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Democrats shut out on pension bill

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 The incessant rain produced gloomy skies over Frankfort last week. Only occasional glimmers of light were visible through the clouds. The same could be said for the action – or lack thereof – on a pension or budget bill this week. We heard whispers of a possible pension bill that gave us a slight twinkle of hope. However, that quickly faded as it became apparent no such a bill would be forthcoming.

We’ve heard the gossip – and read media accounts – that a pension bill may be here next week, but we won’t know until that day comes. The Republicans in the General Assembly are keeping the details close to the vest. I wish I could assure you that the bill will be one we can all get behind – one that will be fair for the schoolteachers, public employees, retirees and the taxpayers, but I have yet to see any legislation. Democrats have not been included in drafting the pension legislation by the Republican majority, nor have we been given the opportunity to share input.

Reports in the media – and talk among members – is that the Senate bill may not include the move to a 401(k)-like benefit plan. The data will show the move would not save dollars, but instead, cost more money. The governor’s original proposal favors a change to a 401(k)-style plan, but many of us fear – and arguments have been made to support this fear -- that with no new money from new members being contributed to the pension systems, it could be costly in the future.

Like you, I am waiting to see what is proposed in the bill. However, I assure you that I will continue to advocate for schoolteachers, public employees, retirees, and taxpayers who made their contributions. 

Though a pension bill, nor a budget bill have seen the light in the legislature, we still conducted business on the chamber floor.

The passage of House Bill 84, or Courtney’s Law, puts into policy the steps necessary for organ and tissue procurement when an individual dies outside of a hospital. Originally drafted and filed in 2016 for the family of Courtney Flear, a Caldwell County teenager who died because of injuries from a car wreck, this bill directs the medical examiner or coroner to verify the organ and tissue donation wishes of a deceased person in their care. Courtney proudly signed her license to be an organ donor. But because there was no procedure in place when she died, no procurement organizations were notified of her donation.

This bill strengthens legislation passed in 2006 that enabled Kentucky residents to have their wishes documented through the Kentucky Organ Donor Registry, Trust for Life. HB 84 is now headed to the Governor for final passage.

Other legislation that passed in the Senate this week:

Senate Bill 25 – that I opposed – would require a county fiscal court or city council to approve any proposed tax by a special purpose government entity – such as a library, sewer district or fire department. These special purpose agencies are already held accountable, and adding another bureaucratic layer accomplishes nothing. SB 25 is a problem looking for a solution. Unfortunately, it is now headed for the House for further consideration.

House Bill 92 would allow jail canteen profits to be used for the enhancement of jail safety and security. The current law states profits from the canteen must go toward the “well-being of the prisoners.” In the past, county jailers have generally used canteen profits to purchase such things as recreational equipment for the inmates. HB 92 would allow the jails to use the money for metal detectors or other security measures. A senate amendment added an emergency clause so the bill would go into effect upon the governor’s approval. The bill is headed back to the House for a vote on the amendment.

You can stay up-to-date on legislation by logging onto the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) website at www.lrc.ky.gov. The site provides bill texts, a bill-tracking service, and committee meeting schedules. You may leave a message for any legislator at 800-372-7181. You may also email me at Julian.Carroll@lrc.ky.gov.