Leaders of the Kentucky House and Senate have begun meeting behind closed doors to hammer out a final version of a bill that re-opens the two-year tax bill that passed last year.
A “free conference committee” is created when the two legislative chambers disagree on a final version of a bill. The process gives lawmakers wide latitude to make other additions to legislation.
But opponents of a separate bill that would give tax credits to people who make donations that go to private school scholarships are worried that the larger bill will wind up including the credit language.
Senate President Robert Stivers, the Senate’s leader and one of the lawmakers in committee, declined to weigh in on what end up in the final version of the tax bill, saying that would be “pure speculation”
“There’s a lot of things that could appear, there’s a lot of things that may not appear,” Stivers said. “We did not have a discussion about it in the conference committee last night. That’s just where we are.”
The legislature normally considers budget and tax bills in even-numbered years and doesn’t deal with them in odd-numbered years, when it requires more votes to pass such legislation.
But House Appropriations and Revenue Chair Steve Rudy proposed House Bill 354 this year. It would restore a tax exemption for nonprofit admission tickets that was deleted last year and creates several corporate tax exemptions.
The Senate passed its own version of the bill that would restore the state’s policy of taxing net gambling winnings instead of gross winnings.
The disagreement means that leaders of each chamber will hammer out their differences in the free conference committee.
With only five more working days in this year’s legislative session, the bill could become a vehicle for other proposals — a practice that has been used in previous years.
House Bill 205, the legislation dealing with scholarship credits, is one of a handful of education and pension-related bills that have triggered protests from teachers in recent weeks.
Because it deals with taxes, the scholarship credit bill would also need to meet the 60-vote threshold in order to pass. House Majority Floor Leader Bam Carney, the bill’s sponsor, said earlier this week that reaching the 60-vote threshold would be “difficult.”
Gov. Matt Bevin has indicated he would sign the bill if it passed.
Jefferson County Public Schools has canceled classes twice in the last week after a large number of teachers called in sick to protest in Frankfort. Last week a handful of other school districts canceled classes as well.
The next meeting of the free conference committee on House Bill 354 will be after the House and Senate adjourn on Thursday.
Superintendents from 17 Northern Kentucky school districts are speaking out in opposition to Kentucky House Bill 205, the "Scholarship Tax Credit" bill. The leaders say schools could lose millions of dollars if the bill is passed into law.
The grassroots teacher advocacy group KY 120 United started this week by laying out a laundry list of educators' grievances in a web post that threatens more action to shut down schools if the Kentucky legislature crosses their "lines in the sand." Now many school superintendents and school board members are also voicing strong opposition to one of KY 120's chief complaints — a proposed bill for scholarship tax credits that public school advocates call a "backdoor school voucher" measure.
The Student Government Association at Western Kentucky University has voted in favor of relocating a historical marker on campus.
The marker identifies Bowling Green as the Confederate Capital of Kentucky during the Civil War. The marker was erected in 1952 during the civil rights era and stands in front of the Kentucky Museum. SGA member Symone Whalin is an African-American student from Hardin County.
“I just feel like people should understand there is a time and setting for history to be remembered and I don’t think that every time I walk to class, I should be reminded that people who looked like me were not allowed to be here," Whalin told WKU Public Radio.