By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Frankfort comes to Northern Kentucky this week to be wooed and wowed.
As many as 70 state lawmakers from throughout Kentucky are expected to be in the region Wednesday and Thursday for six legislative committee meetings and a first-hand look at some of the area's success stories, including riverfront development projects like Newport on the Levee and the Hofbrauhaus, a health clinic operating at a Newport school and recent growth at Northern Kentucky University's Highland Heights campus.
But area officials and leaders will also use the opportunity to lobby legislators and make the case for funding and legislation that would benefit Northern Kentucky, from a proposed farmer's market in Covington to an arena at NKU.
"It is almost unprecedented to have six legislative committees conducting their business in one community outside of Frankfort," said Gary Toebben, president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the event.
"We believe this event presents a tremendous opportunity for the region to articulate where legislative support is most needed to accomplish our goals for business and the entire community," Toebben said.
Toebben, area business leaders and local officials will use the formal committee structure as well as a riverboat cruise, trip to a Cincinnati Reds game and visit to Newport on the Levee and Hofbrauhaus to make their case for the region's priorities.
"This gives legislators the opportunity first-hand to see what is happening in Northern Kentucky instead of just hearing about it or reading it in the paper," said House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder. "It's our chance to shine to the rest of the state."
Callahan said he is particularly interested in giving lawmakers a tour of the riverfront projects - including the levee and Hofbrauhaus restaurant in Newport - that were made possible by the Tourism Development Act. The legislation provides tax breaks to tourist attractions.
Many of the lawmakers scheduled to be in the area voted for the law, Callahan said.
"They'll be able to actually view many of the locations they ultimately helped build," he said.
But with committee meetings scheduled Thursday at NKU lawmakers will also hear a plea to fund the proposed $40 million to $45 million regional special events center and arena the university wants to build on campus.
Lawmakers will also be asked to consider:
Funding to buy land for the Covington Riverfront West, an $800 million office, residential, restaurant and entertainment complex Covington officials want to see developed along the river between the Clay Wade Bailey Bridge and Covington Landing.
$5 million to build a museum at Big Bone Lick State Park in southern Boone County.
$5 million in state funds toward the $10 million needed to build a regional farmers' market on Scott Street in Covington.
Legalizing casino gaming and raising the state's cigarette tax, which at 3.5 cents a pack is the second lowest in the nation. Both ideas have been met with firm resistance in Frankfort. But Toebben will push for both when he testifies Thursday before the Appropriations and Revenue Committee.
Legislators will also learn more about education in the region from Dennis Cuneo, senior vice president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing USA in Erlanger, where Children Inc. operates a child development center for employees, and from officials of a health clinic operating at Newport Middle School.
Meetings will be held at Toyota and the Newport school.
Committee meetings, agendas
An estimated 70 lawmakers are scheduled to hold a series of legislative committee meetings Wednesday and Thursday in Northern Kentucky. A schedule of the meetings:
9:30 a.m., Health and Welfare Committee, Toyota Motor Manufacturing USA, 25 Atlantic Ave., Erlanger. Agenda items: Early childhood home visitation, quality child care perspectives, Medicaid update and SARS and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
1 p.m., Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, The Madison, 700 Madison Ave., Covington. Agenda items: Presentation on proposed Northern Kentucky Regional Farmer's Market and review of state's program on preparing brownfields for development.
1 p.m., Education Committee, Newport Middle School cafeteria, 8th and Columbia, Newport. Agenda items: School-based health centers, Partners for Northern Kentucky's Future that will feature testimony from NKU President James Votruba and Gateway Community College President Ed Hughes.
8:30 a.m., Local Government Committee, Northern Kentucky University, University Center. Agenda items: Discussions of planning and zoning laws and regulations, and enterprise zones.
10 a.m., Appropriations and Revenue Committee, NKU, University Center. Agenda items: Testimony on funding requests for proposed Northern Kentucky projects, a report on state revenues and testimony from Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Gary Toebben on revenue enhancements including casino gaming and an increase in the state cigarette tax.
1 p.m., Tourism and Economic Development Committee, NKU, University Center. Agenda items: Testimony from Campbell County Judge-executive Steve Pendery on riverfront development and the proposed Emerging Technology Commercialization Triangle at NKU.
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