Politics & Government

Senate panel approves bill to let lawmakers opt out of pension perk

FRANKFORT — A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would allow lawmakers to opt out of a provision that lets them boost their legislative pension by taking other plum government jobs.

Senate Bill 4, sponsored by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, would allow lawmakers to make a one-time irrevocable declaration that says their legislative pension will not be calculated on any executive, judicial or other higher-paying government job.

"This is a fundamental matter of trust with the voters. They send us here as public servants and expect us to spend their tax dollars wisely," McDaniel said.

In recent years, several lawmakers have taken advantage of a 2005 law, House Bill 299, that allows their legislative pensions to increase dramatically when they take a higher-paying government job.

McDaniel said he couldn't make his bill mandatory for legislators because it would be challenged by people who already have taken advantage of HB 299.

He also said he anticipates that lawmakers' decisions to opt out of the HB 299 provision would be public record, but his bill doesn't specify that.

The Senate committee also approved another bill sponsored by McDaniel.

Senate Bill 27 would amend the Kentucky Constitution to hold the election of state constitutional officers — governor, lieutenant governor, treasurer, auditor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner — in even-numbered years, every four years, beginning in 2016.

Current constitutional officers would add another year to their term. Under current law, the next election for state constitutional officers is 2015.

McDaniel said it would save taxpayers $3.5 million every four years by consolidating more elections.

All committee members voted for the measure except Senate Minority R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, who didn't vote.

The two McDaniel bills approved by the Senate committee now go to the Republican-led Senate for its consideration. They are expected to have a difficult time in the Democratic-controlled House.