VIDEO: Thayer talks tax, pension reform; recaps 2017 Regular Session

ICYMI: Check out Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer‘s recent interviews with Nick Storm of Spectrum News:

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SENATOR JOE BOWEN COMMENTS ON REP. JAMES KAY’S TRANSPARENCY BILL

For Immediate Release
Contact: John Cox
859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

FRANKFORT, Ky. (September 15, 2016) The following is a statement from Senator Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro), regarding pre-filed legislation announced yesterday from Representative James Kay (D-Versailles):

“In the 2016 General Assembly session, the Senate Majority strived to shore up the state pensions for teachers and state workers by both committing hundreds of millions of additional funds in the budgetary process, and by making the pension systems more transparent and accountable.  The full House of Representatives failed to vote on Senate Bill (SB) 2, the Senate pension transparency bill, as both standalone legislation and as part of a ‘super transparency’ bill.

On March 17th of the 2016 General Assembly session, the House State Government committee reported SB 2 favorably out of committee, with 20 ‘yea’ votes, 1 ‘nay’ vote, and 3 ‘pass’ votes.  Representative James Kay, a member of the committee, offered a “pass” vote.

Today, Representative Kay has essentially cut, pasted, and pre-filed a large portion of the contents of Senate Bill 2 from last session.  This is the same SB 2 that could not get enough support from him or House Leadership to be considered on the House floor, despite being reported favorably by the House State Government Committee.

Perhaps ‘better late than never.’  But does Rep. Kay and the House Leadership want to make substantive pension changes, or do they just want an election year issue?  There was no absence of opportunity to address these issues in the 2016 General Assembly session, but I assume these issues were not considered important to them at the time.  I am glad they now believe pension transparency and accountability are important issues.”

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U.S. SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER TO GIVE PRESENTATION AT SEPT. 12 IJC ON EDUCATION MEETING

SEAL

Commonwealth of Kentucky
Senate Majority Republican Leadership

For Immediate Release
Contact: John Cox
859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

FRANKFORT, Ky. (September 7, 2016) – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), chairman of the U.S. Senate’s education committee and primary author of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), will join the Interim Joint Committee on Education in Frankfort on Monday, September 12, to discuss the new education law and outline the opportunities and implications for Kentucky’s General Assembly to realign education policy in the state. The meeting is slated to begin at 10 a.m. EDT and Sen. Alexander is expected to give his presentation at approximately 11 a.m. local time.

“Senator Alexander has been a leader on education reform as Governor of Tennessee, as U.S. Education Secretary, and as a United States Senator,” said Senator Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green), who will chair the September 12 Education meeting. “Through Senator Alexander’s intellect and persuasive nature, he attracted support from the National Education Association in his efforts to reduce Federal overreach in our schools. We share a similar view that individual states should be the ones determining the best academic standards, state assessments, and accountability as well as teaching methods for their students.”

Alexander’s testimony will cover the provisions of a new federal law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces the controversial No Child Left Behind Act.

“We are excited to welcome this high-profile guest to Frankfort to lead a discussion that is long overdue,” Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) said. “I admire Senator Alexander for his commitment to strengthening education across the United States, and I appreciate him for taking the time to address this committee.”

In 2016, the nation’s governors created the James Madison Award to recognize members of Congress who support federalism and the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing states’ rights. The governors named Sen. Lamar Alexander as the first-ever recipient of the award for his work to fix No Child Left Behind. The new education law Alexander worked to pass was signed by the president in December 2015. The Wall Street Journal called it “the largest devolution of federal power to the states in a quarter century.”

In 2013, the National Conference of State Legislatures gave Sen. Alexander and three other senators its “Restoring the Balance” Award for protecting states’ rights, the first time in 10 years the organization gave this award to U.S. senators.

Alexander, a seventh-generation Tennessean born and raised in Maryville, was twice elected governor of Tennessee. He has always believed that in most cases the best decisions are made by those closest to the people.

