Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 3, 2013

Transportation committee looks at antiquated law

By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — Because of an antiquated law on the books since the 1950s in Kentucky, if someone wanted to start a household goods moving company he had to first advertise that intent and hope existing moving companies didn’t object.

But sometimes the existing companies did object. That happened to R.J. Brunner and his company, Wildcat Movers, and Marty Vaughn and College Hunks Moving when they sought a “certificate of public convenience and necessity” from the Department of Transportation.

But existing moving companies objected and Brunner went to court and got a temporary injunction preventing the state from enforcing what he called a “veto” by his competitors.

During the 2013 General Assembly, Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, introduced a measure to end the practice which passed the Senate but was never acted upon in the House.

Now, the industry, Brunner and others have largely agreed on new language and Buford’s bill is likely to pass in the next session.

Rep. Hubert Collins, D-Wittensville, co-chair of the Interim Transportation Committee, said he and Buford sought “a process that is fair and level across the board.”

Collins said Tuesday’s testimony on the bill was “for discussion only” and predicted Buford will again sponsor the legislation which is likely to pass this time.

The bill directs the cabinet to issue a household goods certificate “to any qualified applicant” so long as the applicant conforms to statutory requirements but it also removes the objection process of existing moving companies.

The bill also increases the fee for certificates and renewal of certificates from $25 to $250 and requires companies to perform background checks on employees. It also directs the cabinet to write regulations listing which sorts of crimes may disqualify employees.

Underwood said the intent was to prohibit those who had been convicted of violent or sexual crimes from being employed in jobs which placed them inside private homes.

Brunner said Tuesday he supports the legislation “because it takes away the competitors’ veto power.” Moving industry spokesmen disputed the characterization that existing companies could veto an application saying final approval always rested with the cabinet.

But Tom Underwood, of the National Federation of Independent Business, said he was delighted the various parties could agree on legislation to replace “an antiquated process” established more than 50 years ago.

The committee also heard from Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock, his budget director Tammy Branham, and Nancy Albright, director of the office of project delivery.

Branham told the committee revenues from the motor fuels taxes is declining and may decline further. In fact, she said, the cabinet anticipates the tax itself to fall as wholesale gasoline prices fall. (The tax is tied to that wholesale price and re-calculated each quarter though the legislature has in the past codified a minimum amount.)

Collins suggested the legislature might do that again — voting in 2014 to “freeze” the gasoline tax to protect road fund revenues which are segregated from the General Fund and funded by the fuels tax, motor vehicle use taxes and federal funds.

Hancock said revenues will likely continue to fall as motorists travel fewer miles and federal vehicle mileage requirements continue to increase.

Branham told the committee the maintenance budget has been frozen since 2010 but the cabinet estimates 28 percent of the state’s roadways are in need of repaving within the next year. Albright also said 585 bridges “need some work” but the cabinet is able to perform maintenance on only about 50 a year.

Still, said Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore, Kentucky’s highways are in superior condition to those in Ohio across the river from her home.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.