Only seven days and counting until the beginning of Kentucky’s regular legislative session. Here’s what educators need to know before it begins:
Short Session: Legislative sessions in Kentucky alternate between long sessions on even-numbered years, and short sessions on odd-numbered years. In addition to taking up regular legislative issues, long sessions are where the legislature passes a budget and deals with any expenditures that they want to make for the state. Short sessions are traditionally used to deal with regular legislative issues only.
Pension Reform: Pension reform isn’t dead yet, it will just be harder to pass this year than last year. While Governor Bevin is still very much interested in passing pension reform legislation, passing such legislation during a short session requires a super-majority to vote in favor of it. According to Rep. Bam Carney, Majority Leader of the House, legislators are split on where they stand about passing pension reform legislation, with some in favor of passing a bill similar to HB 151, others wanting to pass legislation that makes even more structural changes to Kentucky’s pensions than HB 151, and still others who would prefer not to pass any pension reform legislation. Without unity among the majority party, it is uncertain whether they will be able to muster enough votes to pass any pension reform legislation during this session. What will this mean for the state? The General Assembly 2018 passed a budget that provided full funding for the Actuarially Required Contributions for the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) until the next budget session in 2020. This means that the funding levels for TRS will increase, making the system more stable, even without any structural changes to the system.
Charter Funding: Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis would like to continue pushing for funding for charter schools. This will likely come in the form of a bill that would allow SEEK funding (Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, the formula that determines the state allocation to local school districts) to follow students to charter schools. Many people, including legislators, find this problematic, because it takes money away from local school districts and diverts it to charter companies which are independent entities operating outside the state and local governments. Lewis believes that providing SEEK funding for charter schools should not be considered a budgetary expenditure under the state government, which would mean that such a bill could be passed with a simple majority instead of the two-thirds majority required to pass budgetary expenditures in short sessions. In order to alleviate the concerns of rural legislators that such bill would strip their local school districts of needed funding, it is likely that any legislation that would direct SEEK funding to charters would be accompanied by a bill that would limit this to Louisville.
At this time, there has been no pension reform legislation or charter funding legislation filed. Here’s a look at pre-filed bills, also known as Bill Requests (BR), related to education:
BR 11 filed by Jerry Miller — This bill would allow the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) board to elect trustees by electronic ballot. Classified educators and other classified staff are members of the KRS pension.
BR 12 filed by Jerry Miller — This bill would change the regulations regarding how local governments, including cities, counties, and local school districts, can invest their money.
BR 15 filed by Dennis Keene — This bill would authorize sports wagering and would designate that the proceeds would go towards Kentucky’s public pensions and the treatment of gaming addiction.
BR 24 filed by John Blanton and BR 207 filed by Regina Huff — This bill restores the pension income exclusion to $41,110 retroactive to January 1, 2018, and requires an emergency reimbursement to retirees who were affected by the change to the pension exclusion in 2018.
BR 47 filed by Regina Huff — This bill would allow school districts to receive monetary contributions to Family Resource Centers, and would require all donations to be used exclusively for those purposes.
BR 55 filed by Mark Hart — This bill would change the process for filling vacancies on local school boards. Currently these vacancies are filled by the Chief State School Officer. This bill would change that to allow local board members to vote to fill vacancies on their boards.
BR 97 filed by Robert Goforth — This bill would remove location restrictions on concealed carry permits, allowing for the carrying of concealed weapons on school property.
BR 156 filed by Regina Huff and BR 159 filed by Brandon Reed, Kevin Bratcher, Mark Hart, Richard Heath, and Melinda Gibbons Prunty — These bills would require public schools to display the national motto, “In God we trust.”
BR 168 filed by Linda Belcher — This bill would establish a prevailing wage for all public works projects.
BR 204 filed by Robert Goforth — This bill would require the Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) to notify employers and employees if retirement contributions are not made on time.
BR 238 filed by Kimberly Poore Moser — This bill would allow KEES funds (Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship) to be used for qualified workforce training programs.
BR 251 filed by Reginald Meeks — This bill would require all driver’s education programs, driver’s education manuals, and the operator’s license examination to contain information about how drivers should conduct themselves during interactions with the police.
BR 302 filed by Reginald Thomas — This bill would raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour for hourly employees and $4.90 for tipped employees. The increase would be implemented gradually through small annual increases through July of 2026 for hourly employees and through July of 2022 for tipped employees respectively.
BR 320 filed by Julian Carroll — Similar to BR 15, this bill would authorize sports wagering and would create the legislative and administrative framework for it.
BR 324 filed by Addia Wuchner and Kimberly Poore Moser — This bill would require 100 minutes of physical activity as part of the instructional day for students in Kindergarten through fifth grade.
BR 429 filed by Steve Riley — This bill would prohibit corporal punishment in public and private schools and prohibits the use of physical force on minors.