To say that the Kentucky General Assembly’s passage of Senate Bill 151 late Thursday night was offensive to Kentuckians is an understatement.
The bill will erode our ability to recruit dedicated teachers to our state. The bill saves taxpayers a bit of money, but it’s less than one percent of the unfunded liability of the state’s pension system.
It likely violates state law, but as we have seen repeatedly in recent sessions, constitutionality doesn’t really matter to our state senators and representatives.
But of all the outrageous actions taken by our representatives in Frankfort, perhaps the most atrocious is the process by which, or more accurately, the lack of process, it followed to pass the pension overhaul bill.
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First, Republican legislators were unable to pass the bill during regular session due to its unpopularity among teachers, public employees and the public. These folks used their voices to protest, as we encourage in a democracy, and legislators paid attention, as they should.
But instead of acknowledging the will of the people against this bill, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell, Rep. Bam Carney and their cronies in the House decided that they knew better than the people of Kentucky and replaced a wastewater sewage bill in the State Government Committee with a revised pension plan.
Despite public outrage over social media and vocal protests inside the Capitol (as well as those who were locked out of the building and therefore the political process), SB 151 was rammed through the House and then passed in the Senate at 10:15 p.m.
There is no doubt our patriarchal and hateful governor will sign the bill into law.
Your legislators passed this bill despite the fact that it violates state law requiring any change in pension statutes to have an actuarial analysis. This means we have no idea the impact this bill will have on taxpayers.
For all the Republicans who profess fiscal responsibility, how was voting for a 291-page bill, which they hadn’t even had time to read or had no idea what it would actually cost, be fiscally responsible to their constituents?
What about all the taxpayer money that will be used to challenge these actions in court? The hypocrisy is rampant within the General Assembly.
There is nothing fiscally responsible about passing a bill before anyone has had a chance to read it. The fact that it’s likely illegal is just a bothersome little requirement to be overcome at a later date because what was important to these guys was to pass some sort of pension reform, even if that reform doesn’t save a lot of money. They checked a box.
To those Republicans who argued that they listened to the complaints about the first pension bill, Senate Bill 1, and made changes based on those recommendations, then why ram the bill through with two days left in the session?
Why not reintroduce the bill and let both sides, as well as the public, have a look-see? Do they think we trust them to do our business after we’ve seen the way they conduct their business? No, thank you.
Those who agree with the pension reform contained in SB 151 surely must be outraged by the perfidious nature of the way it was passed. Changing a sewer bill to a pension reform bill that will affect our ability to attract quality teachers to the state for years to come should not be passed at the last minute without public review and comment.
It’s not transparent, not good for the people of the state, and not democracy. Reverse the party in power in Frankfort and imagine it ramming through last-minute legislation. I suspect they’d not appreciate that very much.
All the legislators who voted for this bill and approve of the process by which it was passed should be ashamed of themselves. Kentuckians deserve better. Kentuckians will remember this behavior in November.
Shelley Roberts Bendall of Lexington can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.