SENATE PRESIDENT STIVERS ON SENATE BILL 12, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE ACCREDITATION

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Contact: John Cox 859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

The following was written by Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers in response to a recent article published in the Louisville Cardinal weekly independent school newspaper:

As a proud Louisville graduate with a long family tradition of matriculating at the university, I understand just how vital U of L is to the development of the city of Louisville and to our Commonwealth as a whole. My support of recently enacted legislation reorganizing the Board of Trustees springs from my desire to do what is best for my university and its students, alumni, faculty and staff.

It was beyond dispute that the U of L Board was illegally constituted. The Board, as appointed by former Governor Beshear, did not meet statutory requirements for racial representation. The Louisville-based Justice Resource Council even sued Beshear to force the appointment of more racial minorities to the Board.  A lawsuit Beshear attempted to have dismissed. Kentucky law also required that at least seven of the 17 board members should be registered Republicans, reflective of Kentucky’s voter registration statistics. There were no Republicans on the Board as appointed by Beshear.  I doubt even Attorney General Andy Beshear would dispute his father’s appointments created a Board out of compliance with the applicable laws.

We have been without a President since July of last year and the Interim President is leaving us in February. In June of 2016 Governor Bevin attempted to eliminate the well-known dysfunction of the Beshear-appointed Board by appointing a new board through an executive order.  This action was opposed by Attorney General Beshear in court and U of L is now mired in a series of court orders – one of which prevents the University from beginning the search for a new president until the board issue is finally settled.

So to be clear, time was of the essence to enact legislation to resolve the university’s continued leadership crisis.

SB 12 did not codify or ratify Governor Bevin’s executive order, nor did it address the legal issues pending before the Kentucky Supreme Court. It does reduce the number of Board members from 17 to 10 and allows the State Senate to utilize its Constitutional power to confirm gubernatorial appointments to public university boards in the future. If this oversight had been in place, the Senate would never have confirmed the Beshear appointments taking the U of L Board out compliance with state law. It should be noted that no individual previously appointed to the Board is prevented from being considered to serve on the new Board soon to be appointed.

Based on the timing of new appointments to the U of L Board, the Senate should be confirming these appointments when the Senate convenes again in the first week of February.

Most significantly, Senate Bill 12 does not place the university’s accreditation at risk. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has never revoked a university’s accreditation because a state legislature abolished and recreated a university board.   SACS took no adverse action when in 1992 the Kentucky General Assembly, under Democrat leadership, abolished and recreated every public university board in Kentucky (including U of L) and provided the then Democrat governor with the power to appoint all new members.  Democrats who voted in 1992 to disband ALL university boards are among the loudest critics of SB 12.

SACS did not revoke the accreditation of a university on probation in 2000 when the Florida Legislature took a similar action nor did they in 2015 when the South Carolina Legislature reorganized a university board. Dr. Robert King, president of Kentucky’s Council for Postsecondary Education, has written to the General Assembly that he does not see any provision of Senate Bill 12 as a violation of the SACS requirements and standards.

U of L has given much to Kentucky and to my family, and I would never propose the General Assembly take any action injuring the University or its community. SB 12 is similar to board reorganizations in 1992 in Kentucky, and to actions in other states. Ultimately, the General Assembly and the Governor took the necessary actions to preserve the interests of a state institution dedicated to educating our people, conducting world-class research, and bettering the Commonwealth.

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Robert Stivers, of Manchester, Kentucky, is the President of Kentucky’s State Senate. For a high-resolution .jpeg of President Stivers, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/Senate38.htm

 

MEDIA NOTICE OF PRESS AVAILABILITY

SEAL

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Senate Majority Leadership Office

MEDIA NOTICE OF PRESS AVAILABILITY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 28, 2016
Contact: John Cox
Phone: 859-492-2963

WHAT:

Kentucky Senate Majority Caucus’ annual retreat

WHERE:

Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center 100 Kentucky Avenue, Paducah, KY, 42003

WHEN:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. CST

SUBJECT:

Members of the Kentucky State Senate Majority Caucus Leadership team for the upcoming 2017 Session  (President Robert Stivers, Majority Caucus Leader Dan Seum, Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, President Pro Tem David P. Givens, and Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon), along with Senator Danny Carroll, will be available to answer questions pertaining to the 2017 Legislative Session. The annual retreat will be held in Paducah in Sen. Danny Carroll’s district.

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SENATOR ROBERT STIVERS’ ON THE PASSING OF GEORGIA POWERS:

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Senate President Robert Stivers

For Immediate Release
January 30, 2016
Contact: John Cox
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

SENATOR ROBERT STIVERS ON THE PASSING OF GEORGIA POWERS, FIRST WOMAN AND FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN ELECTED TO THE KENTUCKY STATE SENATE:

“I was saddened to learn of Georgia Powers’ passing this morning,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester. “I was fortunate to have known her personally. She was a strong and energetic woman; truly a trailblazer for the civil rights movement in Kentucky.”

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Note:  Senate President Robert Stivers represents the 25th District, which encompasses Clay, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Whitley, Wolfe counties.  He serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules Committee and the co-chair of the Legislative Research Commission.  Additionally, President Stivers is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  For a high-resolution .jpeg of President Stivers, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/Senate25.htm

SENATORS BOWEN, HIGDON CALL FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY OF KRS AT PUBLIC PENSION OVERSIGHT BOARD MEETING

SEAL

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Senate Majority Office

For Immediate Release
Contact: John Cox
502-564-3120 Ext. 202

SENATORS BOWEN, HIGDON CALL FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY OF KRS AT PUBLIC PENSION OVERSIGHT BOARD MEETING

FRANKFORT, KY. (October 26, 2015) – At Monday’s Public Pension Oversight Board (PPOB) meeting in Frankfort, Chairman-Senator Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) and Senate Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon (R-Lebanon) reacted to action by the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) Board of Trustees to increase Executive Director Bill Thielen’s salary by more than 25 percent.

“I am very troubled that the KRS Board of Trustees, in the midst of rising shortfalls and stagnant raises for state employees, chose to raise Mr. Thielen’s salary by 25 percent to $215,000 a year,” Senator Bowen said.  What’s more disturbing is that a member of the KRS Board of Trustees went on to say that he is not concerned about criticism from the legislature because he ‘doesn’t work for the legislature.’”

“This may be true, but all of us do work for the people of the Commonwealth, and I don’t think it sits well with taxpayers when government leaders, who are ostensibly ‘public servants,’ are granted huge raises while the people that pay the large salaries struggle to make ends meet,” Bowen added. “And it goes without saying that large raises will result in larger pensions upon retirement.”

Bowen went on to cite concerns expressed earlier this year that KRS and the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) were paying hefty hourly rates to law firms, far in excess of the normal $125 per hour maximum, without any responsibility to have these contracts reviewed by the Government Contract Review Committee.

Senator Higdon said at the hearing that the large pay raise for Mr. Thielen was a “line in the sand” event for him, and announced his intention to introduce legislation to make non-elected members of the KRS Board of Trustees subject to Senate confirmation, and to investigate the possibility of legislation making KRS executive director raises above the annual CPI subject to Senate approval, as well.

“Now we have another instance in which KRS is awarding a large salary increase to an employee, and the contract itself is not subject to review by the General Assembly, unlike almost every other state government agency personal services contract,” Senator Bowen said. “Both KRS and KTRS are currently exempt from the Model Procurement Code, which establishes conflict of interest and anti-kickback rules, grants vendors the right to file protest with the Finance Cabinet over the awarding of a contract, and makes personal service contracts subject to Government Contract Review Committee.”

The Public Pension Oversight Board was created by the General Assembly in 2013 to bring more transparency to the operation of KRS.  In 2015, the PPOB’s authority was extended to include oversight of the Legislators’ Retirement Plan, the Judicial Retirement Plan, and KTRS.

“This trend toward greater transparency should continue,” Bowen said. “KRS and KTRS should not operate as islands to themselves, and I urge fellow PPOB members to adopt consensus legislation to remove these agencies’ exemption from the model procurement code so that their personal services contracts, such as this one with the executive director will be subject to further review by the General Assembly.”

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CSX CLOSES CORBIN MECHANICAL SHOPS, 180 JOBS LOST

SEALCommonwealth of Kentucky
Senate President’s Office

For Immediate Release
Contact: John Cox
John.Cox@LRC.ky.gov

502-564-3120 Ext. 202

CSX CLOSES CORBIN MECHANICAL SHOPS, 180 JOBS LOST
National transportation supplier says decision is a result of “significant decline of the region’s coal traffic”

CORBIN, KY. – CSX, a national company providing rail-based transportation services, announced Tuesday the closure of its mechanical shops in Corbin, Kentucky. The closure will result in approximately 180 Kentucky jobs lost.

“The shops at Corbin were primarily used to maintain, inspect and service locomotives and rail cars for coal trains moving from Central Appalachia to the Eastern consumption regions,” according to the CSX press release. “The decision to close the locomotive and car shops and a locomotive service center is the result of reduced need for locomotive and car maintenance there because of the significant decline of the region’s coal traffic.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, whose district encompasses the CSX mechanical shops in Corbin, expressed his ongoing concern for hardworking citizens as a result of EPA regulations under the Obama Administration.

“The bleeding continues in Kentucky today as yet another 180 high-paying jobs have been lost due to the overreach of the EPA under the Obama Administration,” President Stivers said. “We have already seen some 7,000 direct coal jobs lost, and this is a perfect illustration of the ripple effect from the ‘War on Coal’ in Kentucky.”

President Stivers went on to caution Kentuckians on how yet another statewide industry is in jeopardy, again crediting policies from the Obama Administration.

“As if the destruction of our state’s coal industry and now railroad industry weren’t enough, we are also seeing Kentucky’s healthcare industry suffer with the recent collapse of the Kentucky Health Cooperative,” Stivers said. “No one is better off thanks to the Obama policies in this state that we have fought so hard against.”

Earlier this month, Kentucky Health Cooperative, Inc. announced it would not offer health insurance plans on Kentucky’s health insurance Marketplace, or Exchange, when Open Enrollment for 2016 coverage starts on November 1. The estimated 51,000 members enrolled in the cooperative will be forced to find new plans for 2016.

“The failure of the ‘Co-op’ is another indication of the problems with the Affordable Care Act implemented by President Obama,” Stivers said. “Because of the decision to expand Medicaid in Kentucky, bills will be due beginning in 2016. An estimated $250 million in General Fund appropriations will be required in order to continue Medicaid expansion over the next two years.”

“This will directly affect our state’s budget and have an impact on decisions made with regard to our struggling retirement systems,” Stivers added. “While we had no voice as legislators in creating this problem, it is yet another example of how our General Assembly will be charged with providing solutions to unwanted policies.”

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Note: Senate President Robert Stivers represents the 25th District, which encompasses Clay, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Whitley, and Wolfe counties. He serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules Committee and the co-chair of the Legislative Research Commission. Additionally, President Stivers is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For a high-resolution .jpeg of President Stivers, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/Senate25.htm.

SENATE REPUBLICANS SUPPORT FIXING TEACHER RETIRMENT

SEALCommonwealth of Kentucky
Senate Majority Office

For Immediate Release
April 10, 2015
Contact: John Cox
502-564-3120
 ext. 202

SENATE REPUBLICANS SUPPORT FIXING TEACHER RETIRMENT

Earlier this month, House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover (R- Jamestown) sent Governor Beshear a letter urging the appointment of bipartisan task force to develop a fiscally sound plan to fix the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS). The Republican members of the State Senate are pleased Representative Hoover has joined with us and the growing number of voices calling for a transparent process to the save the KTRS.  We encourage Governor Beshear to use the bully pulpit of his office in his remaining months as Governor and become a driving force for reform by establishing a task force much like the bipartisan group which developed the plan to reform the Kentucky Employees Retirement System.

