Possible Reasons For The Special Session

by Gabe Bullard on June 23, 2008

There seems to be little, if any, argument over this particular session’s importance. Not from Democrats, like Senator Denise Harper Angel.

“This is a huge issue, the pension crisis, and it’s one that needs to be addressed right away and I think the governor has done the right thing in calling us back to session.”

Or Republicans, like House Minority Whip Stan Lee.

“I hope we pass a bill that saves the taxpayers some money.”

And Richard Beliles of the government watchdog group Common Cause of Kentucky isn’t concerned with the session’s likely $300,000 price tag.

“This pension thing is so out of control, and it’s going to be such a burden for the state and taxpayers if we don’t get a hold of it that even I’m for it.”

What the three disagree on is why lawmakers couldn’t pass pension reform legislation during the 60-day regular session early this year.
Republican Stan Lee blames the opposing party, but Senate Democrat Denise Harper Angel says a lack of communication between the parties prevented a compromise.

“We’re here to do the people’s business and that’s what comes first. Unfortunately roadblocks appear and communications breakdown and we do what we can.”

Angel isn’t in favor of extending the regular legislative session to overcome those roadblocks.

“I don’t think there needs to be a longer session. I think that the 30 day and the 60 day is enough to do our business. I think maybe we’ve learned something from the last few special sessions we’ve had to come back for, that we need to set ourselves on a tighter timeframe.”

There were special sessions in 2002, 2004 and 2006. There were two in 2007, a year in which there was a 30 day regular session.
Richard Beliles of Common Cause says it isn’t the length of a session that determines legislative efficiency, but the number of days that remain after the filing deadline to run for office. This year, that deadline was on January 29th. The session ended on April 15th.

“Many of the incumbents will not work on controversial issues that would be in the public issues because they want to wait until the filing deadline and see who’s filed against them as challengers.”

“I think legislators realize Kentuckians are impatient.”

David Adkisson is the President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. The chamber pushed for a special session on pension reform, but Adkisson doesn’t think lawmakers stalled on passing a measure out of fear for their jobs.

“There were so many things to be done, some of it fell between the cracks. And the big issue, pensions, fell between the cracks.”

Pension reform could save the state hundreds of millions of dollars, and Adkisson says such an important issue could benefit from a special session.

“A special session allows you to really put a big issue under the microscope and in this case the dollars at stake are sufficient to justify a special session.”

But he acknowledges…

“The fact that special sessions are an option I guess could relax the process during the regular session.”

As for pension reform, House Minority Whip Stan Lee says this special session will allow legislators to begin chipping away at the problem.

“This is one step. This is one small step. This will not alleviate all the problems.”

Lee says lawmakers will have to revisit the issue during the next regular session…if there’s time.

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