By John David Dyche
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is an outstanding organization. Representing 2,700 member businesses of all sizes that employ over half of Kentucky's workforce, the Chamber correctly claims that it "provides leadership as a catalyst, consensus-builder and advocate to unite business and advance Kentucky."
One way it does so is by influencing "policymakers in areas such as business taxation and fiscal policy, environmental and safety issues and workers' compensation, health care and education reform." Its recent report "Results for Business" tells a success story about the 2013 General Assembly session.
The Chamber says, "For the first time in many years, policy championed over politics." The Chamber report highlights several bipartisan victories.
They include public pension reform sponsored by Republican Senator Damon Thayer of Georgetown; a local option to raise the dropout age championed by First Lady Jane Beshear, Democratic Representative Jeff Greer of Brandenburg, and Republican Senator David Givens of Greensburg; early high school graduation sponsored by Republican Senator Mike Wilson of Bowling Green; and university bonding sponsored by Democratic Representative Rick Rand of Bedford.
Other victories for business were modernization of alcohol laws sponsored by Republican Senator John Schickel of Union; industrial hemp legislation sponsored by Republican Senator Paul Hornback of Shelbyville; and a single standardized business identification number backed by Democratic Representative Mike Denham of Maysville.
Another big win was state Auditor Adam Edelen's plan, supported by Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg, to improve accountability and transparency of special taxing districts.
Sometimes success meant blocking bad bills. The House wisely refused to consider Louisville Democrat Jim Wayne's bill to increase taxes on business, and the Senate refused to consider Nicholasville Republican Tom Buford's bid to raise workers' compensation costs by expanding employee litigation incentives.
There were some failures, however. One was the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives' refusal to consider Wilson's bill letting local boards of education to convert failing schools into charter schools. Another was the House's blocking of Republican Senator Julie Denton of Louisville's measure to establish medical review panels for lawsuits against nursing homes.
One of the most useful parts of the Chamber report is its rankings of legislators based on how they voted on bills that received a floor vote. Eleven Senators and fifteen Representatives got perfect scores. All were Republicans except for Democratic Representative Bob Damron of Nicholasville.
The Chamber named twelve legislators MVPs of the 2013 regular session. These lawmakers "displayed more than just a business-friendly voting record, but also went out of their way, and at times across party lines, to support or oppose an issue critical to the business climate in Kentucky."
The award-winners were Senators Givens, Hornback, Schickel, Thayer, Robert Stivers of Manchester, and Whitney Westerfield, all Republicans, Democratic Representatives Damron, Denham, Greer, and Fitz Steele of Hazard, and Republican Representative Jim DeCesare of Rockfield.
The worst-ranked Senators for business were Democrats Julian Carroll of Frankfort and Robin Webb of Grayson. The most anti-business Representative was Democrat Hubert Collins of Wittensville. This trio, and especially the pair from Eastern Kentucky, apparently believe voting against business somehow helps the poor.
A recent survey of business executives by Chief Executive magazine ranked Kentucky as the 29th best state in which to do business. That was a drop of four spots from 2012 and twelve spots from 2011. Significantly, the top dozen states, and 23 of the top 25, have Republican governors.
Kentucky desperately needs a better business climate to improve its citizens' quality of life. Chamber President and CEO Dave Adkisson, a former Democratic mayor of Owensboro and congressional candidate, and his team do a great job in ethically and professionally pursuing that goal.
So support the Chamber and pro-business legislators. Maybe the results of next year's legislative session will be even better. And start looking now for a pro-business candidate for governor to back in 2015.
John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.