Special session begins, pension discussion continues

Published 6:14 pm Monday, July 22, 2019

By Adam Bowling

KY Representative

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As many of you may have heard, the Governor has officially called the General Assembly into a special session to provide relief from skyrocketing pension contributions for organizations like rape crisis centers, health departments, and other quasi-governmental agencies. We convened earlier today (Friday) for the first day, and three bills have been filed for consideration. I am reviewing all of them. Tomorrow, members of the House State Government Committee will meet to hear testimony and consider the legislation.

I am committed to providing relief from the crippling increase in contributions for our quasi-governmental agencies, but we must be careful to do so without placing more of a burden on taxpayers and state government. I will have more updates on the progress made during the special session once it is complete.

In the meantime, I would like to update you on the work that our legislative task forces and working groups are doing during the interim. The task forces and working groups are similar to interim joint committees in that a group of House and Senate members work together to research a topic or an idea. The task forces have specific legislative responsibilities and are charged with forwarding policy recommendations to the General Assembly.

The Alzheimer’s and Dementia Workforce Assessment Task Force will study the state’s health care workforce needs as well as long-term care services for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other memory loss disorders. During the first meeting of this task force, members heard testimony from Alzheimer’s Association officials about the prevalence of this disease. As our state and country grapple with an aging population, the need to study this disease and its effects on our economy have become even more apparent.

The Area Development District Working Group is another special committee that will analyze information related to area development districts’ funding, level of long-term debt, spending trends and staffing patterns. One of the legislature’s key duties is to provide necessary oversight. This is critically important because the area development districts are tasked with spending federal and state dollars on necessary social services and economic development ventures. Ensuring that your tax dollars are hard at work and being spent wisely is of the utmost importance to all of us in the General Assembly. I am hopeful that the working group will give a better understanding of how these area development districts operate and spend public funds.

Another task force is set to examine the electronic recording of official documents by county clerks. This group will investigate the electronic recording process to identify policy options to streamline the process of recording and notarizing documents, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and decreasing paperwork and redundancy.

The Kentucky Career and Technical Education Task Force will study the existing delivery, organizational structure and funding mechanisms of career and technical education centers. In the task force’s last meeting, officials discussed at length the mechanisms in place for Career and Technical Education Centers to service students from every county in Kentucky. While there are some logistical barriers to accessing these facilities, such as location and transportation, we are committed to making sure that we, as a state, have a trained workforce needed to meet the growing job demands and challenges of the 21st Century.

The Mileage Based Transportation Funding Task Force will study transitioning to a mileage-based transportation funding mechanism to replace the current system of taxing highway use through motor vehicle fuel taxes. Our state’s infrastructure is crumbling and our roads and bridges are in significant need of repairs. This task force will evaluate the effectiveness of this funding model as we seek solutions to our state’s aging infrastructure.

Another task force that will examine the state’s infrastructure needs is the Public Water and Wastewater System Infrastructure Task Force. This group will evaluate and develop a strategy for addressing the needs of our public drinking water and wastewater systems. They will also identify the policy options to improve the sustainability of our wastewater systems. Having clean drinking water is essential for all Kentuckians, but unfortunately for some regions of our state, this is not a reality.

The Public Assistance Reform Task Force will discuss policies aimed at removing some of the barriers that prevent able-bodied individuals from entering the workforce, including child care needs, drug abuse and workforce training. Our current system does not properly incentivize able-bodied individuals to enter the workforce and contribute to our local communities. This task force will examine the factors that play a role and should lead to well-researched and thoughtful policy proposals for the 2020 Regular Session.

Last, but most certainly not least is the Public Pensions Working Group. This group was formed before the 2019 legislative session, and it will continue during the interim. This group is tasked with reviewing, examining and analyzing the state’s public pension systems, including the structure and funding of the systems. This is an important group that has already done a tremendous job in educating members about the intricacies and complexities of the pension crisis. Their work is extremely valuable as we continue to have ongoing discussions about pension reforms that are desperately needed.

If you would like to connect with me over any issue you are passionate about, please reach out to me. I can be reached here at home anytime, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. If you would like more information, or to e-mail me, please visit the legislature’s website at www.legislature.ky.gov.