|Brent Spence Bridge. Wikipedia.|
House Bill 309, sponsored by Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, and Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, received final passage by an 86-8 vote and now goes to Governor Bevin for his signature. The bill would provide a framework for the use of public-private partnerships, or P3s, as an alternative financing method for major public projects, including transportation projects.
The bill would also specifically prohibit tolls for “any project involving the federal interstate highway system that connects the Commonwealth with the State of Ohio,” including the proposed $2.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge project in Northern Kentucky.
When asked by Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, if HB 309 as amended by the Senate earlier this week would authorize tolls on projects in Northern Kentucky, Combs answered definitively.
“I assure you there were no changes made to actually any roadways…” said Combs. “So you rest assured, everything is safe. It will not be tolled.”
Combs said Senate changes to the bill, with which the House agreed, actually extended the prohibition of tolls in HB 309 to any highway including interstates connecting Kentucky to Ohio, “including but not limited to a bypass of a major metropolitan area.”
Joe Meyer, member of Northern Kentucky United, issued a statement on the P3 legislation. "We appreciate the leadership and strong, united stance of the Northern Kentucky delegation on this issue. The Kentucky General Assembly has spoken loud and clear: there will be no tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge.
“Much needed maintenance will resume on the bridge, and Governor Bevin has committed to studying the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass. It is time to reset the conversation, and revisit the size and scope of the project to come up with a plan that appropriately addresses the region’s transportation needs."
The final bill would also clarify that bidding of unsolicited P3 proposals received by state and local government agencies must be open and competitive, clarify language regarding use of P3s by colleges and universities, and allow the state Finance Cabinet to contract with an outside consultant to help with review of local P3 projects, along with a few other provisions.
P3 legislation did pass the Kentucky General Assembly in 2014, but was vetoed by former Gov. Steve Beshear. Provisions for non-transportation related public-private partnerships in existing law and the bill’s prohibition against entering into P3s with the state of Ohio without legislative scrutiny were given by Beshear as reasons for his veto.
HB 309 passed the Senate 29-9 on Thursday. The bill was handled in the Senate by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, who sponsored P3 legislation of his own this session. That bill was SB 132.