It is important to remember that the Senate Republican caucus was the first to issue a clarion call for pension reform, so, we recognize the danger the unfunded liability that the KTRS poses both to individual teachers and to the fiscal health of the Commonwealth.  That is why the Senate did not agree to issue $3.3 billion in bonds during the last legislative session.  As you will see, that plan was unworkable and was interpreted by many as nothing more than a cynical move by Democrats in the House of Representatives to gain a political advantage by harming Republicans.

But first let us be perfectly clear on several key points:

  1. No retired teacher is in danger of failing to receiving their monthly check.  The KTRS can continue to meet their obligations for the next 20 years,
  2. We know teachers do not receive Social Security,
  3. We understand the KTRS has an unfunded liability and has been selling assets,
  4. We understand the KTRS needs an influx of money to help close the unfunded liability,
  5. We understand structural changes need to be made to the KTRS to ensure a stable retirement for active teachers and future teachers;
  6. We are prepared to do the work and make the hard decisions to make sure retired teachers continue to receive their checks on time.

During joint discussions between the House and Senate on House Bill 4, we all agreed to seek guidance from a bonding expert in Governor Beshear’s office. He explained to us that it would be impossible for the state to sell $3.3 billion in bonds in the one year called for by House Bill 4.  In fact it would be very difficult to sell even $1 billion of bonds in one year.  He went on to outline how selling even $1 billion of bonds would lower the Commonwealth’s credit rating and increase the cost of operating state government.  At that moment it became perfectly clear the plan in HB 4 simply could not work. So, the Senate decided to develop a new proposal to move the process forward.

Just before the House Democrats walked away from the House Bill 4 negotiating table, the Senate team was prepared to offer a plan which would have immediately infused $50 million into the KTRS and create a task force of legislators to develop a fiscally sound plan to fix the KTRS.  This $50 million would have been a responsible, good-faith proposal to demonstrate the General Assembly’s commitment to enacting a workable solution.  Unfortunately, this proposal was never given a public hearing or a vote because the House Democrats chose to shut down the discussions on House Bill 4.

Despite attempts to turn teachers’ retirements into a political issue, we remain focused on doing the right thing.  While we are hopeful Governor Beshear does appoint a task force, Senate Republicans will continue to work toward indentifying a fiscally sound plan to save the teacher retirement system.

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SENATE PRESIDENT ROBERT STIVERS ON HOUSE BILL 4/KTRS

SEAL

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Office of Senate President Robert Stivers

For Immediate Release
March 25, 2015
Contact: John Cox
502-564-3120 Ext. 202

SENATE PRESIDENT ROBERT STIVERS ON HB4/KTRS:

“It is beyond disappointing that House Democrats rejected our offer of an immediate good-faith cash infusion into the teachers’ retirement fund, combined with a framework to find the long term reforms necessary to stabilize the system. There is no crisis that requires $3.3 billion in new debt; the fund can make payments for the next 21 years.”

“No teacher is going to miss a pension payment in the near future. What we offered was a good faith responsible plan, and we are disappointed it was rejected. Passing House Bill 4 added billions in new debt, risked a credit rating downgrade for the state, and simply kicked the can down the road for a few more years. That’s not good governance; that’s just irresponsible.”

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Note: Senator Stivers represents the 25th District, which encompasses Clay, Knox, Lee, Owsley, Whitley, Wolfe counties. He serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Committees and Rules Committee and the co-chair of the Legislative Research Commission. Additionally, Senator Stivers is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senate President Stivers, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/senate25.htm