Politics

City officials are saying the recent decision by the California Attorney General to ban state travel to Kentucky is having a negative impact on tourism in Louisville.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and the head of the city’s visitors bureau told reporters Thursday that two conventions previously scheduled to be held in the city have now be cancelled due to the ban.

They declined to provide specific details of the conventions, other than saying the groups were Chicago-based and would have yielded a some $2 million economic impact in Louisville.

Xavier Becerra, the California Attorney General, announced last week that Kentucky would be added to a list of states where state travel is not allowed. The reasoning, he said, is due to legislation passed by Kentucky’s General Assembly earlier this year that “could allow student-run organizations in colleges and K-12 schools to discriminate against classmates based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Becerra is referring to Senate Bill 17, which was signed into law earlier this spring by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin. The measure sought to “permit students to voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination.”

Fischer on Thursday doubled down on his effort to entice Becerra to exclude Louisville from the travel ban during a news conference at Waterfront Park.

He was joined by leaders from the area’s chamber of commerce, Brown-Forman, United Parcel Services and the Fairness Campaign. Fischer said he was concerned about the economic impact the travel restriction could have on Louisville and the state, as a whole.

He said the city’s some 24 million tourist visits annually has a near $3.5 billion local economic impact and a near $14 billion economic impact to the state of Kentucky. What’s more, he said Louisville’s tourism industry generates $1.5 billion in state tax revenue.

“With the challenges that we have in our state with our budget, with our pension problem, the last thing we should be doing is scaring away tax revenue,” he said. “We should be saying ‘come on, come on to Kentucky.'”

Fischer said he’s expressed his concern to leaders in the General Assembly, state Senate leader Robert Stivers and state House speaker Jeff Hoover — both Republicans.

Fischer said he’s also discussed the ban with Becerra, himself, to “begin a conversation that will hopefully lead to some kind of rapid resolution.”

The travel restriction applies to state “agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority, or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, and the California State University,” according to a news release from Becerra’s office.

His office did not return a request for further comment on the measure nor did the office respond to an inquiry regarding Fischer’s request this week that Louisville be granted a waiver from the travel restrictions.

 

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.