- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Prepaid cellphone customers in Kentucky will pay an extra fee to support local 911 emergency services under a bill signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Matt Bevin.

Another measure gaining the governor’s signature will sweeten economic incentives aimed at swaying AK Steel to rejuvenate idled operations at its Ashland steel mill.

Bevin had a Wednesday deadline to take action on stacks of legislation passed by the General Assembly before lawmakers took their extended veto-period break.

The Republican governor has signed dozens of measures in recent days.

Several bills drew gubernatorial vetoes. They included a revenue measure that contained language aimed at returning coal-severance-tax revenues to coal-producing counties.

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene for the final day of this year’s regular session on Friday, when they have the option of trying to override any vetoes.

The bill supporting 911 systems means that prepaid cellphone customers will pay an extra fee of 93 cents every time they purchase minutes. Retailers would collect the fee at the point of sale beginning Jan. 1, 2017, and remit the money to the state.

Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto said Wednesday that the measure represents “an important step toward protecting public safety access across the commonwealth.”

“Going forward, we will continue to look for other ways to enhance 911 operations, including encouraging consolidation and other methods of improving public safety in a cost-effective manner,” she said in a statement.

Local governments pay for 911 services with a fee imposed on landline phones. The state imposes a fee on cellphones. But because of a problem with the formula, prepaid phone customers have not been paying the full fee.

State officials say the problem has cost local governments about $2 million a year.

Meanwhile, northeastern Kentucky lawmakers championed the bill sweetening the economic development offer to AK Steel. It’s a response to the company temporarily idling its blast furnace at the Ashland mill - putting hundreds out of work - because of competition from imported steel.

The measure will extend existing economic development incentives and offer new incentives that AK Steel could draw upon if it met investment and employment benchmarks in resuming the mill operations at Ashland.

“We hope that’s incentive enough,” Rep. Lew Nicholls, D-Greenup, said Wednesday.

Bevin expressed a commitment to work with AK Steel executives and regional leaders to “navigate the current economic challenges” with the goal of resuming mill operations.

Other bills signed by Bevin in recent days will authorize use of public-private partnerships for mega-dollar transportation work and other projects; set timelines to speed up testing of rape kits; establish a statewide definition of school bullying; and allow visitors to sip cocktails and purchase more whiskey during distillery tours.

The revenue bill vetoed recently by Bevin would have cost the state tens of millions in annual tax receipts. Besides the coal severance tax provision, it also included tax breaks for livestock producers and parents contributing to college savings funds for their children.

“Given the overall financial condition of the commonwealth and its massive unfunded pension liabilities, now is not the time to pass additional tax expenditures, however meritorious each provision may be,” Bevin wrote in his veto message.

Another vetoed bill sought to update guidelines for judges when ordering child support.

Bevin’s veto message said he agreed that higher-earning parents should face increased payments, but he objected to another section providing “an option for parents to have zero financial responsibility for the raising of their children.”

“This is completely unacceptable,” he said.


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