Legislative update: Pension talks progressing, hemp bill nearly done, Brian Durman bill passes

03/11/2013 09:58 AM

Legislative leaders met with Gov. Steve Beshear over the weekend to try to close the philosophical gap over how to deal with Kentucky’s pension problems before the end of the session, but lawmakers are no closer to a deal, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, and Republican Senate President Robert Stivers of Manchester confirmed the meeting.

Stivers said he is still optimistic that the House and Senate can agree on an approach with less than four legislative days left in the regular session.

Stumbo wouldn’t reveal details of the talks but said the House is sticking to its position that the General Assembly must outline a way to pay for increased state contributions into the Kentucky Retirement System. Both the House and Senate versions of the reforms call for the state to make its full payment into the system, which covers retired state, county and city workers as well as state police. But the House has pushed for a way to pay for it.

“To avoid a special session, we need to do pension reform,” Stumbo said Monday morning, adding that negotiations are likely to extend through the two-week legislative hiatus for the governor to consider vetoes. “We may not get it done until the very last day,” which is scheduled for March 26. Stumbo said he doesn’t expect the House and Senate to alter the legislative calendar.

Stumbo added that if the legislature can finish some of the other bills that are in the pipeline and “conquer pensions, then it’s been a pretty good session.”

Hope fading for hemp bill

One of the bills that’s less likely to make it through this session is Senate Bill 50, the measure that would lay the groundwork for the regulation of industrial hemp to leverage Kentucky’s ability to get a federal waiver for farmers to grow the crop.

Stumbo said the bill, which has received its second reading in the House, is currently stuck in the House Rules Committee and House leaders aren’t going to alter the calendar to bring it out and send it to the House floors.

It’s likely too late this session for it, Stumbo said.

House gives its approval to Brian Durman bill

The first bill the House took up Monday morning on the floor was the measure that would require those convicted of 2nd degree manslaughter when a police officer is the victim wouldn’t be eligible for parole until they had served at at least 85 percent of their sentences.

Senate Bill 15 has been named the Brian Durman bill in honor of the Lexington police officer who was killed in a hit-and-run in 2010. Brandy Durman , Officer Durman’s widow, has pushed for the measure and attended the House vote, just as she did when it was in the Senate.

The man convicted of manslaughter in Durman’s case, Glenn Doneghy, is eligible for parole next year after serving just 20 percent of his 20-year sentence.

The House had to re-vote on the measure to incorporate a change made in the House Judiciary Committee. The final vote was 93-0.


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