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Legislature Can't Agree On Withholding Special Session Pay

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Whether Kentucky lawmakers will get paid
nearly $300 per day while not working during an ongoing three-week
break in the special session pretty much depends on who's talking.
The 16-member Legislative Research Commission - a joint-panel of
the House and Senate - split down party lines Friday over separate
plans aimed at withholding lawmakers' pay. After a series of
parliamentary moves in committee seeking to suspend the pay and an
hour of behind-the-scenes meetings legislative leaders could not to
agree and went home.
"I have never worked as hard in my life not to be paid," House
Speaker Jody Richards said at a press conference later. "We do not
deserve pay, neither does the Senate."
Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican, called the Kentucky General
Assembly into a special session earlier this month to deal with
issues including energy incentives, a ban on domestic partner
benefits for public university employees and more than $400 million
in construction projects.
But the Democrat-controlled House and the Republican-led Senate
disagreed over the necessity of holding the special session this
summer.
The House, which claimed it was too costly and aimed at boosting
Fletcher's re-election efforts, adjourned without addressing the
governor's agenda. The Senate, however, passed legislation
addressing several issues put forth by Fletcher.
Nevertheless, there was disagreement over whether the House
could adjourn without consent of the Senate. Fletcher invoked his
constitutional authority and ordered both chambers to take a
three-week break and return on July 30.
During that time lawmakers, depending on their rank, are paid
between $180 and $226 plus $109 for daily expenses.
LRC director Bobby Sherman sent lawmakers a memo on July 9 that
the LRC, which handles research and administration for the
legislature, would continue paying lawmakers until both chambers
adjourn the special session for good. Sherman noted in the memo
that it would be up to the Legislative Research Commission - which
consists of legislative leaders - to change the policy.
A plan endorsed by the panel's Democrats on Friday would rescind
House lawmakers' pay from July 5 on, while state senators would
have not been paid for days beyond July 9 - the last day the
chamber was in session.
Senate Republicans objected, saying the move is
unconstitutional. Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville,
said the commission did not have authority to suspend state law or
alter the constitution.
Instead, a Republican endorsed plan would have prevented
lawmakers from being paid beyond July 11, the day Fletcher ordered
the three-week break. State senators would have still been paid for
two days they didn't work, while the House would have been paid for
even more.
Both plans, however, fell short of the votes needed for passage.
Williams said Democrats were looking for political cover from
not addressing the special session. The pay system for legislators
was designed to make sure lawmakers worked to get their pay,
Williams said.
"We will not direct the Legislative Research Commission to
violate the statutes and the constitution of the commonwealth so
that we give cover to the House Democrats from walking away and not
doing their job," Williams said. "We're not going to do that."
Later, Richards said he sent Sherman a letter telling him not to
process or issue special session paychecks to members of the House.
Sherman told reporters he would likely compose a response
letter, but declined to speak about it.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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