FRANKFORT—As we approach the midpoint of the 2020 Regular Session, legislatorscontinue
engaging with stakeholders, organizations, and constituents who are making their way to Frankfort. This week, many of them were visiting for Kentucky Advocacy Day and to celebrate Black History Month.
In this week’s Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee meeting, members heard from Tom Modrowski, interim Chief Executive Officer of Braidy
Industries. Modrowski told state lawmakers the company needs to raise another $500 million in financing to build the roughly $1.7 billion aluminum mill. He testified to the committee that the company expects to continue to pursue funding with the fourth quarter
of 2020 being the timeframe for ordering structural steel, etc., for the proposed facility. The company had been scheduled to appear before the committee for an update prior to the recent leadership changes.
The state of Kentucky has invested $15 million to Kentucky Seed Capital, LLC, through the Economic Development Cabinet. This entity is governed
by an independent board and is a for profit LLC, that has been in existence for a number of years, with tens of millions of dollars being invested in business sectors that include bioscience, and advanced manufacturing, and acts similar to a revolving loan
fund. Any return on investment does not go into the general fund, but to the Capital fund itself to make it self-perpetuating.
There has been no default on this money, either real, or technical. I stand by the investment, as northeast Kentucky and our tristate region has
received global attention and marketing in many aspects, such as our location, work force, and education opportunities for prospective employers, as we attempt to diversify our economy.
Braidy has kept me updated throughout this process, and I remain hopeful that this project will soon come to fruition. This was a good business
investment for the state. Our region here in northeastern Kentucky is well-suited for the project, and following the impending closure of Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and AK Steel, we stand ready with the trained workforce and the highly skilled workers
to fill these positions. I appreciate Braidy Industries’ willingness to come before the committee, answer questions, update members, and clear the air.
I find it interesting that it is the project in northeast Kentucky receiving more scrutiny and negative speculation from many than other government
investments, both successful and questionable, in areas like Louisville, Lexington or the Golden Triangle. I will remain positive and continue to work toward employment opportunity for our area.
I spent several hours this week with Kings Daughter’s Hospital CEO Kristie Whitlach, and others, in response to our OLBH hospital expedited closing
and I know that she and others are working to make sure that services to our impacted populations are acknowledged and there is commitment to use all resources available to accommodate our needs.
Also during the week, a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky passed with a vote of 17-1 in the House Judiciary Committee. House
Bill 136 would set policies for cultivation, processing, sale, distribution, and use of medicinal marijuana, should it become law. The bill would prohibit smoking of medicinal marijuana and possession or use of medical marijuana in specific public buildings.
Users of the substance would have to be registered and possess a medical cannabis card. Cannabis businesses would have to be licensed.
Local governments and their citizens would have the authority to decide whether or not medical marijuana businesses can operate locally. The legislation
will now go to the House floor for a vote. There has been major progress made on this issue, considering just last year the bill was never even brought to either chamber for a vote.
As the House hammers out a budget, the General Assembly continues to vote a steady stream of bills off the floor, and during committee meetings.
Over the coming weeks, the pace will only increase.
Other legislation that passed in the Senate this week includes:
SB 30 limits the number of Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) within our state to three. Although I do not believe this is the ultimate solution, it will help our rural hospitals. The legislature
needs to further examine the system, cut unnecessary expenditures, and focus resources where they are needed. It’s time to look at rural health care reform as it has been a failure from top to bottom. We saw that failure first hand in Ashland with the recent
closing of Our Lady Bellefonte Hospital. I voted yes and the bill passed 29-7.
- SB 101 requires public postsecondary institutions to accept dual credits from high schools. With dual credit, a student
is enrolled in a course that allows the pupil to earn high school credit and college credit simultaneously. The legislation seeks to give Kentucky students financial relief while also getting a head start when transitioning from high school to a university.
The idea is that it’s more cost-effective for students to earn credits in high school than at a college or university. The measure passed 38-0.
- SB 82 establishes the Kentucky Eating Disorder Council at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. It passed unanimously.
- SB 122 permits a person to be court-ordered into assisted outpatient mental health treatment if the person has been involuntarily
hospitalized at least twice in the past 24 months instead of twice in the past 12 months. The bipartisan legislation passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 33-1.
- SB 123 deals with reorganization of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and establishes the Division of Telehealth
Services. The proposal passed unanimously.
Bills that passed in the Senate this week will now go to the House for further consideration.
The legislature will not be in session on Monday in observance of President’s Day but will resume its regular schedule on Tuesday. You can stay up-to-date on legislation by logging on to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at
www.legislature.ky.gov. The site provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules.
As always, you can stay in contactthroughout
the 2020 Regular Session in the following ways:
leave a message for any legislator, call the General Assembly’s
toll-free Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. People with hearing difficulties may leave messages for lawmakers by calling the Kentucky Relay Service at 711.
can write any legislator by sending a letter with the lawmaker’s
name to Capitol Annex, 702 Capital Avenue, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601-3448.
can also email me directly at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV.