Politics & Government

David Williams skipping Senate session to attend SEC tournament

Senate President David Williams enters the chamber prior to the session taking up the expanded gambling amendment bill on Thursday,  Feb. 23, 2012 in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by David Perry | Staff
Senate President David Williams enters the chamber prior to the session taking up the expanded gambling amendment bill on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by David Perry | Staff HERALD-LEADER

FRANKFORT — The state Senate rearranged its meeting schedule Thursday so that Senate President David Williams could be in New Orleans on Friday to attend the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament.

Williams, who will skip Friday's legislative session, on Thursday defended the hours he works as a state legislator.

Williams, R-Burkesville, said the Senate initially wanted to skip meeting on Friday to "save a day" in the legislative calendar to work on the state budget, but the House chose to meet Friday morning.

Thursday was the 43rd day of the 60-day legislative session, which must end by midnight April 15. The Senate met at 9 a.m. Thursday instead of its normal 2 p.m. meeting time.

Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the SEC basketball schedule had no influence on the legislature's schedule.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Wednesday that he does not attend the SEC tournament because it's always during legislative sessions, and he will be in the House on Friday.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear plans to head south Friday to attend the UK game, spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said.

The General Assembly started this year on Jan. 3. Lawmakers are paid every day, including weekends and holidays, until the session ends in April. Their absences are excused and they still get paid.

Lawmakers receive $188.22 a day during sessions.

Members in leadership posts receive more, topping out at $235.57 a day for the Senate president and House speaker. Committee chairmen receive $18.71 for each meeting they hold.

Lawmakers also receive daily expenses of $135.30 during sessions.

Williams said he often works on legislative issues late at night and on weekends. He said he planned to take some budget documents with him to New Orleans and will work an extra day at some point to make up for any lost time on Friday.

He said Monday's session of the Senate will start at 4 p.m., but that he will be at work at 9 a.m.

Concerning complaints by some state workers that they do not get paid when they are absent, Williams said they do not understand the hours lawmakers put into their jobs and that they should be more concerned about the future of their pensions.

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