KENTUCKY (3/10/13) - Most lawmakers went home Thursday night, but I stayed in Frankfort to work with the House majority leadership on an agreement to the biggest issue remaining in the 2013 Regular Session--public pension reform.
Starting Friday morning I was working with the Speaker of the House, who was working in collaboration with the Senate President and Governor Steve Beshear to dissect this session’s pension bill, Senate Bill 2, and trying to determine what parts of the bill we could compromise on and what each chamber wants to change. We all agree that we need to reduce the $30-33 billion unfunded liability in the Kentucky Retirement Systems and that the state much pay its full contribution (called the ARC, or “actuarially required contribution”) to help make that happen. But changes in plans for future employees and other proposals have not been agreed to, nor has a funding mechanism that would ensure the state starts paying its fair share in the next fiscal year. The ultimate solution can be achieved without major reform to the pension system by simply, in fact, paying in-full the required contribution on an annual basis.
The funding bill, HB 416, which funds the ARC with expected new Kentucky lottery offerings like Keno and iLottery and a portion of the take on historic “instant” horse racing has been tied up in the Senate on a procedural delay since it passed the House 52-47 on Feb. 27. Passage of the bill will be hard, even moreso this session since passage of revenue bills require 3/5 approval of the membership of each chamber to pass in a 30-day “short” session like this one.
But here’s the crux of the matter: Any pension bill MUST be followed by a funding source, or, as the Speaker explained, pension reform would be rabbit stew without the rabbit. It would be pointless...and misleading.
So, here we are. After you read this on or around Tuesday, March 12, there will be only two days left in this session, and we have three priorities left, as far as the House is concerned: 1) Passage of the pension bill, 2) Passage of the revenue bill to fund the pension bill, and 3) Passage of a newly-devised redistricting plan for the 100 districts in the House found in HB 2, which cleared the House largely along party lines last week.
I am very hopeful that at least these three priorities will be settled before the final gavel falls on the last day of session, which is scheduled for March 26. And I will keep you informed of our progress as we go along.
One bill that was a session priority and is now law is HB 217. This is a measure than cleans up unintended consequences of last year’s “pill mill bill” by, essentially, moving what many health care providers and patients consider unnecessary burdens created by the 2012 legislation. Among other things, the new law will lift restrictions on access to medication for the terminally ill and patients recovering from survey, and do away with mandatory controlled substance background checks on patients in hospitals, nursing homes and in hospice that were required under the 2012 law.
A few of my bills that I have been shepherding through the legislative process received either final passage or were ready for final passage in the House when we took a break last Thursday. I will run through those bills for you now:
HB 125 is my measure that would allow commercial vehicles weighting 26,000 pounds or less that are only operated for business within Kentucky, do not transport hazardous materials, and are not use to transport 16 or more passengers, to be classified under the same federal transportation safety rules as farm vehicles. The legislation was narrowed slightly by the Senate, which passed it 37-0 on March 7, but those changes are part of a negotiated settlement. I planned to move for passage of HB 125 as amended by the Senate after we reconvene the session in the House on Monday.
HB 126, which now goes to the governor for his signature after passing the House and Senate unanimously, would extend by three years the date for petroleum storage tank owners to receive environmental assistance from the state Petroleum Storage Tank Environmental Assurance fund. This has been an excellent program, and adding some time onto the program will give tank owners the extra help they need.
HB 145 is my surveyor bill that has been sent to the governor after passing the House by a vote of 97-3 on Feb. 28 and passing the Senate unanimously last Thursday. Basically, the legislation gives land surveyors professional status, since those in the profession are now required to have four-year degrees. It also creates a one year statute of limitations for actions brought against professional land surveyors for any alleged negligent work.
I will have much more to report after we spend some marathon days at the State Capitol this week wrapping up work on the pension bill. Please continue to stay informed through my log in this newspaper, and continue to keep track of individual bills via the General Assembly’s administrative agency web site at www.lrc.ky.gov. You may also stay in touch with happenings in Frankfort by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835, and keep up with committee meetings by calling the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650. To comment on a bill, please call the toll-free Legislative Message Line at 800-372-7181. Have a good week.
Rep. Brent Yonts
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