Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 23, 2014

By a thread

Pullin commended for moves to benefit AK Steel and area

The Independent

ASHLAND — It took some last-minute political maneuvering by State Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore and some skilled wheeling and dealing to prevent a bill important to AK Steel in Ashland from ending up on the scrapheap of the 2014 Kentucky General Assembly.

Ironically, House Bill 483 was not even viewed as controversial and was expected to breeze through both the House of Representatives and the Senate with little or no opposition. After all, the intent of the bill was to extend for another two years incentives provided to AK Steel by the Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act of 2004. If HB 483 had failed to be approved, the incentives would have expired  in July.

Things seemed to be going as expected for HB 483 in the early days of the General Assembly with this region’s entire House delegation — House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, State Rep. Kevin Sinnette, D-Ashland, and Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson —  joining Pullin in co-sponsoring the bill. State Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, pledged to steer this bill through the Senate.

The bill was approved by the House without a dissenting vote and sent to the Senate. But then some senators apparent concluded HB 483 was so popular no legislator would have the political courage to vote against it. Thus, they took advantage of that popularity by adding to the bill a much more controversial amendment that included incentives for proposed nuclear power plants in western Kentucky. That’s an old trick in the Kentucky General Assembly, and area legislators had to work furiously in the final hours of the 60-day General Assembly to prevent incentives for proposed nuclear power plants from killing incentives that have protected existing jobs and have encouraged investment at AK Steel in Ashland for a decade.

Pullin salvaged her bill by using a parliamentary procedure to add the “guts” of her bill as an amendment to another House bill. She then sent the new bill back to the Senate. The vote in the Senate ended in a 19-19 tie and Pullin thought her bill was dead. 

But then Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, routinely asked if any senators wanted to change their votes before he announced the final votes. Three senators did change their “nay” votes to “aye,” thus salvaging the bill and the AK incentives. Even then, the bill was not signed by Gov. Steve Beshear until just minutes before the midnight deadline.

All’s well that ends well, we suppose, but there is no reason why this rather routine bill nearly became a victim of the political games some legislators continue to play in Frankfort. Fortunately, the political skills of Tanya Pullin and the united support of area legislators saved the incentives that have encouraged investment at AK Steel for a decade from suddenly ending.