Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky state legislature’

‘Show Me the Money’

Friday, February 8th, 2013

When it comes to public pension reform some shout: ‘Show me the Money’

The second in command of the Kentucky State Senate says his pension reform measure has two goals: save the pension benefits for the more than 325-thousand current workers and retirees, and protect taxpayers from a fiscal calamity.

That’s how Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer framed his intentions on Senate Bill 2 before the full state Senate Thursday afternoon. The Georgetown Republican said cities and counties are also suffering the burden of burgeoning pension costs, like the state, and declared that action is needed to keep Kentucky communities from going broke like the nearly 100 across the country because of pension obligations.

Kentucky faces a $33 billion unfunded liability in the state pension system, and the bill does not include a way to pay off the hefty amount. Thayer says the bipartisan approach to the pension problem defies partisan politics and boils down to arithmetic.

Senate Bill 2 would not affect the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System, nor does it change the benefits for current workers and retirees. Senate Minority Floor leader RJ Palmer of Winchester said lawmakers are asking future hires to embrace a new retirement structure that awards a less-rich benefits plan. He said the new system calls for important concessions by front-line social workers, first responders and even school cooks and bus drivers, who are not covered by KTRS. He says a plan is desperately needed to fully fund the pension system in order to hasten the state’s return to financial stability, which is not a part of Senate Bill 2. Yet, he did say the bill is a good first step.

Madisonville Democrat Jerry Rhoads says the plan could make it more difficult to recruit qualified folks to the state workforce and laments that the hard part of pension reform is yet to come.

When Republican Senator Tom Buford of Nicholasville announced his verdict, his reason for casting a ‘no’ vote harkened to a quip from a Hollywood flick favorite “Jerry McGuire” with ‘show me the money.’

Carter County Democrat Robin Webb agreed with Republican Tom Buford’s objections. She believes that action now to repeal the cost of living adjustments will never be reinstated and cast a ‘no’ vote.

Senator Webb’s ‘no’ vote was among the five dissensions. Senate Bill 2 advanced from the Senate on a vote of 33 to 5 and now heads to the House. You can see more of the debate online at ket.org/legislature and watch my nightly “Legislative Update” report broadcast at 11pm ET on KET.

Annual Kentucky Chamber Event is “Fancy Farm Gone MILD”

Friday, January 11th, 2013

At Thursday night’s 18th Annual Kentucky Chamber Day with 1500+ politicians, lobbyists, and business leaders looking on, affirmations of bipartisanship abounded from the podium speakers that included the governor and top ranking legislators from both chambers. KET’s Bill Goodman emceed the event held in Lexington. While business attire at the Kentucky Chamber dinner is expected, spectators are eager for the Capitol’s top brass to infuse a less buttoned-up approach in their addresses.

Think of it as “Fancy Farm Gone Mild,” with light-hearted partisan punch lines and polite audience laughter instead of the fist-pounding, call and response rhetoric to which the yearly western Kentucky political event claims ownership.

Some of the speakers come with prepared text that’s more policy than joviality. House Speaker Greg Stumbo started with the latter, but cranked up the decibels on his main takeaway: “It’s time to quit kidding ourselves in Kentucky with 1 in 4 kids in poverty…we need to stop talking and be courageous to do something for Kentucky, he said in signature animated fashion. “Let’s stop talking about bi-partisanship and do it,” he added.

Bipartisanship was the theme of the night, as were calls to act on public pension and tax reform, legislative redistricting; even industrial hemp got a mention. With about 2/3 of the state legislature in attendance and a handful of former governors sitting among the packed crowd, newly-elected Senate President Robert Stivers kept to the script on policy points after jokingly expressing gratitude to Governor Steve Beshear for the judicial appointment of former state Senate chief David Williams that made way for Stivers’ ascension to the top slot. Perhaps the most salient remark from the 17-year legislative veteran was that “systemic changes in Kentucky will be made through education.”

That remark is particularly poignant on the same day he stood among a phalanx of lawmakers and university presidents to announce bipartisan support for a plan to let public universities issue their own bonds for projects ranging from classrooms, to housing, and athletic complexes. House Republican leader Jeff Hoover pointed to that shared goal as one demonstration of the new day in Frankfort.

Senate Democratic leader R.J. Palmer spoke of how tax reform has been “studied to death and now it’s time to act,” and stressed the need to tackle legislative redistricting this year.

“This is the first legislative session in five years that I’m looking forward to,” said a grinning Governor Steve Beshear at the dinner. He bragged about recent rankings showing Kentucky’s progress in education and government metrics giving the state a second place ribbon for job growth. Beshear also tempered pleas for public pension reform now without creating “a massive influx of revenue” to mitigate the system’s multi-billion dollar unfunded liability. He added that it can’t be accomplished by slicing and dicing government programs. What he didn’t mention was the prospect of expanded gaming as a coffer-plumping measure.

Many folks are cautiously optimistic about a new day in Frankfort. By session end, there will be a clear record of vows made and kept. When the seasons change from winter haze to spring’s splendor, we’ll know if (in the words of Senator Stivers) “gotcha politics are a thing of past.”

“Legislative Update” has the wrap-up of the first week tonight at 11pm ET on KET. And, we will present a one-hour highlights program of the Kentucky Chamber dinner on Monday night at 9pm ET following “Kentucky Tonight.”

Louisville Native Helps Organize and Rock the Vote

Friday, December 28th, 2012

Women Rock. And, they’re rocking the vote from the ground game strategy to the ballot box.

The 2012 election produced historic, ceiling-breaking victories for women serving in the nation’s capital. According to Rutger’s Center for American Women and Politics, a record-breaking 20 women will serve in the U.S. Senate (16 Democrats and 4 Republicans) and 78 in the U.S. House (58 democrats and 20 Republicans).

In 2013,  some 1,770 women will occupy seats in state legislatures across the country. And while those numbers may sound impressive, some states, including Kentucky, suffer a steep gender gap in electoral politics.

In Kentucky, we all know not a single woman is among our federal delegation. When it comes to the state legislature, 7 women (including the recent special election victory of former state Representative Sara Beth Gregory) in the 38-member state Senate and 20 women in the 100-member state House will descend on Frankfort in about 10 days to do the people’s business. The Center for American Women and Politics ranks Kentucky 38th among state legislatures for the proportion of women to men.

There’s a growing list of organizations and individuals determined to have more women take the oath of office in Kentucky, and more women are also working behind the scenes of political campaigns. The latter applies to Keidra King, a Louisville native who was inspired to wade into Democratic political strategy after working as a community organizer in Cincinnati in 2001 while a student at Northern Kentucky University.

Since that time, King has worked on Capitol Hill in the office of Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Louisville; she was a field director for the Obama for America campaign in 2008; and was the state director in Kentucky for President Obama’s second-term campaign. Moreover, she can add election victories in Ohio and South Carolina to her street creds.

Keidra now works for Louisville Metro City Council and was recently named Kentucky state coordinator for the Presidential Inaugural committee.

This weekend on Connections, I talk with Keidra about working the ground game and GOTV efforts, the unpopularity of President Obama in Kentucky and how women and minorities are faring in electoral politics and policy decisions.

Tune in today at 5pm on KET 2 and Sunday at 1:30pm on KET to watch our entire conversation.


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