A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand May 16, 2016

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand May 16, 2016

FRANKFORT – Last week, state tourism leaders unveiled the latest annual study on the positive impact this industry has in Kentucky. In a word, the news was good.
Overall, tourism generated nearly $14 billion in direct and indirect sales in 2015, a five percent increase over 2014’s total. It supported 186,000 jobs and provided nearly $1.5 billion in state and local tax revenue.
There is a lot of hard work behind these numbers, but Kentucky is blessed to have some built-in advantages, too. We’re home to such one-of-a-kind draws as Mammoth Cave as well as the country’s population center east of the Rockies, which essentially means that no state is closer to more Americans than ours.
Mammoth Cave is not only the world’s largest cave at 400 miles and counting; this national park is also the United States’ second-oldest paid tourist attraction, after Niagara Falls. Its first customers made the trek underground exactly two centuries ago.
1816 is also the same year a young Abraham Lincoln and his family left Kentucky for Indiana. His LaRue County birthplace is the second of the commonwealth’s four national sites, with the other two at Cumberland Gap and Big South Fork in the southeastern section of the state.
A separate study this spring by the National Park Service found that these four welcomed 1.76 million people last year.
That’s about double the number of tourists who visited our fast-growing Bourbon Trail, which began in 1999. There are actually two trails, with one focused on the larger heritage distilleries and the other on the craft distilleries. Nearly nine out of 10 visiting come from outside of Kentucky, and that number is almost certain to go up as we add as many as 20 more distilleries over the next 18 months.
In an effort to help spur this along, the General Assembly approved a new law this year that will make it easier for the bourbon, beer and wine industries to grow. This legislation will principally raise production limits and make it easier for these businesses to better serve their customers.
Other positive changes during the legislative session include the authorization of a new trail – to highlight our covered bridges – and $18 million in the budget to make some critical updates to our state parks. A new commission, meanwhile, will help educate and prepare activities next year to celebrate Kentucky’s 225th anniversary as a commonwealth.
With summer upon us, now is an ideal time to make plans to take in a part of Kentucky you might not have seen. There’s the Country Music Highway in the east, for example, and the National Quilt Museum in the west. The Western Hemisphere’s only moonbow is at Cumberland Falls, while a unique zipline tour can be found underground at Louisville’s Mega Cavern.
In August 2017, the eyes of the world will be on Hopkinsville, which will have the longest view anywhere of a total solar eclipse. It’s been almost 40 years since the last one could be seen in the lower 48 states and nearly a century since one could be viewed from the east to the west coasts. Local organizers are calling it “the most exciting 2 minutes, 40 seconds in astronomy.”
If that event proves that the sky literally is the limit when it comes to Kentucky’s tourism potential, the state also does a great job of including everything else under the sun. If you have a free weekend, or week, click on www.kentuckytourism.com to see what is available. There are hundreds of easy-to-find events occurring around the year.
As always, if you have a question about anything affecting Kentucky, just let me know. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer