Kentucky lawmakers endorse incentives to compete against states vying for billion dollar mega projects

Published 6:44 am Thursday, September 9, 2021

Kentucky lawmakers advanced legislation Wednesday that would tap into budget reserves to offer incentives potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars in hopes of landing mega-sized economic development projects.

On the second day of a special session focused on COVID-19 issues, House and Senate panels endorsed bills to strengthen the Bluegrass State’s bargaining hand in competing against other states for massive business development projects.

The incentives — requested by Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration — would apply to projects topping $2 billion. Beshear has said the state is pursuing at least five projects of that magnitude.

Meanwhile, a key coronavirus-related bill had a bumpy reception Wednesday but ultimately advanced. The measure, which would set pandemic policies for K-12 schools, was rejected initially by the House Education Committee, coming up one vote short of the support needed.

The panel reconvened later in the day and overwhelmingly advanced the legislation. Some lawmakers said they voted for the bill to get it out of committee but signaled they’d like to see changes made. A companion measure is awaiting action in the Senate. Republicans hold overwhelming majorities in both chambers.

The bills would nullify statewide mask mandates in K-12 schools and child care facilities. Both would allow local school leaders to apply remote instruction to a particular school, grade or classroom, depending on the extent of a virus outbreak, rather than closing schools districtwide.

State Education Commissioner Jason Glass has urged lawmakers to follow public health science supporting use of masks in schools, as he said the state school board did in issuing its emergency regulation requiring mask wearing in public schools. The bills would end that requirement.

“The politically motivated effort to remove masking requirements in public schools flies in the face of virus mitigation efforts at the very time they are needed most,” he said in a statement Tuesday.