September 27, 2011

How Much Time Will There Be To Read the Pension Bill, Before Voting on the Pension Bill?

Carroll Andrew Morse

At the John Loughlin fundraiser held in East Providence on Sunday evening, I was able to ask several of the sitting legislators in attendance about the highly anticipated special legislative session on pension reform. In particular, I asked House Minority Leader Brian Newberry and Senators Frank Maher and Nick Kettle about how much time they expected to have between being presented with a complete pension reform plan and being asked to vote on it.

Each of the legislators that I talked to had detailed and pointed thoughts on this issue...

Representative Brian Newberry: What I've been hearing is that's there are some tensions between the leadership on perhaps both the House and Senate sides and the Treasurer's office as to what's going to happen. As I understand it, the Democratic leadership wants the Treasurer to propose a solution that is actuarially sound, in a complete package. My understanding is the Treasurer's office -- and this goes back many months -- had wanted really to come forth with a slew of potential options and allow the legislature to choose from them. You can see the political advantages to both sides for that.
Audio: 1m 9 sec
To get something passed realistically, one of the things that will happen, no matter what gets proposed, is that there will be a series of floor amendments. There always is, on something of this magnitude. And if I were the Democratic leadership, I'd want something where I could come forward and say 'listen, this is the solution'. 'If you change it, and you don't have actuarial support for your changes, that's going to completely alter the equation and mess up the entire solution'. I suspect what we're going to ultimately see --and I don't have any knowledge if it's going to happen one way or the other -- but I think we're going to see the Treasurer's office put forward a solution, and whether it's a real solution or not we'll have to analyze, but they're going to put forward a package and ask the legislature to pass the package intact. I suspect that's what's going to happen.
Senator Frank Maher: That's a good question. That was one of the very concerns I had had a couple of weeks ago, when the House and the Senate got together for a pension briefing that was put on by leadership. I proposed the question of how exactly was this pension reform going to be given to us, and we were told it was going to be given to us in a legislative bill per se. When I asked who was going to be the sponsor of that bill, the reply that I received was "we don't know". And I said is it going to originate in the House or the Senate? And they said "we don't know". And I said, the Senate being the upper chamber, are we going to have the final say, depending on where the bill originates, of what the final proposal will be, taking into consideration the ideas that are given to us by the General Treasurer and the actuaries that are working with her? Once again, the response was "I don't know".
Audio: 2m 14 sec
So at this point, I am very concerned about not only how the pension reform is going to be put together in a legislative package and given to us, but I'm also very concerned, especially being part of the minority party, that we may not know until literally the last minute, and be told to vote on a bill that could literally be hundreds of pages long. And the example I give to reference that is not so much the budget but going back to when we had the Deepwater issue. That bill was a very, very extensive, complicated piece of legislation, and it came down to the last day of the vote. We were literally voting on floor amendments with no PA system working in the chamber, and being told we had to make a decision right then and there as to whether we were going to support it or not support it.
So I think that everybody agrees at this point that we have to have pension reform. I've been told that the Senate leadership is on board with pension reform one-hundred percent. But I hope that the political will is there to 1) do it comprehensively and 2) make sure that we're given enough time to digest and realize exactly what the ramifications are going to be once they decide the form that the legislation is going to take and how it's going to be passed.
Senator Nick Kettle: Echoing the same concerns as Senator Maher, I believe that we are not going to be given a proper amount of time to review the bill as it will be very extensive, and we won't know the full ramifications and implications for all the state workers and the taxpayers. And it's the taxpayers who we need to know how this is going to impact them. Unfortunately, the unions and the state workers are going to have to start paying their fair share. I don't know if the political will is in either chamber to actually do comprehensive pension reform, and I'm afraid that within two or three years, we're going to be back doing the same thing again. So I want to see pension reform happen this once, as Gina Raimondo has promised, and that's it, never come back to this issue again. It needs to be comprehensive, but unfortunately I don't see the will right now to do it. Audio: 49 sec

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

"we may not know until literally the last minute, and be told to vote on a bill that could literally be hundreds of pages long."

Why not? It worked so well for Obama's health care bill.

Posted by: Patrick at September 27, 2011 5:12 PM

For something that so obviously affects every Rhode Islander, shouldn't there be ample time for not only the legislators to read the proposed bill, but also the public? How will union leaders, union members, retirees and everyone else (private sector workers & retirees) who will be impacted know how to lobby their reps if this thing only gets unveiled at the 11th hour just prior to a vote?

Posted by: Bucket Chick at September 27, 2011 6:40 PM

Great job getting these (and the other) comments, Andrew.

Posted by: Monique at September 28, 2011 10:50 PM

Just do something... stupid!


Just do something stupid!

We need to do something NOW, who has time to actually read this stuff just pass it now!

Sort of like the jobs bill, pass it right away!

Posted by: stuckhereinri at September 29, 2011 10:55 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.