Pensions and ObamaCare: Curtis Morrison previews the post-Doomsday session of the Kentucky General Assembly
(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of 3. Come back to learn about pre-filed bills that could allow drinking on election days, angel investor tax credits, redefining “dog owner,” casinos, and that bill to deal with the inevitable fraternal order issues that come up with living wills. Seriously.)
By Curtis Morrison
Contemporary pop culture seems to have misinterpreted what the ancient Mayan people expected to go down on December 21, 2012.
If the Mayans were here, they would not be watching “Doomsday Preppers.”
They would be celebrating the end of one calendar interval and anticipating the next one.
It’s not like the 2012 legislative session of the Kentucky General Assembly was not without reason to celebrate.
Our representatives quickly approved a law allowing the Amish to use reflective tape rather than the orange triangle sign for slow-moving vehicles. And accomplished this with bi-partisan awesomeness, no less.
They even approved a budget that didn’t have one of those fiscal bluffs. Or cliffs. Whatever, doesn’t matter. Kentucky’s budget had no geographical analogies.
But let’s take a cue from the Mayans and do our best to master their long view of time, by looking all the way to January. What could the 2013 General Assembly session bring?
Six acts relating to retirement benefits for legislators.
As Insider reported in July, Whistleblower Chris Tobe said “The legislature is basically supposed to put in 800 million…almost a billion dollars a year into these (state pension funds). But they only put half or 60 percent for the last seven or eight years.”
Tobe put this crisis in perspective when he said, “State pensions are the worst financial crisis in Kentucky since the Great Depression.”
Well, it’s the 11th hour on the state’s pension crisis. Are legislators finally listening to Tobe?
Kind of maybe … not really.
In August, Senator Dennis Parrett (D-Elizabethtown) pre-filed a bill that would take away the pensions of all zero incumbent legislators. If Parrett’s bill passes, new legislators who assume office after August 1, 2013, would not be eligible for the Legislators’ Retirement Plan.
Parrett’s proposal does include some reforms to eliminate a couple of the ways legislators had been exploiting the system to maximize out their pension benefits, but the math on all that is hard. (BR82)
In September, Representative David Floyd (R-Bardstown) pre-filed two legislator-pension-issue bills. The first one eliminates access to the pensions for Kentucky legislators, other than incumbents. (91)
Floyd’s second bill allows that pension funds for the legislative and judicial branches can be combined for pension pay rate calculations as long as legislators who also served in the judicial branch use the lower legislative branch pay rate for the calculations. (92)
At the time, the Kentucky House Republican Caucus was really proud of Floyd for these bills. (This was before Gov. Steve Beshear appointed former Senate President David Williams to a judgeship.)
Also in September, Senator Tom Buford (R- Nicholasville) filed a simpler bill that only takes away pensions for future legislators, without any consequences for incumbents at all. (99)
In October, Representative Steve Riggs (D-Louisville) pre-filed another bill that could take away pensions for future legislators. Rigg’s proposal doesn’t exactly sound original, but unlike Buford’s, it at least makes some reforms to how incumbents’ pensions are calculated. (BR167)
Representative Ron Crimm (R-Louisville) wants to prohibit salary earned in another state administered system from being used to determine the calculation of benefits in the Legislators’ Plan. (BR168)
In summary, 5 out of 135 legislators wish to appear to be pro-active in solving the commonwealth’s pension crisis by pre-filing six bills.
Six bills which make reforms only to the Legislative Pension Plan. Of those proposed reforms, few incumbent legislators are even affected.
As the doomsday of underfunded pensions draws near, this body is planning relatively to avert catastrophe.
OBAMACARE-INSPIRED LEGISLATIVE DRAMA
Senator Buford also pre-filed a bill that would make religious organizations exempt from the commonwealth’s insurance code. (BR90)
Did Buford pre-file this bill because Republicans are still freaking out about Obamacare?
I asked David Adams, chairman of the Kentucky Republican Liberty Caucus, and his response:
The Affordable Care Act actually encourages religious health sharing on a limited basis, but Kentucky law completely prohibits it. Sen. Buford’s bill narrowly fixes this problem, gives consumers more health coverage choices and leaves to another day the Republican freak-out over ObamaCare.
Well, Representative Stan Lee (R-Lexington) is freaking out over Obamacare now. He even pre-filed a bill so that Obama won’t force insurance companies to pay for abortions. BR103
“It is already against state law for an insurance plan to offer coverage for abortions,” the ACLU’s Derek Selznick wrote us. “This would be redundant legislation that is nothing more than a legislator trying to make hay out of a non-issue. It is unfortunate that some of Kentucky’s legislators spend time on frivolous legislation, rather than trying to push our Commonwealth forward.”
In summary, making religious organizations exempt from Kentucky’s insurance code may not be the end of the world, and a Kentucky legislator sporting a 1970’s porn mustache isn’t trying to push us forward.
If only those Mayan people could have left us more clues.