Spring 2019 Legislative Wrap Up: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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 2019 General Assembly Regular Session:
The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly 

As we have for each legislative session since 1984, The Kentucky Resources Council looks back at the bills and resolutions that we supported or opposed during the recently-ended General Assembly Regular Session. So, with apologies to Clint Eastwood, here is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. 

The Good 

The legislative session saw passage of several positive bills relating to environmental health and protection. Among those bills are: 

HB 11, prohibiting the use of tobacco products by any person in schools, school vehicles, and properties by 2020-2021 school year; 

HB 165, allowing the Energy and Environment Cabinet or Metro Louisville Air Pollution Control District to broaden the base of fees charged for managing air quality permitting programs; 

HB 199, another consensus bill from the oil and gas workgroup increasing bonding requirements for oil and gas wells, creating civil penalties, and expanding the fund for reclamation of abandoned oil and gas wells. 

SB 6, broadening the scope of who must register as an executive agency lobbyist. The sponsor agreed to include language proposed by KRC to clarify that communications on laws and regulations with executive branch agencies by individuals who do not have a financial interest in the law or regulation, do not constitute executive branch lobbying. 

SB 28, requiring the Energy and Environment Cabinet to send notices of environmental emergencies and copies of notices of violations issued to landfills having off-site impacts to the county/judge executive of the county in which the facility is located. KRC negotiated the landfill language. 

SB 32, creating certification provision for water well driller assistants. 

SB 89, allowing local governments to decontaminate any property where a methamphetamine contamination notice has been posted, and to place a lien for costs. The bill was amended to include language proposed by KRC that provide an opportunity to request a hearing rather than automatic hearing prior to decontamination, and to limit the right to hearing to 30 days after notice. 

SB 104, banning use of firefighting agents containing perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances for training purposes beginning on July 15, 2020. 

Several bills opposed by KRC didn’t become law – which is a “good” outcome: 

HB 10, would have led to a proliferation of new billboards; 

HB 97 would have allowed local governments to exempt water systems from fluoridation; 

HB 252 would have given statutory recognition without needed public and PSC oversight to the Kentucky Municipal Energy Agency, an entity formed by several municipal utilities to buy and sell electricity and natural gas; 

HB 346 Senate Floor Amendment 1, successfully opposed by KRC, would have required counties with planning and zoning to amend their comprehensive land use plans to identify and provide for sufficient “vacant, developable lands.” Lands used or suitable for agricultural use would have been placed under greater development pressure under the amendment; 

HB 517 would have raised fees and gas taxes to fund transportation infrastructure projects. KRC supports user-based funding of infrastructure but opposes the excessive fees on fully-electric vehicles, and a regressive “highway preservation fee” that charges more for more fuel-efficient cars; 

HJR 87 and SJR 102 would have petitioned Congress to convene a constitutional convention; 

SB 2 would have allowed state agencies and the legislature to avoid having cases heard in Franklin Circuit Court by requesting venue changes without basis; 

SB 163 would have allowed Kentucky American Water Company to seek higher profits by making recovery of the “fair market value” of acquired water or sewer systems the norm, rather than the depreciated book value. 

The Bad 

Two bills opposed by the Council became law: 

HB 4 extends the legislative committee review time for administrative regulations to 90 days, causing additional delay in regulation implementation. Additionally, the committees can call up existing regulations for review, even though those regulations have already been reviewed; 

HB 420 includes a requirement that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services deny public access to records of radon measurement and mitigation at a property, except for "records made available to owners or occupants of a building." KRC sought an amendment to allow prospective tenants access to those records. The Cabinet, and the radon professionals, supported that change, but the Homebuilders, Realtors and Apartment owners opposed it, and an amendment to include prospective tenants was not adopted. 

The Ugly 

SB 100, the electric utility-crafted bill to end net metering of electricity, passed in the waning hours of the penultimate day of the 2019 Session. Despite the loss, KRC and its allies in the solar and conservation community managed to improve the final bill greatly over what the utilities had initially proposed in the 2018 session, in that: 

  • All net metering arrangements in place before the first filed rate case of a utility after January 2020, are grandfathered under existing terms for 25 years, even if the property is sold. 

  • The original utility proposal to set the value of solar at the avoided cost was defeated. 
  • The Public Service Commission, which will set the rate at which fed-in solar will be credited, is on record as indicating that they will consider the value of solar in setting that rate; 
  • The rated capacity for solar systems eligible for net metering rose to 45 kW from 30 kW. 
  • The value of solar is reflected as a "credit" rather than direct compensation so that the transaction does not make a solar customer subject to federal regulation and taxation. 

The legislative advocacy by the Kentucky Resources Council is part of our overall programmatic advocacy work. None of these achievements would have been possible without the support, the encouragement, and the participation of Council members and supporters across the Commonwealth. To each of you, our heartfelt thanks. 

By Kentucky Resources Council on 04/26/2019 7:54 AM
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