Posts Tagged ‘Damon Thayer’

Kentucky Pension Crisis as Metaphor

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Legislators on Kentucky Tonight not only brought their verbal skills to the table Monday night; the discussion was replete with metaphors and analogies too, as both Democrats and Republicans took stabs (oops!) at explaining why the General Assembly hasn’t passed a much- needed public employee pension plan.

With only two days remaining in the session next week, both houses are mired in a debate over details of the plan and how pensions will be funded in the future.

Kentucky is staring a billion dollar unfunded liability in the current plan right in the face with no solution in sight. Negotiations between desperate House and Senate ideas are supposed to take place this week in order to avoid a special session of the legislature which the governor says he might call if a bill is not agreed to by March 26th.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer was the leadoff man last night, followed by Rep. John Tilley, Sen. Morgan McGarvey and Rep. John “Bam” Carney. Thayer began the discussion with a brief re-cap of pension legislation up to this point:

There were other bills discussed last night—hemp, fixes to “pill mill” legislation passed last year, raising the high school graduation age from 16 to 18 and others which you can see and hear by viewing the full program.

Pension Surprises

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

A few last-minute surprises popped up early Monday evening even before “Kentucky Tonight” guests had settled into their seats in Studio A. The guests were there to discuss the state’s public employee pension problems and the reform measures slowly making their way through the General Assembly.

The host was caught off-guard too.

I had asked Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown; State Representative Brent Yonts of Greenville, chair of the House State Government Committee; Bryan Sunderland, vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce; and Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and a member of the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition to come to the “Kentucky Tonight” table to discuss Senate Bill 2, which passed out the Senate. The bill was assigned to Chairman Yonts’ committee in the House.

Late Monday afternoon, Rep. Yonts met with Democrats in the House to explain the changes he intended to introduce which would dramatically alter the pension bill passed by the Senate.
Around 7 PM last night, House Speaker Greg Stumbo explained to several members of the press corps a proposal to fund the pension system using an expansion of Kentucky lottery games to be offered to players.

All of this was happening as our guests were getting their microphones attached and last- minute adjustments were being made before we began our broadcast conversation on KET.
What follows demonstrates that any solution to resolve pension reform in this session of the 2013 legislature may be difficult.

In this clip, Yonts and Thayer disagree over the changes being made to Senate Bill 2:

Later, “Kentucky Tonight” panelists Bailey and Sunderland debated the differences in a hybrid retirement plan and a traditional defined benefit offering which is available to public employees today.

The House is expected to act on pensions this week; the bill will then be reassigned to the state Senate for action.

With only a few days remaining in the session, no one is really sure what might be the final resolution of this serious problem facing the Commonwealth.

Gambling Amendment Introduced

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

The wait is over! A 131-word constitutional amendment to expand gambling in Kentucky was announced this morning by Republican Senator Damon Thayer and Democratic Governor Steve Beshear.

Let the war of words on the expansion of casino-style gambling in the Commonwealth begin.

Here is an excerpt released this morning from the governor’s press office:

“We’ve been debating this issue in Frankfort for more than 15 years. The citizens of our state are clamoring to have their voices heard,” Gov. Beshear said. “Two recent polls show more than 80 percent of Kentuckians want to cast a ballot on gaming. Are we going to listen to them or not?”

The bill would allow Kentucky voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would authorize up to five casinos at racetracks and two at stand-alone locations at least 60 miles from the nearest racetrack. Revenue from the gaming facilities would be spent for job creation, education, human services, health care, veterans’ programs, local governments, public safety, and support of the horse industry.

“The time has come to let the people decide on the issue of expanded gambling,” said Sen. Thayer. “This issue has been lingering in Kentucky for nearly two decades, a majority of Kentuckians wish to vote on it, and the time has come to give them that opportunity.”

Here’s the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Beshear, a Democrat, introduced similar legislation four years ago, also on Feb. 14, that failed to pass. He had been expected to renew the push again during this legislative session but the General Assembly has been tied up in debate over redistricting.

The governor has said that he sees the necessary 23 votes in the Senate to pass a constitutional amendment, but State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, says it “is close.” Thayer heads the Senate State and Local Government Committee that takes up constitutional amendments.

The Louisville Courier-Journal also posted this story today:

The proposed amendment does not specify which racetracks would get casinos, or where the non-track casinos could be located.

Kentucky has eight racetracks and a ninth license available that has never been awarded. In previous proposals, the two Lexington tracks shared a license.

The opposition to expanded gambling is considerable, and the most powerful foe is Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville. Williams has said the amendment will be sent to Thayer’s State & Local Government Committee.

The Family Foundation of Kentucky is among the most outspoken groups against expanded gambling and has already declared Beshear’s proposal as being dead.

One challenge for Beshear is lining up support among legislators who support expanded gambling but might have preferred an amendment that didn’t guarantee any locations for racetracks or preferred an amendment that only allowed casinos at tracks.

Another wrinkle is House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the Prestonsburg Democrat who has supported expanded gambling but would prefer to do it by law without an amendment. Stumbo has said he is open to considering an amendment if it passes the Senate.

For the next few days and weeks, there will be a flurry of activity, news conferences, speeches, and committee meetings addressing the issue. Stay tuned to KET for more.

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