After more than two-and-a-half hours of debate, the Kentucky House passed a bill Thursday afternoon that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10.
The issue drew impassioned speeches from supporting lawmakers.
The debate’s most incendiary comments came from Rep. Jim Wayne. The characteristically soft-spoken Louisville lawmaker criticized what he called an economic caste system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
“The free market system will guarantee everyone a quality job. Not so; a big lie," argued Wayne. "The only way capitalism works if for government to step in and set the rules. Now you don’t wanna hear that, but it’s the truth. And that’s what the New Deal was all about.”
Opponents said the higher wage would force some employers to cut jobs. They said it would add costs for school districts and local governments to pay low-wage employees.
The bill now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate.
A bill aimed at raising the minimum wage in Kentucky has cleared a House committee.
The measure is a top priority of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, who says the current minimum wage doesn't provide a living wage. The Prestonsburg Democrat says full-time employees working for the minimum wage make less than the average cost of a used car in the U.S.
The bill was approved by the House Labor and Industry Committee on Thursday.
Under the bill, the state's minimum wage would gradually increase from the current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour on July 1, 2016. There would be a 95-cent increase this July and another 95-cent boost in July 2015.
Stumbo says Kentucky's minimum wage hasn't been raised since 2009.
The Speaker of the Kentucky House is signaling that a bill designed to fight heroin stands a good chance of passing his chamber this year.
Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo was quoted by the Courier-Journal as saying the odds of the bill passing the House are “pretty good”, given that lawmakers have shown a bipartisan ability to back legislation battling illegal drugs. A bill sponsored by Senate Republican Katie Stine seeks to increase the punishment of those convicted of selling high-volumes of drugs while increasing access to substance abuse treatment centers for addicts.
Stine’s bill passed the full Senate on Thursday and is now being considered by the House.
The northern Kentucky lawmaker says her part of the state has seen its treatment centers and law enforcement agencies swamped by a major surge in heroin abuse.
The Courier-Journal reports defense attorneys are objecting to a part of the bill that would help prosecutors convict some drug dealers of homicide when the sale of illegal drugs results in overdose deaths.
No charges will be filed after a Kentucky lawmaker accidentally fired her personal handgun in her Capitol office.
Democratic Rep. Leslie Combs released a statement acknowledging that the gun went off indoors Tuesday, hitting a wall and a bookshelf.
Combs says she has had a concealed carry permit for years, and she still believes in protecting Second Amendment rights. The state police have ruled the shot an accident and won't press charges.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the incident doesn't mean the laws that allow guns in the capitol should be changed.
“I don’t see anything that needs to be changed," the Floyd County Democrat said. "Somebody’s gonna have to convince me otherwise. I mean, it was an unintentional discharge. I think it’s good policy that people like Leslie who, females, who work here late, have to go to their cars, go to functions, sometimes they’re trying by theirselves [sic], have the right to carry and protect theirselves.”
The story has gained national attention, but Stumbo says he doesn't think it will hurt the state's reputation.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring legislation that would raise the state's minimum wage. House Bill 1 would raise the rate from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over three years.
Stumbo says the increase is needed to keep wages in line with inflation, and would help struggling working-class families across the Commonwealth.
“There needs to be something done to help level the playing field for people who work for minimum wage,” said Stumbo. “It needs to be raised, it’s not been raised since 2009, it’s been eroded obviously by inflation and cost-of-living, so, you’re gonna hear us talk about issues that deal with real, live, working Kentucky families, and try to make their lives easier and better.”
With a full time job, $7.25 an hour brings in $15,000 a year. Stumbo says that's not enough, and his raise would give full-time minimum wage workers about $21,000 a year.
“There’s been studies that show that small business owners agree that raising the minimum wage stimulates the economy, it makes for a better workplace.”
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers has indicated he would not support the plan.
Kentucky’s budget priorities for 2015 could require nearly $1 billion in revenue that the state doesn’t have.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo told a group of business leaders earlier this month that the cost of funding priority issues like education, public employee raises and more could total an estimated $800 million.
“It would probably be more of a number like $700 to $800 million--and some would argue larger than that. It just depends upon how big a bite of the apple you want to take, but I don’t think we can do that.”
Stumbo says the recession is the driving force behind the shortfall, and Kentucky’s economic growth rate will return to pre-recession levels in about two to three years in the absence of tax reform.
Gov. Steve Beshear will submit his budget proposal to the General Assembly next month.
New revenue in Kentucky’s upcoming biennial budget will not be enough to account for an estimated $450 million shortfall.
Lawmakers expect about $230 million in new revenue to be available for the budget. But House Speaker Greg Stumbo recently told a group of Kentucky’s top business leaders that more than half of that money will be used to pay down the state’s pension debt
“In about a $12 billion budget, it looks like there might be somewhere around a $100 million of new dollars, which is not even gonna allow us, quite frankly, to maintain status quo because just the cost of inflation," the Democratic House Speaker said.
Stumbo’s comments echoed those made by State Budget Director Jane Driskell, who has warned that budget cuts can be expected.
The Consensus Forecasting Group will meet this Thursday to provide the legislature with final budget numbers.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo doesn't think this week's Republican victory in a special election is a sign of waning Democratic power in the chamber.
Republican Suzanne Miles bested Democratic challenger Kim Humphrey by about a hundred votes in a special election to fill a vacancy in West Kentucky’s 7th District.
Miles’ victory erodes Democrats’ majority in the House down to 54 seats against the Republicans’ 46. And Stumbo says he doesn’t think any House Democrats will change parties to curry favor with a potential GOP majority.
“We might have a Republican or two that flips, but I don’t think you’re gonna see any Democrats that do it … And we congratulate Ms. Miles and look forward to serving with her. It’s [sic] a close race, hundred votes or so … and I expect that, I expect that, I don’t think there’ll be any changes either way.”
The seventh district seat opened up after Democratic Rep. John Arnold resigned during a growing sexual harassment scandal. Arnold won re-election in 2012 by just five votes.
Legislative leaders want to meet to choose an interim replacement for Bobby Sherman, the former director of the Legislative Research Commission who resigned last week.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said Friday that legislative leaders need to also lay the groundwork for a search for a permanent replacement.
Sherman quit abruptly last Friday, saying in a resignation letter that he had been considering doing so for a long while. He created a dustup on Sunday when he returned to his Capitol office to clean out his desk and in doing so shredded some documents.
Now, state police have decided to investigate the shredding to see if any laws were broken. The meeting has been called for 1:30 p.m. EDT next Wednesday in Capitol Annex Room 125.
Kentucky lawmakers will go into special session later this year to craft new maps of political districts based on the most recent U.S. Census data. Legislative leaders want a tentative agreement in place before returning to Frankfort, but one of the hang-ups is whether to include federal prisoners being held in the commonwealth.
Kentucky law says a prison cell is not a residence, and the inmate population can, but doesn't have to be taken into account when drawing political maps. State lawmakers counted federal prisoners when they approved a new Congressional map last year. That map was upheld by a judge while the legislative and judicial maps were ruled unconstitutional.
Lawmakers will use this year's special session to redraw legislative and judicial maps. Legislative leaders agree on the need for consistency, and contend they can't use one set of data for one map and different data for another. House Speaker Greg Stumbo wants the congressional map amended and argues it would have a minimal impact on districts.
"There's only about 8,500 federal prisoners and the average congressional district is 770,000," explains Stumbo.
Senate President Robert Stivers argues consulting again with each congressman would prolong a costly special session.
"So now we get into a situation where we're engaging the federal delegation in a special session issue," remarks Stivers.