Saturday, March 23, 2002

Sen. Robinson pondering more retirement bills

Committee chair adds controversy

The Associated Press

        FRANKFORT — A Senate committee chairman who has written some controversial legislation on public pensions says he is planning some more before the General Assembly ends.

        Sen. Albert Robinson was prepared when his State and Local Government Committee met on Thursday and took up a retirement bill that had been passed by the House. Mr. Robinson had a substitute for the bill by Rep. Mark Treesh, R-Philpot.

        Mr. Robinson said it would limit a longstanding practice by which thousands of public employees have been able to purchase extra years of service credit — “air time,” as it is known — for retirement purposes.

        But Mr. Robinson held off after Senate President David Williams drew him aside and objected. Mr. Robinson, R-London, said Mr. Williams had a “legitimate concern” that amendments would kill Mr. Treesh's bill and, more significantly, hurt Mr. Treesh's candidacy for state Senate against an incumbent Democrat, David Boswell of Owensboro.

        “I didn't want to put (Mr. Treesh) or the bill in jeopardy,” Mr. Robinson said in an interview. Mr. Treesh's bill would permit public employees in “hazardous duty” positions to buy five years of “air time” at 15 years, down from the current 20 years, though it would not qualify for early retirement.

        Mr. Robinson made news in 2000 with legislation to raise legislative pensions.

        He said his proposed substitute would not have benefitted legislators. It would have put a deadline of Jan. 31, 2009, on the “air time” purchases envisioned in Mr. Treesh's bill.


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