Stumbo introduces bill to aid retired teachers

Medical Leader | Photo courtesy of LRC PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
AT WORK: Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II (left)
recently filed a Senate joint resolution urging Virginia to restore
reciprocal recognition of concealed carry weapon licenses from Kentucky.
Medical LeaderPhoto courtesy of LRC PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE

FRANKFORT – Noting it remains the only concrete option anyone has offered, House Speaker Greg Stumbo filed legislation that would put the state on a path to strengthen the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS).

“House Bill 1 is essentially the same bill that I sponsored and the House adopted last year, because we have the same problem we did 12 months ago: A public retirement system with a $14 billion dollar liability and no way to adequately address it,” Speaker Stumbo said.  “Months of meetings by a task force studying this issue have increased awareness, but it still left us with no real solution.  My legislation is a blueprint forward, at least on the funding side.  The one thing I know for sure is that our teachers, their retirees and taxpayers cannot afford for us to wait another year to act.”

HB 1 is based on a proposal that KTRS unveiled to legislators in late 2014.  In short, it calls for the state to issue up to $3.3 billion in bonds to take advantage of the system’s long-term investment gains.  Its most recent one-year return rate topped 5 percent; its five-year return was exactly 12 percent, and its 20-year return was 7.6 percent – all above the bond interest rates the state could expect to see.

The bonding would give the state nine years to phase in the additional payments it needs to meet the Annually Required Contribution, or ARC, that would eventually bring the long-term liability under control.  During those early years, the state would pay for the bonds largely using money the state is already giving to KTRS for previous bond payments and other programs.

“I normally would not be in favor of pension bonds, but it is clear to me that KTRS can earn enough to pay back the bonds and interest without putting us at undue risk,” Speaker Stumbo said.  “Research also shows that pension bonds used in other states have generally performed well.   Our window of opportunity is drawing to a close, however, given last month’s interest-rate hike by the Federal Reserve, the first increase in nearly a decade.”

According to KTRS, if nothing is done, its requests for additional money – on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars it already receives annually – will rise from about $500 million extra each year to more than $2 billion extra each year within the next two decades.  To cover benefits now, KTRS reported that it had to sell $650 million in assets last year and is on track to sell another $750 million this year.

“The fact is, we owe what we owe, and we have to pay it,” Speaker Stumbo said.  “It is unfeasible for us to get to the ARC this budget cycle, but my plan stops the bleeding and gets us to the point where we can make the ARC.  We need to get ahead of the problem now, or we’ll pay a far steeper price down the road.

“Those who oppose this need to tell teachers and taxpayers what plan they have to bring the liability down,” he added.  “Making this situation even more critical is the fact that teachers do not have Social Security, meaning they rely even more on their pensions than other state retirees.  In addition, teachers have long pre-funded their annual cost of living allowances, and they took a major step forward in 2010 when they agreed to contribute more to stabilize their health insurance.  They have made sacrifices to help bring the liability down; now, it’s the state’s turn.”

Bill would expand Safe Infants law

FRANKFORT-Parents who feel they can’t keep their newborn baby would have up to 30 days to leave the child at a state-approved safe place under a proposal discussed today in a House committee.

Parents or those acting on their behalf now have up to three days after a child is born to leave the newborn at a safe place under the 14-year-old Kentucky Safe Infants Act. They would have 27 additional days to make that decision under House Bill 97, sponsored by House Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville.

“Some feel (72 hours) is not enough time to allow a woman to make that decision. So this bill will extend that up to 30 days,” Burch said today. “We need to get the wording right so nobody has liability problems.”

The bill may also expand the list of acceptable safe places to leave a newborn according to Burch, who said he is working on an amendment with Rep. Donna Mayfield, R-Winchester, to include religious facilities among the list. The only safe places to leave a newborn under current law are hospitals, police stations, fire stations and in locations with EMS (emergency medical services) personnel.

As long as the baby is not injured, the law ensures that the parent or person acting for them will not be liable.

“No one will call the police, and no one will ask for your name. The baby will get medical care and be placed with a family for adoption,” according to a Kentucky Safe Infants Act brochure from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

HB 97 is expected to be brought to a vote before the House Health and Welfare Committee in coming days.

Jones files resolution to  protect 2nd amendment rights

FRANKFORT – Senate Democratic Floor Leader Ray S. Jones II, D-Pikeville, has filed a Senate joint resolution urging the Governor of Virginia and the Virginia Attorney General to restore reciprocal recognition of concealed carry weapons licenses from Kentucky.

The legislation is the result of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s recent decision to cease recognition of concealed deadly weapon licenses from Kentucky and 24 other states.

“The right to self-defense and defense of others from imminent deadly threats is the most fundamental of human rights,” Jones said.  “It is important that Americans have the right to protect themselves, their family and friends.”

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

There is no evidence that suspending the concealed weapons reciprocity agreement between Kentucky and Virginia would reduce crime or increase public safety, Senate Joint Resolution 36 states.

“It should be the right of all Kentuckians to protect themselves and family as they travel through the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Jones added.  “Kentuckians shouldn’t lose their rights as they travel through Virginia just as Virginians should not lose their rights as they travel through Kentucky.”

SJR 36 will be considered during the 2016 legislative session.  If the joint resolution gains approval in the Senate, it will move to the House of Representatives for further consideration.  Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is the primary co-sponsor.

LRC launches its first official YouTube channel

FRANKFORT – The Legislative Research Commission (LRC) has created another way for Kentuckians to stay connected with their State Legislature with the launch of an official channel for YouTube.

The channel, named “LRC Capitol Connection,” provides on-demand videos focusing on the Kentucky General Assembly, legislative issues and state lawmakers. LRC Capitol Connection can be viewed at

“Capitol Connection is one of many new strategies we are developing at LRC to promote participatory democracy and engagement,” said LRC Director David Byerman.  “While we are nonpartisan on the important issues that come before the legislature, we are advocates for participation in the legislative process itself.”  As part of this strategy, Byerman recently started his own Twitter feed @DirectorLRC.

LRC Capitol Connection’s inaugural video focuses on the history of the LRC and its development into a nationally recognized agency capable of providing administrative and research support for a legislature that, over the course of decades, asserted itself as a coequal branch of government.

Throughout the 2016 legislative session, LRC Capitol Connection will feature videos that provide updates on legislative action and share lawmakers’ views on the issues under consideration.

To subscribe to LRC Capitol Connection and receive updates when new videos are posted, please log on to your YouTube account and click the subscribe button on the LRC Capitol Connection page.

– The Medical Leader does not endorse political candidates or legislation.