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Chamber leader grades legislative term

BY DAVID ZOELLER dzoeller@paducahsun.com

While the 2014 General Assembly approved some legislation of interest to business, having to pass a budget and run for re-election may have kept legislators from getting more accomplished, according to the leader of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

"With all of the seats in the House and half of the Senate up for election, folks were kind of cautious," said Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the state organization, addressing the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce's May Power in Partnership breakfast Thursday morning at the Julian Carroll Convention Center.

Adkisson counted passage of what the state chamber calls a "respectable budget" as a key victory. "We believe the state should not pay more than 6 percent of revenues to pay off debt," he said, noting the final percentage approved was approximately 6.7 percent.

Adkisson said it was positive to see funding for elementary and secondary education brought back to pre-recession levels but disappointing the $400 million a year needed to fund the teachers retirement system was ignored.

The chamber leader listed several other issues as unfinished business, including passage of a "P3 bill" to strengthen public-private partnerships, which he said would save taxpayers' money and pave the way to funding needed projects. The bill passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Gov. Steve Beshear because of an amendment involving a bridge in northern Kentucky.

Other missed opportunities included bills to implement medical review panels, allowing low-performing schools to be designated charter schools, modernizing outdated telecommunications laws and allowing voters to authorize local option sales taxes, he said.

A statewide smoke-free workplace bill is needed because "Kentucky is not a very healthy state," Adkisson said. The inability to pass right-to-work legislation was also disappointing, he said, calling it a huge factor in economic development.

Contact David Zoeller, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8676.

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