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Constance Alexander: Last week’s pension fiasco in Frankfort amounts to a whole lot of ‘fruitcake’

Last Monday night, legislators from all over Kentucky rushed to Frankfort for a last-minute, special session decreed by Governor Matt Bevin.

Public pension reform was the focus. A law had been passed earlier in the year, but Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd struck it down in June, based on the flawed manner in which it was enacted. When, on appeal, the state Supreme Court weighed in last week, they agreed unanimously that the law was invalid.

In the words of Justice Daniel J. Venters, “We declare the enactment of SB 151 was contradictory to the Kentucky Constitution and is hereby void and of no effect.”

On December 13, when Governor Bevin heard the news, he called a press conference. “This is a sad day for Kentucky,” he said. “It’s a sad day for anybody who hopes to retire after years of government employment. It’s a sad day for the rule of law. It’s just a sad day.”

On the other hand, for those who decried the manner in which the law was passed – in the dark of night, at the last minute, and tagged onto a sewer bill – the Supreme Court decision was a solid thumbs-down. The governor, however, was furious.

“There is no cause for celebration,” he declared. “It may in someone’s estimation help them politically, but it’s screwing Kentucky.”

Meanwhile, back in Murray last Monday night, more than sixty people gathered at the Calloway County Public Library for a community reading of Truman Capote’s story, “A Christmas Memory.” They were transported to a country kitchen during the Great Depression in rural Alabama. With the arrival of “fruitcake weather,” an old woman, Miss Sook Falk, her seven-year-old cousin Buddy, and the spunky dog Queenie, launched their annual holiday ritual. They set out to make thirty fruitcakes for folks they admired, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Two-hundred-sixty miles away in Frankfort, two public pension bills demanded the attention of Kentucky state senators and representatives. Unfortunately, since Senator Stan Humphries could not make the trip to Frankfort for unspecified reasons associated with family and/or illness, and the post of representative in our district is currently vacant because of a resignation, we were not represented.

In the end, the session was short-lived; the legislators adjourned just twenty-four hours later, saying that pension reform was too complicated to solve in a five-day session the week before Christmas.

Wasn’t that pretty clear to begin with?  

According to the Legislative Research Commission, special legislative sessions cost taxpayers $65,505 per day, so at least the fiasco in Frankfort did not stretch out longer; nevertheless, that’s a whole lotta fruitcake goin’ on.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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