Today, Alexander chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, where he is working on legislation to bring safe drugs and medical devices to doctors’ offices and patients’ medicine cabinets more quickly.

Alexander is also chairman of the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, where he works to boost funding for basic energy research and invest in our inland waterways and harbors.

Alexander was first elected to the Senate in 2002 and has been reelected twice. His Republican colleagues elected him three times to be chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

He has previously served as president of the University of Tennessee and as U.S. Secretary of Education under George H.W. Bush.

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SENATE PRESIDENT ROBERT STIVERS RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SCHOOL BATHROOM PROPOSAL

FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 13, 2016) – The following is a statement from Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers on the recent school bathroom proposal from President Barack Obama:

With complete disregard for the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, President Barack Obama on Friday directed every school in the nation to provide access to transgender bathrooms, threatening to take federal funding away from any school that does not comply.”

“This is yet another example of indefensible overreach by President Obama, illustrating just how out of touch his administration has been with the values of Kentucky families. I firmly believe that this should be a local issue and I am prepared to fight for the safety of our students in Kentucky.”

“I would also like to encourage our Democratic colleagues in the Senate and the House to join us in this important fight against federal overreach.”

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OP-ED: Sen. Joe Bowen on Pension Transparency

COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY
SENATOR JOE BOWEN

For Immediate Release
May 2, 2016
Contact: John Cox
502-564-3120
JOHN.COX@LRC.KY.GOV

The following is an op-ed submitted by Kentucky State Sen. Joe Bowen of Owensboro:

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

– Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941)

These words were powerful in the early 20th Century when written by the former Justice of the Supreme Court and are arguably even more meaningful today.

As the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 2 (SB 2) during the 2016 Session, I sought to focus needed “sunlight” into the activities of the Commonwealth’s taxpayer funded state employee pension systems. Unfortunately politics got in the way and my efforts were fruitless. Key decision makers in the House of Representatives succumbed to the relentless opposition from the retirement system’s lobbyists and decided that transparency is not important.

The nearly $40 billion in liabilities of the retirement systems are a ticking time bomb threatening our entire state. Our retirement systems are ranked among the worst funded in the nation. Taxpayers deserve to know how the pension systems operate and legislators should to have the ability to set policy, not simply react to crisis after crisis. It is past time for change. SB 2 would have provided an opportunity for everyone interested in finding a solution to have the information they need to find those solutions.

Even my good faith attempts at compromise produced no results. The consequences of this inaction mean that you, the taxpayer, and state retirees (who are dependent on the systems for their checks) continue to be in the dark regarding how the systems make decisions. Decisions that involve investing billions of dollars.

Senate Bill 2’s key provision was requiring adherence to the state’s “Model Procurement Code” by the retirement systems. Meaning for the first time an open and competitive bidding when hiring investment managers. While establishing this process would have been victory enough, the bill also called for the reporting of management fees, transparency in investment performances, and Senate Confirmation of the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ Executive Director. Senate Bill 2 would have required more financial expertise of appointed board members and provided additional oversight from a watchdog group known as the Government Contract Review Committee.

The House’s failure to enact Senate Bill 2 does not mean the General Assembly took no action to solve Kentucky’s public pension crisis.  The Commonwealth will be making an unprecedented contribution of $1.28 billion above the recommended and required contributions to the pension systems.  A move I have been advocating for some time.  But this additional funding does not remove the need for more transparency.

“The most important political office is that of the private citizen.”

– Justice Brandeis

 

All is not lost. I have lived to fight another day and the retirement systems should remember that the 2017 Session of the General Assembly will be here before they know it.

 

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Note:  Senator Joe Bowen (R-Owensboro) represents the 8th District including Daviess, Hancock, and McLean counties.  He is chairman of the State and Local Government Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee, the Licensing and Occupations Committee, and co-chair of the Public Pension Oversight Board.  For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Bowen, please visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/pubinfo/portraits/senate08.jpg.

