House Majority Floor Leader Shell says special session on pension reform still likely this year

11/09/2017 03:43 PM

As House Republicans still contend with the fallout of sexual harassment allegations that caused Rep. Jeff Hoover’s resignation as speaker and sparked an investigation into the matter, House Majority Floor Leader Jonathan Shell said Thursday that his caucus is still hoping to get a pension reform bill through the General Assembly.

Shell, R-Lancaster, and others in the lower chamber have said they don’t support the legislation as drafted and hope to amend the proposal ahead of a possible special session later this year, and he told Pure Politics at the Kentucky Association of Counties conference at the Galt House that the timing of the extraordinary session depends on Gov. Matt Bevin.

“If we get the right bill, I think that we can do a special session, and I think that what we said is that we’re committed to fixing this problem,” Shell said after speaking on the subject before a crowd of local government officials. “I think with the budget, with hopefully tax reform and the other issues that we have to face during the regular session, it’s imperative that we tackle this issue early on so that we can get a budget written.

“But I think that it’s still likely that we have a special session, but it’s not as likely as likely as it may have been two or three weeks ago.”

Count some local government officials among those who don’t support the pension reform proposal. Teachers across the state have also voiced their opposition to the plan.

Shell said with the draft bill now available for public consumption, “there’s not much new that I’ve heard” in terms of criticisms.

“I’ve gotten 1,500 emails a week almost at this point, and we’re listening to those concerns,” he said.

When asked what he’s heard from counties and cities across the state, some points of contention include proposals for an additional 3 percent of employees’ pay for retiree health care and capping defined-benefit pensions at 27 years of service.

Attending the annual KACo conference gave Shell a chance to hear from local leaders and “get their input, their feedback on their concerns with the current proposal so that we can get something that is a good bill, something that’s right that we can pass to not only substantially fix the problems that we have but not create unintended consequences,” he said.

Shell said House and Senate leaders plan to meet on the subject Monday.

If pension reform isn’t passed before the end of the year, that would set up a busy session for lawmakers. Not only will they have to write a two-year spending plan for state government, but Shell says he wants to see tax reform dealt with during the 60-day session.

Shell said lawmakers have been working on both of those topics, and others, as the regular session nears.

That’s not counting the numerous bills that will emerge from both sides of the Capitol that deal with other issues across the state.

“My office and staff have been contacting our members to find out what their priorities are to work through that so that we can get a plan for this next session,” Shell said. “We’re doing the people’s business. We have hiccups along the way, but we are doing the people’s business every single day.”


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