Community Politics

Greater Louisville Inc. will unveil its legislative agenda Monday for the upcoming General Assembly.

The group serves as the chamber of commerce for the Louisville Metro area. It is among the state’s top lobbying spenders, according to data from the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission.

In past years the group has pushed for so-called “right to work” legislation and repealing prevailing wage laws. The group has also called for charter schools, expanded gaming and changes to the state’s tax code.

The upcoming state legislative session will focus on establishing a budget for the coming years. An element of that process includes setting funding levels for future road construction.

Alison Brotzge-Elder, a spokeswoman for Greater Louisville Inc., said that will be among the a top priorities for the group.

Some 10,000 miles of city streets are maintained by “urban areas” in Kentucky each year, according to a 2017 report from GLI. About a third of the funding to do that comes from state or federal funds, per the report.

The group is seeking to “modernize the 66-year-old formula to adequately account for lane mileage and usage when calculating fund allocations.”

Brotzge-Elder said six years of road projects will be decided during the next legislative session.

“That’s something that concerns a large number of businesses both inside and outside Jefferson County,” she said. “We really want to make sure we are presenting a united front.”

To assist in that, Greater Louisville Inc. will lean on the influence of the newly formed Louisville Metropolitan Caucus — a 40-member, bipartisan coalition of state lawmakers that have ties to the Louisville Metro area.

Brotzge-Elder said Greater Louisville Inc. investors don’t feel like the Louisville Metro region, as a whole, gets adequate representation in Frankfort.

One area of focus for the caucus members will be to quell the divide between urban and rural areas of Kentucky, she said. 

“That’s a hot topic,” she said.

The idea of an urban-rural divide in Kentucky is not new.

In fact, the Kentucky Rural-Urban Exchange focuses directly on the issue.

The group works to bring people together from across the state in an effort to “build a more collaborative and connected Commonwealth,” according to their website.

Savannah Barrett is a member of the group’s steering committee. And in an interview with WFPL News earlier this year she said the divisions that dissect the state are rooted, largely, in perception.

“It’s a really unfortunate cartography of belonging,” she said.

To be sure, there are distinct differences across the state, she said — especially in terms of demographics and culture.

Metro Councilman Brandon Coan also pointed this out earlier this year, shortly after California Attorney General, Xavier Becerra banned state-sponsored travel to Kentucky.

Coan said Louisville is “more diverse in every way than the rest of the state.”

“That diversity fundamentally underlies the different perspectives we have on all sorts of issues,” he said.

For instance, state legislators from Louisville have clamored for gun control, but their calls have gone unanswered by rural, more conservative leaders in the General Assembly.

Still, the future of urban centers and rural areas across Kentucky remain shared, Barrett said.

For one to succeed, the other must as well, she said.

Brotzge-Elder, with Greater Louisville Inc., said a key to that success, for the Louisville area, at least, is being united in Frankfort.

“And everybody understands the issues we face, particularly with the roads,” she said. “That’s obviously what GLI is going to be representing and pushing hard for.”

Jacob Ryan is the Metro Affairs reporter for WFPL.