Kentucky legislative leaders say solutions on how to pay for Kentucky’s underfunded pensions won’t likely be addressed in the 2013 legislative session.
Both House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Senate President Robert Stivers say there will likely be a bill to introduce changes to the pension systems. But they also agree that such a bill is unlikely to deal how to fund the changes.
What they disagree on is when to deal with the funding solutions. Stumbo says pension funding should be dealt with in a special session, hand in hand with tax reform.
“There’ll be a bill, I don’t know whether it will be addressed," Stumbo says. "I think that we need, probably, to address the entire issue and that include the funding mechanism."
But Stivers says lawmakers should pass the changes now and deal with fully funding the pension system starting in 2014, when a new budget must be passed.
House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris (right), is congratulated by Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, on her election as the first woman to a leadership post in the Kentucky House of Representatives
State Rep. Sannie Overly will be the first woman in history elected to a leadership position in the Kentucky House of Representatives.
Overly, of Paris, on Tuesday was elected House Democratic Caucus Chair in private leadership elections today. Overly beat state Rep. Bob Damron, of Nicholasville, for the position; all other House Democratic leaders retained their posts.
“It was a humbling experience to be the person that this caucus would choose for the first time in the commonwealth’s history to serve in House leadership," Overly said. " I’m honored, I’m humbled, I look forward to serving."
Overly has served for more than six years, after originally winning a special election for her seat. She was also transportation budget sub-committee chair in recent budget cycles.
As for why she chose to run now, Overly says she felt the timing was right.
Charter school legislation has been introduced in the Kentucky House. It would allow a limited number of schools to pilot the concept, and supporters of the bill are hoping the less aggressive approach will appeal to those who have opposed past measures.
Shelbyville Rep. Brad Montell crafted his bill with help from the Kentucky Charter School Project. The group includes several organizations that have supported charter school legislation the past couple of years.
Spokesman Joe Burgan says the bill would pilot the charter school concept instead of allowing all schools the option.
“So instead of wide spread charter schools in Kentucky this would limit them top 75 schools over a five year period. So it’s starting small rather than trying to jump right in and get everything in one bill.”
Giving Kentucky service members and their spouses the ability to cast absentee ballots electronically is the priority of the Kentucky State Senate heading into the 2013 legislative session, Senate President-elect Robert Stivers said on Monday.
Stivers says he’s taking recommendations from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes to allow electronic voting for overseas military personnel.
The measure will be Senate Bill 1 — the title that usually goes to the chamber’s chief legislative priority every year. And Stivers says that if the legislation can be written in time, the Senate plans to pass it completely by the end of the session’s first week.
“If we can get the final drafts done and proceed, we hope to introduce it this week and if we can introduce it have at least preliminary hearings, if not a total hearing and have it either prepared to pass this week or upon our return,” he says.
Despite a short legislative session that’s expected to focus on pension reforms, Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says lawmakers may consider some key education measures, too.
“I think you’re going to see a number of possible bills coming out following up from the Newtown incident.”
Holliday says lawmakers may also be interested in increasing funding for Kentucky’s Center for School Safety, which saw dramatic cuts to its budget in 2009.
He also expects the General Assembly to take up legislation that would allow the education department to move forward with reforming its teacher evaluation system. The new system would likely measure teacher performance based partly on student test scores, which has been controversial among some in education.
The Courier-Journal is reporting that Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will consider proposing an expanded gambling package this year that does not include increased gaming at the state's horsetracks.
Beshear says that may be the only way he can get a gambling bill passed in the state legislature.
The Governor has tried unsuccessfully in the past to get a casino gambling bill through the Kentucky Senate. Expanded gambling supporters have hoped that last year's retirement of former Senate President David Williams, who opposed increased gaming, would better the bill's odds in 2013.
Should Kentucky high schoolers have to wait until the age of 18 before they can legally drop out?
Gov. Steve Beshear thinks so, and he is vowing to again try to get such a law passed in the next General Assembly, which gets underway Jan. 8. Beshear and his wife, Jane Beshear, have long been proponents of gradually raising the state's dropout age from 16 to 18. In the past, the Beshears backed a measure that would incrementally raise the dropout age over a period of years to 17 and then to 18, giving students, parents, and school districts time to adjust to the new rules.
Proponents say such a change in state law would have far-reaching societal benefits since dropouts are more likely to go to prison or rely on welfare.
Opponents say while the idea may be well-intentioned, it would simply force disruptive and uncaring students to remain in classrooms against their will, having unintended negative consequences for other students, teachers, and administrators.
A lawmaker representing Daviess and Ohio counties hopes legislators will tackle redistricting during this upcoming General Assembly--as opposed to putting it off until 2014. Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson of Owensboro told WKU Public Radio the sooner new legislative boundaries are created, the better.
“And that way people would know what districts they’re going to be working in. If there are new districts, they’d have time to acquaint themselves with new constituents in their district. So I just think that we’d be better served to deal with it sooner rather than later,” said Thompson.
Kentucky lawmakers created new legislative maps last year, but the new boundaries were found to be unconstitutional, meaning legislators have to start from scratch.
Thompson says he wouldn't be surprised if lawmakers tackled the redistricting issue during a special session after the official 2013 legislature is over. Many lawmakers believe the worst-case scenario would be waiting until the 2014 session to redraw the lines, because a new state budget will already be taking up a great deal of legislators' attention that year.
Possible Interstate Connections for Owensboro/Daviess County Region
Business and political leaders in the Daviess County region are trying to figure out the best--and most cost-effective--way possible to link the area up with an interstate. Rep. Thompson says he's excited about the possibility of connecting the region to the I-67 project in Indiana.
A southern Kentucky legislator says one of the biggest questions heading into the next legislative session is how lawmakers will react to the absence of David Williams. The longtime Republican Senate President resigned his seat in the legislature late last year to become a Kentucky circuit judge.
Robert Stivers of Manchester is expected to become the next Senate leader when the 2013 General Assembly begins January 8. Democratic Rep. Wilson Stone of Allen County told WKU Public Radio he'll be interested to see what--if anything--changes when Stivers leads the Senate through his legislative agenda.
"People would say that President Williams really had good discipline within his caucus. And so that allowed him to be really powerful not only in the Senate, but really in Frankfort in general," said Stone, a Democrat from Scottsville. "Now, whether Robert Stivers now will have that same discipline, and move in the same direction, I don't know. It's hard to say."