Pension Bills in 'Legislative Purgatory' as Both Chambers Argue Over Procedure
FRANKFORT — Arguments over how to reform and pay for Kentucky's underfunded pension systems have devolved into legislative chaos. Both the Kentucky House and the Senate are refusing bills addressing pensions, citing legal or procedural reasons. And leading legislators are blaming each other.
The 2013 session has eight working days remaining, but doesn't officially close until March 26 to allow time for vetoes and overrides.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the Senate's actions are killing the issue.
"It resulted in gridlock and pension reform's not likely to get solved this session," said Stumbo, a Democrat. "If the Senate wants to put on their big boy pants and solve it, we're ready to do that. But their actions so far have not been reflective that's what they want to do."
But multiple GOP senators rejected Stumbo's stance. They say the House is ignoring the Kentucky Constitution, changing the General Assembly's rules and ignoring the recommendations of a bipartisan task force on the issue.
The Senate is rejecting a bill that takes lottery and Instant Racing revenues to help pay for pensions. The bill's senate opponents argue that 60 votes are needed in a short session—like this one—for the House to approve revenue legislation.
Fifty-two House members voted yes.
Now, the House is refusing Senate Bill 2 after senators rejected house amendments keeping defined benefits plans and cost-of-living adjustments if they're pre-paid.
House opponents of the legislation claim that the Senate did not have possession of the bill when they rejected the amendments and are out of order.
That leaves both bills addressing the underfunded pension system—Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 416—in legislative limbo. Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters they must be in "legislative purgatory" and it's up to public opinion to "pray them in or pray them out."
Stivers said the House is changing their positions at the last minute by amending Senate Bill 2, which were recommendations from a bipartisan task force on pensions.
"So why do they want to change the rules of the game, the practice and the procedures right now," said Stivers, a Republican. " It is what all parties agreed to, their representatives, their designees."
Multiple senators are encouraging a conference committee on Senate Bill 2 to help reform the system, but Stumbo said his chamber isn't inclined to do so since they believe the Senate is out of order.