KENTUCKY SENATE PASSES STRUCTURALLY BALANCED BUDGET TO FUND PENSIONS, STRENGTHEN FINANCIAL FOUNDATION

For Immediate Release
Contact: John Cox
859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 23, 2016) – Addressing Kentucky’s underfunded pension systems was the top priority in the Senate’s version of House Bill (HB) 303, the state’s two-year budget, which passed the Kentucky Senate Wednesday with 27 votes.

“The major difference between the House budget and the Senate budget is that the Senate’s budget is structurally balanced, meaning we do not use one-time monies to pay for recurring expenses,” Senate President Robert Stivers said. “We dedicated more funding to KTRS than was proposed by Governor Bevin, but we also dedicated more funding in addition to the ARC payments for KRS nonhazardous than proposed by Governor Bevin and the House combined.”

While Senate Budget Chairman Chris McDaniel noted that Kentucky’s state’s pension obligation to teachers is of major importance, it also is funded at about 50 percent, or approximately three times more than that of our employee pension systems (17 percent). The Senate also sets aside $250 million for a permanent fund similar to Governor Bevin’s proposal. Of that permanent fund, $3 million would be used to commission an external performance audit of the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, while holding the remaining $247 million to address the pensions upon completion of the audit.

“100 percent of the $250 million in the permanent fund will be used to fund our ailing pensions. The reason for waiting to spend this money is because we feel that an audit is necessary to adequately assess the issues that ail our systems,” McDaniel said. “We owe it to the taxpayers of this Commonwealth to bring in an outside party so that we can get an honest audit of this system and identify what systematic changes must be made to ensure this system is viable in perpetuity.”

The Senate budget also provides $372.5 million for the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, which is the highest amount in the Commonwealth’s history.

Additional highlights of the Senate’s budget (HB 303):

  • Included in the Kentucky Retirement Systems’ numbers is $15 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 and $10 million in FY 2018 for Kentucky State Police Hazardous Retirement.
  • The Senate, like Governor Bevin, did not budget to 100 percent of the revenue estimate. The Senate provides for additional contingent contributions of $67.9 million to KTRS over the 2016-2018 biennium.
  • The Senate moved all coal severance funding to the top which includes funding for Operation Unite, Save the Children, Trover Clinic, the Family Residency Program at Owensboro, and other routine items funded with coal severance. The remaining dollars are directed to the LGEAF fund which goes directly back to the county judges and fiscal court.
  • There are no single county line-item coal severance projects in the Senate budget.
  • The Senate does not change the statutory allocation between General Fund and the coal severance fund. The split remains 50-50.
  • The Senate budget mirrors the Governor’s proposal and stays true to the HB 611 from the 2000 Regular Session’s statutory allocations.
  • Constitutional Officers – The Senate agrees with Governor Bevin’s budget stabilization reductions and in certain places increases restricted fund appropriations.
  • Pharmaceutical Settlement Funds – The Senate directs $7 million to Kentucky State Police for crime lab equipment and DNA testing, provides $2.5 million to community mental health centers for mental health services, and $8 million for KTRS unfunded health liability.
  • Debt – The Governor, House and Senate had a debt ratio of approximately 5.8 percent, however, the House budget gave complete bonding authority to the state universities for agency bonded projects without the authority of the General Assembly. That provision has the potential to significantly increase the Commonwealth’s debt ratio without input for the General Assembly. The Senate removed this provision but did include authorization for the restricted fund cash projects for the public universities and KCTCS.
  • Higher Education – The Senate agrees with Governor Bevin’s budget stabilization reductions and provides equity in funding beginning in FY 2018 for Northern Kentucky University and Western Kentucky University. In addition, the Senate provided an additional $3.3 million each for the land grant match for Kentucky State University.
  • Justice Cabinet – In the midst of a heroin epidemic, the House reduced funding for heroin treatment by $12 million. The Senate restores that funding.
  • The Senate, like Governor Bevin, has a structurally balanced budget.

