While bills to craft a two-year state budget and change Kentucky taxes dominated legislative action Monday, state lawmakers also approved a measure to provide pension relief to cities, schools and libraries.
They also signed off on a bill to overhaul the state’s overburdened adoption and foster care systems, an initiative backed by Kentucky first lady Glenna Bevin.
Monday marked the last day of approving bills and guaranteeing the legislature’s right to override any possible vetoes by Gov. Matt Bevin. The legislature is to resume April 13 with the option of meeting April 14 to consider any vetoes. It can consider on April 13 any vetoes of bills passed before Monday. On April 14, it can consider any vetoes of bills passed Monday, such as line items in the budget bill.
The legislature on Monday revised House Bill 362, a measure dealing with high school students pursuing military careers, to provide the pension relief.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Senate Bill 66 initially was the vehicle to cap annual increases in pension contributions for local governments, school districts and regional universities, among others.
Gov. Matt Bevin said last week that he would never sign SB 66 into law, saying it is “nothing but a kick down the road” in Kentucky’s struggle to deal with its financially-troubled pension systems.
With the legislature backing a revision of SB 66 in HB 362, the governor can veto it, or let it become law without his signature. If he vetoes it, lawmakers have the opportunity to override his veto.
The initial bill would limit annual pension contribution increases for cities, counties, school districts and others in the County Employees Retirement System to 12 percent a year for 10 years, beginning July 1. The revised bill changes the date to Jan. 1 of next year.
The revised bill also provides a more accurate way for agencies to calculate their unfunded liability.
The Senate approved HB 362 on a 35-3 vote. The House vote was 90-2.
Bryanna Carroll, director of governmental affairs for the Kentucky League of Cities, praised the revised bill.
“We are thankful to members of the legislature for recognizing the need to provide rate relief to cities and other local employers. Legislative intervention was imperative to protect local communities from the adverse effects of the decision made by the Kentucky Retirement Systems Board of Trustees last year to drastically raise rates while refusing to consider a phase-in,” she said.
“Removing the threat of devastating rate increases will allow cities to move forward without being forced to make severe cuts to services and programs citizens depend on for safety and quality of life.”
The adoption and foster care bill contains dozens of changes aimed at making Kentucky’s adoption and foster care system work better for abused and neglected children who want a permanent home and adults who want to foster or adopt them.
The Senate amended House Bill 1, then unanimously approved it and sent it to the full House, where it was approved 90-1.
The bill spells out specific deadlines the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services must meet to ensure that children in state custody are reunified as quickly as possible with their biological family or be placed for adoption.
The legislature on Monday also sent to the governor Senate Bill 71, that requires abstinence to be included in public school sex education classes, and SB 5, which would require pharmacy benefit managers to provide the state more information about how much money they make from the Medicaid prescription drug program.
The managers are middlemen in the state’s Medicaid program that help determine payments to pharmacies.
The legislature also Monday night approved and sent to the governor Senate Bill 110, which codifies the current quota system for package liquor stores.
The legislature left hanging a controversial bill dealing with gang violence.
House Bill 169, sponsored by Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, harshly criticized by African American leaders but supported by Kentucky State Police, makes gang recruitment a felony rather than a misdemeanor for adults.
It also says gang members convicted of violent crimes would have to serve 85 percent of their sentence before parole is an option and costs $19.5 million for more prison beds.
“We will come back and deal with gang violence and other bills” in the last days of the session, said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.