DSC 0540OWENSBORO, Ky (3/5/18) – The 2018 General Assembly has 600 bills under consideration. Area legislators discussed a few of the 600 bills and then opened the floor for a question and answer period during a legislative breakfast Saturday sponsored by the Green River Area Development District.

GRADD Board Chairman Kelly Thurman welcomed the legislators and public as well as other elected officials. All public questions had to be submitted on a card supplied.

State Sen. Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, said the session started slow but that the pace was picking up. Ridley said that SB-1, the pension bill, was undergoing changes and that a new version was released Thursday.

“I think we made a promise to our current retirees and current employees,” said Ridley. “I think it is important to stand the course that we made a promise to you.”

State Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, said he was the sponsor of SB-1 but many had helped craft the language. He said that SB-1 does not put public employees in a 401K plan and if the employee is in a defined benefit plan, they will stay in a defined benefit plan until they decide to retire.

The 3-percent contribution for health insurance is out of the bill. For new employees it will be a “hybrid cash balance” plan. The contribution level will be 17.105 percent. Break down is 9 percent from the employee, 6 percent from the state and 2 percent from local districts.

Bowen said that the bill is sustainable and addresses the unfunded liability of state pensions and will save approximately $4 billion.

“The formula doesn’t work,” Bowen said about the current retirement system. “There are systemic problems and because of the flawed formula and flawed assumptions by an actuary.”

One example of the flawed formula is that people are living 16 years longer than when the plan was started. “This corrects all of that and brings relief,” he said. Four billion has been appropriated and one billion more per year will be needed.

State Rep. Jim Gooch, R-Providence, said he was working on issues having a negative impact on utility bills. “Net Metering” bill addresses “cost shifting” of solar panels.

Gooch sponsored a bill to make schools a hard target by allowing school systems to hire resource officers or establish a “response team” from internal staff.

State Rep. Suzanne Miles, R-Owensboro, said she had been spending her time on the new two-year budget. She said that matching grant funding would be in the budget. She said that the funding for SB-1 was included in the budget.

State Rep. Robby Mills, R-Henderson, said there was a new conservative philosophy in Frankfort. He said the new budget is “education focused”.

“More in SEEK funding than ever before,” he said.

He said there were 13 or 14 school systems in eastern Kentucky will not have funding for the year due to cuts in coal severance revenues and the General Assembly is helping those districts.

Mills spoke in favor of SB-5 to protect independent pharmacists.

He sponsored a bill that will allow jail inmates to work on non-profit projects such as Habitat for Humanity. He said it will help them learn a skill and provide better housing in our communities.

Mills said he want to study the feasibility of moving the County Employee Retirement System from the other state pension plans.

State Rep. D.J. Johnson, R-Owensboro, said he was working on duplicative inspections on business and industry.

Johnson said that he was sponsoring legislation to change filing deadlines to give county officials more time and, “make us a little more effective and productive.”

Johnson said the legislation concerning notary publics has not been addresses since 1956 and he will sponsor a bill to address issues when that bill clears the Senate.

State Rep. Matt Castlen, R-Maceo, brought his son along to spend time with him. He said that he was working on HB-609 to generate revenue to fix roads.

Owensboro Mayor Tom Watson addressed the gathering to deal with a U.S. 60 project that had received federal funding but not completed. He said that flooding on that section of highway continues to be a problem.

Miles responded by saying that the project was on their radar and was cautiously optimistic that the problem will be resolved soon. She said the design portion was already completed.

Jiten Shah, GRADD executive director, read the questions submitted by the public in attendance.

Several questions were submitted regarding pension plans and governance.

One question on SB-5 led to a discussion and revealed that another issue being considered regarded the fact that pharmacists could not advise patients of less expensive alternatives to their prescriptions and that pharmacists could not reveal reimbursements from PBMs.

GRADD staff had prepared audio visuals that provided the actual bill under discussion.

State Sen. C.B. Embry, Jr., R-Morgantown and state Rep. Dean Schamore, D-Hardinsburg, represent parts of the GRADD population but did not attend the breakfast.

Ron Sanders
SurfKY News

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