FRANKFORT – State Rep. Leslie Combs’ effort to bring an innovative economic-development tool to Kentucky ended successfully on Friday, when Gov. Bevin signed her House Bill 309 into law.
“I am very proud to have sponsored the bipartisan public-private partnership (P3) legislation, which I think is the strongest and most comprehensive of its kind in the country,” said Rep. Combs of Pikeville. “This will give Kentucky a competitive advantage and allow us to properly build our infrastructure and create good-paying jobs. Outside of the budget, this has the potential to do more for the state than any other law the General Assembly has passed in recent years.”
Under her bill, Kentucky now has the regulatory framework that the state as well as local governments will follow when partnering with a private business to carry out a public function, which could range from building large highway projects to managing a utility.
For the state, there will be required public postings, hearings, and legislative oversight; and no project costing $25 million or more can be undertaken unless first authorized by the legislature. The bill clarifies that any shared transportation project between Kentucky and Ohio would need to be approved in a separate law.
Local governments will follow a similar process, and there will be added oversight with the creation of the 11-member Kentucky Local Government Public-Private Partnership Board, which will evaluate and approve P3 agreements that have a value worth 30 percent or more of the local government’s general revenues. The state Auditor’s office will also have authority to periodically review local P3 agreements.
Rep. Combs noted that the state and local governments are already able to work with private businesses in many capacities. “This law will standardize the process and make it more accountable and transparent to the public, which will also have more input,” she said. “The hope is that, with P3 now officially in place, Kentucky’s governments will embrace the concept even more.”
Rep. Combs has spoken twice at a national workshop focused on using this legislation for transportation projects. “As chair of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, I am well aware of what P3 could do for our roads and bridges,” she said. “The simple truth is, the federal government is no longer providing what it used to. If we’re going to continue improving our infrastructure, P3 is the best way forward, as more than 30 other states have long shown. It gives us a way to accomplish things that would take two, three or four times as long if we as a government acted alone. By working with the business community, we can do what other states have been doing for years and do it more efficiently at less cost.”