Ky. Chamber CEO Talks Legislative Agenda

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THE INDEPENDENT | LANA BELLAMY | DECEMBER 2, 2014

President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Dave Adkisson visited the Bellefonte Country Club with the local elected state delegation to discuss the chamber’s goals for the upcoming short session next month.

Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, and Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, helped answer public questions following Adkisson’s talk. Field representatives for Congressman Thomas Massie and Sen. Rand Paul’s office were also in attendance.

Adkisson’s program hit different points of emphasis the chamber plans to push during the upcoming session, such as improvements to education, the approval of Right to Work legislation, more expansive smoke-free laws, tax reform and increased transparency in the state pension system, just to name a few.

Adkisson especially spoke of the need for public private partnership (P3) legislation, which was vetoed in the 2014 General Assembly.

P3 legislation refers to a partnership between private companies and the government in creating jobs. Adkisson said this will save tax dollars and provide needed projects and services.

He said the bill was rejected during the last session because of an amendment that was tacked on regarding the Brent-Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky.

For education, he said the chamber wants to promote the use of charter schools in areas that consistently underperform.

He also said Kentucky has lost thousands of dollars by not passing Right to Work legislation, which gives employees the option to choose whether or not to join unions.

Health and wellness promotion throughout the state is also high on the chamber’s priority list, especially regarding smoke-free laws, he said. Adkisson said Kentucky ranks No. 1 for teenage smoking rates.

But not all in attendance agreed with Adkisson’s remarks on the state’s current conditions.

Pullin and Sinnette were able to speak at the conclusion of Adkisson’s talk and Pullin used her time to share some encouraging statistics about the overall climate in Greenup County.

But before she shared her statistics, she made it clear to everyone in the room where she and Adkisson stand with their relationship in Frankfort.

“It’s great to have you here, but I do want to say this: I paid for my lunch today. I want to make sure that’s clear and here’s why,” she said. “You all are all lobbying us (legislators) and I appreciate that…. There are about 600 and some lobbyists. All with a different point of view, all with a different constituency… but I have no doubt about who I represent. I represent 45,000 people in the 98th District.”

She went on to say people in her area do not “buy into all that negativity,” then cited statistics referring to Greenup County’s successes (which hosts a majority of her constituents) especially in health and wellness.

She said life expectancy in Greenup is better than the state average, including Oldham County, which houses Louisville suburbs. Cancer mortality rates are lowest in Rowan and Greenup counties and Greenup has the next-to-lowest percentage of women smoking during pregnancy.

“He’s (Adkisson) nodding his head like he didn’t realize it, like this is such a special, magical place,” Pullin said while she read these stats aloud.

Sinnette followed up Pullin’s comments.

“It’s always good to have ideas. We represent the people and we don’t come up with all these ideas… Touching on what Tanya said, numbers don’t lie, but the people that use them do,” he said.

Sinnette did say there are “very little differences” in what he believes and what the chamber believes.

Adkisson responded to Pullin’s comments, particularly when she referred to lobbying practices, by letting the audience know he does not try to buy politicians meals and gifts in order to sway them.

“I know the reputation of lobbyists and about 90 percent of that comes out of the shenanigans that goes on in Washington but, here in Kentucky, we have very strict laws,” he said, defending that the lobbyists employed by the chamber are professional and play an important part in representing the organization in Frankfort.

Adkisson said the chamber is nonpartisan and endorses any candidate “with the best interests of our Kentucky businesses” at heart.

Adkisson was a guest of the Ashland Alliance, Greenup and Boyd County’s chamber of commerce. His presentation was part of a 12-city tour through the state to engage the public on its plans for January’s session.

Read the article online.