Legislative process fails constituents

Published 8:11 am Saturday, March 31, 2018

An age-old question is, “Does the end justify the means?”

When it comes to what the Kentucky Legislature did Thursday night to address the state pension crisis, the answer is a resounding no.

Using unexpected political maneuvers and taking actions that continue to resonate across the state this weekend, lawmakers rushed through a pension overhaul plan that divided the Commonwealth, prompted hundreds of teachers to call off work over what they feel is the dismantling of public education and left many government organizations in limbo about the looming changes.

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Whether or not this legislation is ultimately beneficial for Kentucky is a difficult argument that has a multitude of layers.

But putting that aside, it is clear the process by which this legislation was adopted was absolutely flawed and lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves. Gov. Matt Bevin has the opportunity to do the right thing by rejecting it but he is unlikely to do so since his methods of handling this important issue have been even more draconian than the Legislature’s.

Whether or not the process violated state law is something that will have to be settled in court — Attorney General Andy Beshear has already said he will file lawsuits — but it certainly violated the spirit of the law. KRS statute 6.350 clearly states the retirement program cannot be modified without actuarial analysis.

That didn’t happen with this legislation.

Rep. John “Bam” Carney, R-Campbellsville, presented Senate Bill 151, a bill that originally dealt with wastewater services. Carney then introduced a committee substitute that gutted the bill and replaced it with provisions from Senate Bill 1, the pension reform bill that stalled and was sent back to a Senate committee earlier this month.

Most lawmakers were asked to vote on the 291-page document hours or even minutes after receiving it and without a chance to even read it, more less actually analyze it.

This is yet another example of how this process was absolutely mishandled by legislators.

Add that to the fact the organizations or entities impacted were given no opportunity to respond or testify, and you have an absolute failure of the legislative process.

As a whole, our lawmakers did a disservice to their constituents by being unable to work across the aisle and find a compromise that treats all taxpayers and stakeholders fairly.

Regardless of how you feel about the end result, the process was flawed.

That usually doesn’t turn out well for anyone.