For much of our state’s early history, Kentucky was a dominant force in our nation’s economy. The ingredients for our early economic success were simple: thousands of acres of undeveloped land, an easily accessible location and a hardworking, skilled population. However, decades of poor leadership and bad choices took a toll in every measurable area of economic well-being. I am pleased to share that this session, the General Assembly passed solid legislation that will positively impact our future.
During the 2021 Session, the General Assembly passed several initiatives reducing the barriers to entering the workforce, especially for those struggling financially during and following the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope you will take a few moments to review our results and let me know if you have any questions.
HB 320: This is a valuable bill that seeks implementation of broadband service to households and businesses in unserved and underserved areas. The measure appropriates $250 million to the Broadband Deployment Fund and allows regulated electric cooperatives to provide broadband services. The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on countless problems with broadband in Kentucky. This measure will clear the way for rural electric cooperatives to feasibly provide broadband service to underserved households and businesses through an affiliate.
HB 190: This legislation permits food service establishments to sell a limited amount of grocery staple items without obtaining any additional permits or licenses. This was allowed temporarily under SB 150, COVID-relief legislation passed in 2020. The measure will assist businesses in staying afloat by supplementing lack of revenue and having to pivot food supply. Under HB 190, Kentuckians can purchase affordable produce, meat, and other essential pantry items while supporting a local business removes barriers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.
HB 230: This measure allows cryptocurrency businesses to qualify for tax benefits and positions Kentucky to attract future economic investment by companies engaged in cryptocurrency mining. Cryptocurrency is a form of payment that can be exchanged online. Cryptocurrencies use a decentralized technology called “block chain” that can manage and record transactions, much like a bank. Block chains are then used to purchase goods or services. This is a new, interesting and highly sophisticated industry that gets a lot of international attention. Mining for cryptocurrency is highly technical and it is a highly sophisticated industry. Available jobs in this industry can be lucrative and increasing rapidly. As we look to building our economy, we have to be in the right position to welcome the jobs of tomorrow.
HB 497: The bill requires the Department of Corrections (DOC) to issue a released prisoner the documentation of his or her criminal history, institutional history, or other relevant information. The DOC will also give inmates a certificate of employability upon their release and will be required to report the number of certificates provided to inmates. This measure is an integral part of helping prisoners successfully reintegrate into society upon their release and put an end to the cycle of relapse and recidivism.
As we recover from COVID-19 pandemic and compete on a national level for investment from businesses, we must have people ready, willing, and able to fill the on-going demand for jobs. If Kentucky is going to be the economic powerhouse that it can be, we have to have pro-business and pro-workforce policies. This is important not only in my district but in every corner of our Commonwealth.
I hope you found this comprehensive list of economic development related bills to be helpful. These bills will become law on June 29, 2021. The measures will go a long way in helping our economy and ultimately beenefiting the citizens of the Commonwealth. Interim Joint Committee meetings start on June 1. Tune in to legislative committee coverage on the KET website at KET.org. If you would like more information about bills or legislative actions, you can visit the Legislative Research Commission website at legislature.ky.gov. As always, I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181 or by email at Norma.KirkMcCormick@lrc.ky.gov.