By State Sen. Jared Carpenter
The last two days of the 2013 General Assembly Session were busy and hectic. In the end, it paid off as several high-profile bills were passed.
Senate Bill 2, the public employee pension reform bill, is considered by many to be one of the most significant accomplishments of the session.
The public employee pension system is more than $30 billion in the red. Experts predicted it would run out of cash in five years. The Senate has been talking about this issue for several years now. I am pleased that a bipartisan solution was finally agreed upon.
Senate Bill 2 will establish a new-style retirement plan for those entering the system next year and requires pre-funding of any future cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.
Under the bill, pension benefits for new hires would be calculated in a hybrid ‘shared-risk’ plan similar to a 401(k) that will guarantee a 4-percent annual return on investment. Further, legislators and judges would be treated the same as regular state employees.
The General Assembly is required to fund 100 percent of the actuarially required contribution (ARC). The new cash-balance plan is more predictable and sustainable than the current defined-benefit plan, without carrying as much risk for employees as a traditional 401(k).
Besides saving the state $10 billion over 20 years, SB2 protects the retirement of current employees and retirees as well as the tax-payers’ financial exposure. The bill will have no effect on teachers’ retirement, and it does not apply to current employees and retirees.
Both the Senate and the House overrode the Governor’s veto on House Bill 279, the Religious Freedom Act. This act protects religious liberty from governmental intrusion. It compels the government to prove a “compelling” interest, or crucial and direct reason, before it can substantially burden religious freedom. Without it, any law with general applicability can override religious liberty regardless of how much that liberty is burdened.
Another accomplishment was the final passage of Senate Bill 1, the Military and Overseas Voter Act, which modernizes and streamlines the absentee-voting process by allowing members of the armed forces, their spouses and others serving overseas to register to vote, and to request and receive a ballot, electronically.
To ensure vote security and anonymity, completed ballots would still be returned via traditional postal mail.
House Bill 366 will make it easier for medical providers to get credentialed to serve the Medicaid population here. Unfortunately, this process was taking up to six months for many medical professionals and Kentucky needs all the providers we can get.
The work of the regular session may be complete, but the work of the Commonwealth and of the legislature continues. I’ll continue working for my constituents during the interim, studying issues, meeting with individuals and groups, and monitoring the progress of our newly-enacted laws.
As always, you can call me anytime at my office in Frankfort, 502-564-8100. To review the work of the 2013 Regular Session, you may visit the legislature’s website at www.lrc.ky.gov.
Archived meetings and proceedings, as well as interim coverage, can be viewed atwww.ket.org.
State Sen. Jared Carpenter, R-Berea, is chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Energy Committee and vice-chair of the Banking and Insurance Committee. He also serves on the Education Committee. He represents the 34th District including Madison, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties.