TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

March 1, 2013

State pension problems remain


The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By RONNIE ELLIS

CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — The widening gap between the two chambers of the General Assembly on how to solve Kentucky’s pension problems seemed to get wider Thursday.

On Thursday, the Democratic-controlled House passed an almost entirely re-written version of the pension fix passed earlier by the Senate and then passed a revenue bill to pay for the funding costs.

But the bill passed with fewer than 60 votes, which is the requirement in a 30-day, odd-year session.

Stumbo contends that requirement only applies to “final passage,” meaning the 60 votes could come in the House after the Senate sends back an amended version.

But Thursday, the Senate sent a letter to the House saying the Senate Clerk refused to accept the revenue bill because it violated Senate rules. Accompanying the Senate letter was a record of similar action by the House in the past.

Stumbo wasn’t moved.

“We’re not taking it back,” Stumbo said. “We’re going to forward to them some of the law we cited here yesterday which makes it clear those majorities are only required on final passage. They can do with it what they like.”

Later Thursday, the Senate refused to concur with the House in the amended version of the actual pension bill and sent that back to the House asking its members to “recede” and accept the Senate bill.

That’s not likely to happen.

Stumbo said the Senate’s action makes a special session more likely — or at least more likely that no solution will be found for the pension problem during the regular session.

In other action Thursday, the House State Government Committee approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson, to clarify the requirements of the open meetings law.

The bill would require public officials to at least evaluate the need for overflow crowds at meetings likely to deal with controversial subjects and to provide an alternative with adequate space to accommodate the larger crowd.

York said the bill is a reaction to a recent controversy in Carter County when the Fiscal Court would not move a meeting to accommodate a crowd too large for its usual meeting space. Carter County Judge/Executive Charles Wallace and County Jailer R.W. Boggs have feuded over whether to build a regional jail.

During one meeting, microphones were turned off and people in the rear of the room couldn’t hear.

Some committee members asked if smaller agencies might be unfairly punished by the law if they had difficulty in obtaining larger space for meetings normally attended only by a handful of people.

But York said the law simply “encourages” officials to abide by the spirit of the law and does not include sanctions.

Also on Thursday, Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer and Republican Sen. Paul Hornback held a press conference to criticize Rep. Tom McKee, D-Cynthiana, for failure to move Hornback’s bill to provide a regulatory framework for the cultivation of hemp.

On Wednesday, McKee proposed a substitute bill which would have called for more study of the issue, but when he couldn’t get enough votes for the substitute, McKee refused to allow a vote on Hornback’s bill.

Comer and Hornback accused McKee of political motivation – while McKee sat in the rear of the room listening.

Later he said he had no plans to call Hornback’s bill for a vote.

Hornback said he’d been told by an unnamed member of Democratic House Leadership he’d get a vote on the bill.

But later Thursday, Stumbo said he knew nothing of such an assurance.