“Super transparency” bill introduced and passed out of Senate, moves to House

Magnifying glass over agreement paperwork and pen

Legislation dubbed the “super transparency” bill which includes committee substitutes containing language of three bills to bring oversight and accountability to multiple areas of government was introduced on the final legislative day.

The legislation, which uses House Bill 449 by stripping its original language concerning a Louisville methane plant, combines three key transparency bills supported by the Kentucky Chamber.

The new version of House Bill 449 includes the language of House Bill 438, Rep. Susan Westrom’s bill which brings accountability and oversight to the state’s area development districts, Senate Bill 45, Sen. Chris McDaniel’s legislation to make the pensions of legislators available to the public, and Sen. Joe Bowen’s Senate Bill 2 which seeks to bring light to the state’s retirement systems.

In the Senate State and Local Government Committee meeting where the new bill was introduced Friday, Bowen said he has worked to satisfy concerns of the House with his bill which has led to an amended version of Senate Bill 2 being contained in the transparency package legislation.

Bowen explained that he has made three concessions on Senate Bill 2 and removed language requiring Senate confirmation of Kentucky Retirement System (KRS) appointees, no longer puts KRS under the personnel system, and takes the number of appointees by the governor to the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) board down from six to two members.

As previously reported on The Bottom Line, Senate Bill 2 would bring more transparency and oversight to the state’s retirement systems by making changes to board structures including gubernatorial appointments and by requiring the systems to follow KRS Chapter 45A, the model procurement code.

Other changes to the three retirement systems, Kentucky Retirement System (KRS), Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS) and the Judicial Retirement System include:

  • Disclosure of fees and contracts
  • Prohibiting the use of placement agents by the systems
  • Uniform methods of reporting and disclosing investment fees

The Kentucky Chamber has made a strong push to call for passage of the essential pension transparency legislation, which Sen. Damon Thayer discussed on the Senate floor as he shared a letter from the Chamber in support.

Westrom and McDaniel’s bills remain in their current status when placed in the new “super transparency” package bill.

House Bill 438, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, seeks to place more scrutiny on the spending and programs of the state’s 15 area development districts (ADDs) and require more financial reporting. The bill also brings the ADDs under the same oversight rules that have long governed other state agencies and local governments.

In a press conference earlier in session about the bill, Westrom highlighted that the bill:

  • Bans bonuses or any other one-time payments to any ADD employee.
  • Protects “whistleblowers” in accordance with state law.
  • Requires advertising of an open executive director position with adequate notice and sufficient time for interested candidates to apply.
  • Requires the ADDs to follow federal and state procurement statutes and regulations.

The Kentucky Chamber recently penned a letter calling on passage of this legislation and encouraging transparency.

Senate Bill 45, sponsored by state Sen. Chris McDaniel, allows for officials, upon request, to disclose the name and benefit amount, projected or actual, for any current or former lawmaker.

The “super transparency” bill passed the Senate State and Local Government Committee 11-0 before heading to the Senate floor where it passed 37-0.

The legislation now moves to the House where its fate will be decided in the final hours. Check back on The Bottom Line for updates.

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Jacqueline Pitts
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