Independent state house candidate John-Mark Hack released a 10-point platform aimed at making Kentucky’s government more accountable and transparent.
Hack is running for the 56th House District seat covering Woodford County, including parts Frankfort and Lexington vacated by former state Rep. Carl Rollins, who resigned.
The three-way special election also features Republican Lyen Crews and Democrat James Kay, and is being closely watched due to the close party margins in the state House, where Democrats hold the majority by just a 5-seat margin.
The proposals unveiled by Hack’s campaign on Friday include withholding the salaries of state lawmakers if they fail to pass a budget, creating a non-partisan commission to draw legislative district lines and eliminating annual sessions.
Hack says the proposals are about changing the political culture of “arrogance and self-interest” in Frankfort.
Check them out:
1) Repeal House Bill 299 Passed in 2005 – The ‘Greed Bill II & Suspend Any Further Appropriations to Fund the Legislative Retirement Plan Until Such Time As All Other State Pension Plans for Which the Legislature Is Responsible Are Fully Funded – KERS, CERS, Teachers, State Police & Judicial House Bill 299 – the ‘Greed Bill II – is the outrageous, self-enriching legislation resulting in the explosion of legislative and judicial pension benefits. The ‘Greed Bill II’ was introduced by Republicans in the State Senate in the waning days of the 2005 Session of the General Assembly, adopted by a majority of Democrats and Republicans in both chambers and allowed to become law by Republican Governor Ernie Fletcher. This ‘Greed Bill’ exemplifies the culture of arrogance and self-interest as members of both parties use state government to serve themselves rather than the people they were elected to serve. Much like a ship captain’s first responsibility is for the passenger’s safety, members of the General Assembly have a fundamental moral obligation to fund the pensions and benefits of Kentucky’s public employees before funding their own. It is no surprise that of the different pension plans within the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS), the healthiest, most well-funded pension plan is that of the legislators.’ To insure that Kentucky’s dedicated public employees’ pensions are protected first, any further appropriation to fund the Legislative Retirement Plan shall be prohibited until all other public employee pension and benefit plans are stabilized and fully funded.
2) No Budget = No Pay. For most Kentuckians, if you don’t do the job you were hired to do, you don’t get paid. The same standard should apply to state legislators. Legislators have one fundamental job required by our state constitution – pass a state budget during the Regular Session. However, in recent years, legislators have repeatedly failed to do their job and pass a budget on time. Should the General Assembly fail to pass a budget during the Regular Session, they shall not be paid to attend a special session resulting from their failure to do their one job that is constitutionally required.
3) End ‘Double Dipping.’ Two checks – one job. Double Dipping is the term used to describe a pension loophole that is being exploited by hundreds of former politicians, judges and politically-connected state employees in which they retire from one state government job only to be rehired for the same or different job, allowing them to begin drawing their taxpayer-funded pension at the same time that they are drawing another taxpayer-funded salary. It is an outrageous abuse of our tax dollars and it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars at a time when our pension system is teetering on bankruptcy. We can stop this abusive and wasteful practice immediately by prohibiting state employees (includes legislators & judges) from drawing a Kentucky taxpayer-funded pension while also working for Kentucky state government.
4) Establish an Independent, Non-Partisan Commission Responsible for Legislative Redistricting. Legislators from both political parties have proven incapable of meeting their constitutional duty to redraw legislative boundaries in a timely manner. In 2002 and again in 2012, members of the General Assembly failed to a pass a constitutionally acceptable redistricting plan during the legislative session following each census. As a result of the General Assembly’s inability to pass a constitutionally acceptable redistricting plan, there are two lawsuits pending that will waste more of our tax dollars . The time has come for an independent, non-partisan commission to assume this responsibility. Free from the hyper-partisan party politics, a redistricting plan adopted by an independent commission is much more likely to result in less gerrymandering, making legislative districts more compact and more competitive.
5) BAN the Use or Involvement of ‘Placement Agents’ in the Kentucky Retirement System (KRS), and Require KRS Board to Follow the Same Competitive Bidding Rules as the Rest of State Government; Require RFP’s for the Hiring of Money Managers. Placement agents are middlemen who serve both as marketers for money managers and advisers to public pensions across the country. Ultimately, the fees they charge must be paid out of the prospective returns of the pension fund or profits of the manager. In Kentucky, these placement agents have received millions in commissions from investment firms for helping them win investment contracts with the KRS. In the past two years, KRS reported paying approximately $70 million in investment management fees. All of these managers were hired without RFP’s or any other competitive bidding on fees, and many used placement agents. By banning ‘placement agents’ and requiring KRS to follow the same competitive bidding rules that apply to the rest of state government, we can save tens of millions of dollars and use those savings to pay down the KRS’ more than $33 Billion in unfunded liabilities.
6) Make All Government Pensions Subject to Public Disclosure. Just as all public employee salaries are currently subject to public disclosure, there is no excuse to continue hiding the amount retired public employees are receiving from taxpayers. By making the amount those who are drawing a taxpayer funded pension publicly available, taxpayers will not only know how much a retiree is drawing each month/annually, but it will also expose those who are ‘double dipping’ at taxpayers’ expense. (Obviously a retiree’s personal information – Social Security number, DOB, address, etc – would not be subject to public disclosure)
7) Eliminate Annual Sessions of the General Assembly. The Constitutional Amendment creating annual legislative sessions is a failed political experiment. It is time we returned to biennial sessions and stopped wasting taxpayers’ money. When the constitutional amendment creating annual legislative sessions was placed on the ballot in 2000, the politicians in Frankfort sold the people of Kentucky on the idea that it would save tax dollars by eliminating the costly need for special sessions. However, according to the LRC website, since its adoption there have been 10 special sessions (with an 11th to be scheduled later this year), costing Kentucky taxpayers needless millions in legislative salaries, pension benefits and other expenses.
8) Make ALL Budget Negotiations Subject to Kentucky’s Open Meetings Law. While all other legislative committee meetings are open to the public, free-conference budget negotiations between House & Senate leaders have remained closed to the public and members of the press. Presently, leaders from both political parties meet privately behind closed doors during ‘free- conference’ committee meetings relating to the budget and negotiate how BILLIONS of our tax dollars will be spent. Opening these negotiations to the public will make the process more transparent and help eliminate special ear-marks and other wasteful spending.
9) All Budget Bills Shall Be Publicly Posted for 48 Hours Before Either the House or Senate Votes on Final Passage. This will slow down the legislative process long enough to allow for greater public scrutiny when it comes to spending our tax dollars. It will allow members of the legislature to do their jobs of ensuring sound budgeting, rather than being told how to vote on the most important public policy document produced by the General Assembly.
10) Strengthen Kentucky’s Whistle Blower Laws Including the Adoption of a Qui Tam Statute. A Qui Tam Statute (currently adopted by a majority of states) allows for a whistle blower to receive a share of any civil penalties or recovered damages resulting from the successful prosecution of the whistle blower’s complaint involving government fraud or corruption.
Hack is an anti-gaming activist and was a director of agriculture policy in former Democratic Gov. Paul Patton’s administration, which Crews and other Republicans have called the second Democrat in the race.
The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus also notes that well-known Democratic consultant Kim Geveden is working for Hack, saying the General Assembly needs an independent voice in the House.
The special election is June 25.