Politics & Government

With two strikes against them on pension reform, legislative leaders try again

Kentucky legislative leaders set up a special panel Friday to review and analyze the state’s ailing public pension systems — again.

Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker David Osborne said at a news conference that the Public Pensions Working Group, which they created, will come up with recommended changes to the pension systems by Feb. 15 for this year’s General Assembly to consider. It can request an extension until March 1, if needed. If more time is needed, it can ask for an extension to Dec. 1.

The hope is to come up with pension reform this session but, if more time is needed, the group will have more time to work, the leaders said.

They said they have not consulted Gov. Matt Bevin, a fellow Republican, about the working group and would advise him not to call a special legislative session if the working group and lawmakers don’t arrive at a pension solution in this year’s 30-workday session.

Their move, which they described as like pushing a reset button, comes after the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down a public pension measure approved by lawmakers last year and a surprise special legislative session called by Bevin in December that flopped within 24 hours.

The panel has been assigned to “conduct a review of the pension systems’ structures, costs, benefits and funding.” Its first meeting is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Tuesday in room 154 of the Capitol Annex.

Co-chairs of the panel are Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, and Rep. Jerry Miller, R-Louisville.

Others members are Stivers, R-Manchester; Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown; Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon; Sen. Christian McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill; Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville; Senate Minority Caucus Chairman Johnny Ray Turner, D-Prestonsburg; House Minority Caucus Chairman Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort; Rep. R. Travis Brenda, R-Crab Orchard; Rep. Jim DuPlessis, R-Elizabethtown; Rep. Scott Lewis, R-Hartford; Rep. Diane St. Onge, R-Fort Wright; and Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington.

The panel has no members from the five-member House Republican leadership team.

Osborne said the House wanted to put some new House members on the panel “to participate in the debate.”

The working group is authorized to meet as often as necessary at the discretion of its co-chairs during the current legislative session, up to March 30, and can meet monthly during this year’s legislative interim if necessary.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced Monday afternoon that he will call a special legislative session to deal with Kentucky's struggling pension systems.

Thousands of Kentucky teachers stormed the state Capitol April 2 to protest pension benefit cuts, oppose charter schools and advocate for better education funding.