By RONNIE ELLIS
A final verdict on the 2013 General Assembly will probably require years to see if a pension reform package works as promised.
After all, Gov. Steve Beshear and lawmakers promised in 2008 they’d solved the long-term problem of a badly underfunded state employee pension system — only to face “a major fiscal crisis” this year as ratings agencies downgraded the state’s bond ratings because the pension funds were so badly underfunded.
But generally, rank-and-file lawmakers this year saw passage of the pension reform as a major accomplishment which made the 2013 session successful. Most gave it a “B” grade, but that doesn’t mean they were altogether pleased with how the session played out.
“For a 24-working day session, a lot was accomplished,” said Rep. Tanya Pullin, D-South Shore. The biggest accomplishment was pension reform, though Pullin, like many lawmakers, wasn’t pleased with all the individual aspects of the bill.
Still, she said, “Nearly 120 bills were vetted, debated and passed into law.”
Many Democrats found it hard to swallow the change in benefits structure for new employees and while Democrats mostly wanted a specified funding source for the system, they weren’t all pleased with the one which finally was approved.
Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, voted for the funding package but not for the benefits changes. He wasn’t happy to have to make a decision on both on the final day of the session without time to fully analyze the two bills.
“We were given an ultimatum (on Monday),” said Bell Tuesday night just before the legislation was passed on the session’s final day. “It’s a 230-page bill and I’ve not even seen it, and I’ve got to go in there and vote on it.”
It’s a common complaint in both chambers. Pullin, too, is known for resisting voting on legislation at the last minute, often demanding at least 24 hours to study a bill before she votes on it.
“For me, I see kind of a corollary to a lazy college student who knows what they need to do, but wait until two days before the test and cramming all night,” said Rep. Jill York, R-Grayson.
She said she’d give the session a “solid B” on policy but the organization and process didn’t score that well.
Read more of this story in the print or e-Edition of Friday's Glasgow Daily Times.