FRANKFORT — House and Senate negotiators this weekend are mulling a proposal by House Speaker Greg Stumbo on Friday to break an impasse between the two chambers on how to bail out the ailing Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System.
Meanwhile, another House-Senate conference committee adjourned about 7:30 p.m. Friday on its deliberations to produce a compromise on a bill addressing Kentucky's heroin epidemic.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, and his colleague in the House, John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said they were encouraged by Friday's discussions. They said each side would report to their chamber's party caucuses Monday.
Both lawmakers said the conference committee has not yet reached agreement on three major points of contention: allowing local governments to establish needle exchanges for addicts, creating tougher penalties for dealers and setting up a "Good Samaritan" provision which would shield or defer from drug-related charges a heroin user who reports an overdose to police and stays with the victim.
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Meanwhile, the House-Senate conference committee on the teachers' retirement system is seeking more information on Stumbo's compromise proposal.
It would include the House's provision to authorize $3.3 billion in bonds but hold back $1.4 billion of that pending the outcome of a study of the system that has been requested by the Senate.
The House-Senate conference committee on House Bill 4 is to meet again at 9 a.m. Monday to work toward an agreement on the bill and allow both chambers to vote on it Monday or Tuesday, the last two days of this year's legislative session.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said after Friday's meeting on the teachers' retirement system that the negotiators had a "candid discussion, collegial. We're not ruling anything out."
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he agreed with Stivers, adding that he thinks both sides realize there is a strong need for an infusion of money into the system.
Currently, KTRS has only 53 percent of the assets it's expected to need for future payments — or 45 percent under new federal accounting rules, if no viable funding source is put in place this year.
KTRS officials say the state stopped making its full recommended contributions in 2008, leading to annual shortfalls of several hundred million dollars.
Stumbo said authorization of $3.3 billion in bonded debt could allow the state to make its full recommended contribution to KTRS for eight consecutive years. After that, Stumbo has said, the $18 billion pension and insurance funds should be on firmer footing.