Two local legislators have donated part or all of their pay – about $190 a day – from this year’s five-day special session to churches and charities.
Rep. Derrick Graham donated most of his check from the special session to First United Methodist Church, St. John AME Church and the YMCA Black Achievers Program.
Graham says he decided to keep a portion of his pay because the call for the session left no time to make arrangements at Frankfort High School where he taught social studies until his retirement earlier this month. The regular session adjourned on a Thursday, and the special session gaveled in the following Monday.
“When they called us back, I had been planning to come back to school,” said Graham, D-Frankfort. “I did teach one day and I taught half a day, but the rest of the week I had to take off because (the legislature) started early in the morning rather than the afternoon.”
Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, has donated part of his roughly $1,700 check, which includes some interim pay, to a number of charities, including the Down Syndrome Association, Kentucky Sheriff’s Boys and Girls Ranch, Special Olympics and Woodford Humane Society.
He plans to donate the rest, he told The State Journal Tuesday.
Sen. Julian Carroll could not be reached for comment.
Gov. Steve Beshear summoned lawmakers back to Frankfort in mid-April to pass a $4.5 billion Transportation Cabinet budget that sets out the state’s highway construction plans and a wide-ranging prescription drug monitoring bill.
Legislators, in addition to their per diem, get travel expenses and are paid for attending committees during special sessions. Leadership in both chambers and committee chairs get more, according to the
Legislative Research Commission. Each day of a special session costs taxpayers about $60,400, bringing the total bill for the April session to more than $302,000.
Lawmakers can’t refuse the money, but they can return it to the state treasury or donate it at their discretion. The Associated Press reported that only Rep. Tom Riner and Rep. Jim Wayne, both Louisville Democrats, have cut checks to the state totaling nearly $7,000. Riner returned some of his pay from the regular session.
Rollins said the bills passed during the special session should’ve been handled during the 60-day session. He put most of the onus on Senate leadership but said House leaders aren’t “blameless.”
“It’s really frustrating for all the legislators,” Rollins said. “We give up our time. We basically, for most of us, take off work to be there during the session and in special session.
“It’s very frustrating to have to go back and do more work when it should’ve been done in the regular session.”
Special sessions can be burdensome to legislators with full-time careers, Graham and Rollins said.
Graham said his pay and retirement were docked for missing time at FHS during the special session.
He said while he understands Beshear’s desire to pass both bills shortly after the 60-day session ended, the short notice scrambled work and travel plans for many lawmakers.
“For those of us who have to make a living like myself and who are not financially well off, it really threw us in a bind,” he said.
Rollins, marketing manager for the Kentucky Higher Education Student Loan Corporation, said living close to the Capitol gave him time to work before the House gaveled in each day during the special session.
Still, he understands a number of his colleagues in the legislature are sacrificing time – and miles – away from work and family.
“For some of these people who come in all the way from Pikeville or Paducah, there’s no way to work unless they can do something online,” Rollins said. “They’re away from their families, they have to pay rent here, they have to incur the expenses, but not only that, they lose their income from work to be here.”