adkisson speak Wednesday.

The Kentucky Chamber, Adkisson said, is becoming more focused on the actions of the state Supreme Court, which is expected to rule soon on an issue that is on the minds of almost everyone.

“In the 2018 session, pension reform was major,” Adkisson said. “It’s before the Supreme Court and (today) they might very well render their opinion on whether or not it was passed in a constitutional way.”

If the decision comes down and the pension bill is determined to be unconstitutional, Adkisson said there are two things of consequence.

One, he said, is whether the process was constitutional, which is the basis for the suit filed by Attorney General Andy Beshear and the teacher’s union.

“They said, you didn’t give it the three readings, you passed it at the last minute, you attached it to an unrelated sewer bill, and you call that good government?” Adkisson said.

 The Kentucky Chamber was among those that submitted an amicus brief on the content.

“In other words, what are the promises we made to public employees, how much  is it going to save, what are the changes, did they break that pledge that we made to public employees?” Adkisson said.

 That amicus brief and others that were submitted were dismissed. 

“If it’s ruled unconstitutional, it kind of sucks a lot of the air out of the room for the ’19 session, because they’ll be right back at pensions,” Adkisson said.

He referred back to a time when the Senate had a habit of going to the clock on the wall and rolling it back to gain more time to conduct business on the last night of the session.

That practice was challenged and went before the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court said…we are not going to consider this legit anymore, it’s not constitutional, but we’re not going to rule out every law that was ever passed that way,” Adkisson said. “I hope that if the court (today) is inclined to say that the process was unconstitutional, that they will at least say, don’t do that anymore, we’re going to slap your hand, but the tax bill, the pension bill, the budget…we hope it just doesn’t create chaos tomorrow.”

He also talked about the November election, saying the anticipated “blue wave,” that some anticipated would sweep a large number of Democrats into the General Assembly, never materialized.

“The House Democrats gained two (seats), the Senate Republicans gained one, it was basically a wash,” he said. “The key thing is the Republicans maintained their super-majority’s in the House and the Senate, which means if their caucus hangs together on ‘issue x’ they can kind of have their way. They’ve still got to pass it in the other chamber, of course.“

For 2019, which is also a “short session,” he said the Kentucky Chamber’s legislative priorities include:

* Investing in Kentucky’s infrastructure
* Improving Kentucky’s tax code
* Reforming Kentucky’s bail system
* Improving the legal liability climate
* Enacting sports wagering
* Modernizing unemployment insurance
* Ensuring affordable energy resources
* Implementing tobacco-free schools
* Encouraging a competitive business climate to motivate broadband deployment

In the following video, Adkisson provides some details on the 2019 legislative priorities:

The Kentucky Chamber is routinely listed as the top lobbying organization in the state. Its board of directors consists of 60 key business leaders elected from across Kentucky.

It was named the 2017 State Chamber of the Year by the Council of State Chambers.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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