Politics & Government

House leader says special session on pension-relief bill may start July 19

The long-anticipated special law-making session to provide pension relief to regional universities and quasi-goverrnmental agencies like mental health centers and libraries is likely to start July 19, a legislative leader said Tuesday.

House Majority Leader John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, said legislative leaders have informed members and Gov. Matt Bevin that “July 19 is the most likely date to start the session.”

But he cautioned that date is not definite and that only the governor can call the legislature into a special session and set its agenda. Lawmakers determine how long a special session lasts.

Bevin’s press office had no immediate comment on Carney’s comments.

Carney said legislative leaders would prefer that a special session start on a Monday. July 19 is a Friday.

“But vacations, mission trips, legislative conferences and other events have blocked us to start sooner. The starting date we propose is the best time to accommodate the various legislators’ schedules.”

It would take five legislative days to get a bill through the House and Senate, said Carney.

If the special session starts July 19, Carney said lawmakers would meet that Friday, the following Saturday and the following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Lawmakers are not allowed to meet on Sundays.

A session would cost taxpayers about $65,000 a day. Lawmakers get paid every calendar day they are in session, even on weekends and holidays. If this session starts July 19 and runs for six calendar days, that would put the tab for it at about $390,000.

Carney said legislative leaders are proceeding with the pension bill that has been discussed in recent weeks. and still believe it only needs a simple majority vote in each chamber. That means 51 votes in the House and 20 in the Senate.

The vote appears closer in the House. Carney said, “We have the votes to pass it in the House.”

Some Democrats have argued that 60 votes — a so-called super majority vote — is needed in the House to pass the bill and have said a lawsuit is likely if the bill does not get that many votes.

Bevin and legislators had wanted the special session to begin before the state’s new fiscal year began July 1.

But scheduling problems prevented that.

Regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies such as county health departments, rape crisis centers and libraries were billed July 1 for higher pension costs for their employees. The bills become delinquent Aug. 10.

Bevin’s plan gives the agencies options: stay with the Kentucky Retirement Systems at full cost; leave the retirement system by paying a lump sum equal to future projected benefits payments; or buy their way out in installment payments over 30 years. It continues a freeze on pension costs for another year.

Concern has been expressed that no legislative action would lead to some bankruptcies, elimination of staff and loss of critical services.

Bevin vetoed a similar bill in this year’s regular session.

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