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SENATOR MIKE WILSON: THE TIME IS NOW TO PASS SENATE BILL 1

For Immediate Release
February 24, 2016
Contact: John Cox
859-492-2963
John.Cox@LRC.KY.GOV

SENATOR MIKE WILSON:  THE TIME IS NOW TO PASS SENATE BILL 1

Based on consistent messages from Kentucky public school educators, this is not a time to halt or apply the brakes on adopting Senate Bill (SB) 1, but a time to step on the accelerator.  Since 2009, political posturing, artificial accountability, and bureaucratic burdens have “halted” practitioners long enough.

First, SB 1 attempts to reduce political influences that have stifled educators’ voices for determining state academic standards and tests.  Pursuit of federal “Race to the Top” money influenced our state to adopt standards without preliminary practitioner input and to hastily choose tests that inadequately aligned with those standards.

Most teachers have had to pull double duty teaching extra lessons for the state test in addition to their regular curriculum.  Just ask any Kentucky educator.  The good news is that SB 1 will not only allow the public and Kentucky teachers to recommend standards but also trust them to simultaneously ensure alignment of state tests with those standards.

In addition, to reinforce transparency, a committee composed of Governor appointees, representatives, and senators will join the Commissioner of Education to prevent the political end-run influence of vendors or executive orders from nullifying public and educator recommendations.  This committee will NOT change the recommendations made by the review groups, but will ensure all voices have been heard before forwarding them to the Kentucky Board of Education.

Second, in response to educators’ outcries from across the state, our bill’s accountability guidelines will allow practitioners to refocus on student growth, staff productivity, and credentialed graduates sought by industry, rather than on compliant activity and a chasing after points.  Despite state assistance and sanctions, accountability measures have not effectively impacted student achievement growth, especially for our economically disadvantaged students, whose percentage of novice scores nearly doubles those of their counterparts.  Just ask any Kentucky educator.

To hold both higher and lower scoring schools accountable to move 100 percent of their students to proficient performance, SB 1 requires one additional measure that compares each school’s average growth with other schools with similar demographics.  In addition, to accelerate school improvement, SB 1 aligns with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to allow local districts the decision-making authority to pursue cutting-edge, turnaround strategies from experts not available from the Department of Education.

Postsecondary readiness will be measured by increases in the percentage of graduates with higher college admissions test scores, college credit hours, and genuine credentials demanded by industry rather than an assortment of additional tests.

Third, although a statewide professional growth and effectiveness system was recently established for Kentucky educators, federal influence reversed the course and stunted the growth of practitioners.  The quality new standards and evaluation framework was neutralized by forcing teachers to spend a disproportionate amount of time responding to incessant and overreaching state requirements to submit unnecessary documentation, tallying of processes, and tediously entering contrived student growth on a $36 million web-based system that seldom worked.

A principal remarked that he was no longer a leader of an innovative staff, but a manager of compliance.  Just ask any Kentucky educator.  SB 1 preserves the state’s authority to establish a quality statewide evaluation framework but designates to the local district the logistics of developing and implementing an evaluation system that must align with that common framework.

This is not a time to stop and study.  It is a time to dramatically grow.  The best time to plant a tree was seven years ago.  SB 1 of 2009 was that tree.  However, federal and state influence and overreach has halted growth and significantly diminished the harvest of fruit we envisioned.  Just ask any Kentucky educator.

The second best time to plant a tree is NOW and we can do that with SB 1 of 2016.

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Note: Senator Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green) represents the 32nd District in Warren County. He is the Chair of both the Education Committee and the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee.  He is a member of the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee and the Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee, as well as a liaison member of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Education.   For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Wilson, please visit www.lrc.state.ky.us/pubinfo/ephoto.htm.