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Some Senators 'In the Dark' About Thursday's Special Senate Session

Dec. 27, 2006 — Pay raises for the governor, lieutenant governor and senators, along with reforms to the Government Employees Retirement System will be among the items up for consideration during Thursday's special Senate session called by Gov. Charles Turnbull.
According to Sen. Ronald E. Russell, the Senate's vice president, the two proposals are included in a 50-page submission sent to the Legislature late Wednesday by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. The document, which also includes several other items, is accompanied by a short one-sentence statement from Turnbull saying that the Senate will be called into special session on Thursday at 10 a.m.
"The governor's submission includes reforms to the GERS, along with the proposal for floating pension obligation bonds, a loan guarantee for Golden Gaming and several other measures that the governor wants to get passed before he leaves office," Russell said when contacted Wednesday evening.
The GERS proposal, submitted by Turnbull in July, has long been a bone of contention for local organizations, which have voiced strong objections to several of its provisions — including one which would set up a new retirement system for senators.
The bill, which was recently amended, now includes a proposal that would allow the government to float up to $600 million in pension obligation bonds to pay off a portion of the system's more than $1 billion unfunded liability.
While Russell added that he believes convening a session was a "good call," he also admitted that many senators have not had the opportunity to peruse Turnbull's hefty proposal.
"Without being able to look through the document, I would have to say that senators would have to look at it very carefully to see if this is something that everybody can support," he said. "However, the Legislature does have some unfinished business to take care of, and I would like to see that get completed as well."
During the Legislature's last scheduled session, held last Friday, senators did not have the opportunity to consider three bills placed on the agenda, as the meeting was adjourned abruptly after much caucusing, debate and a rush to draft a number of amendments containing various appropriations and policy reforms.
However, the meeting was not adjourned "sine die," giving senators the opportunity to call another hearing to consider the bills before the Legislature switches hands next month.
"After we consider the governor's proposal in the special session, the Legislature does have the option of going into a regular Senate session to consider the three bills that we missed," Russell said.
Russell did not say whether senators have discussed or decided on whether or not they will be bringing up the three proposals on Wednesday, or whether they will consider the much discussed Omnibus Authorization Act, which was sent back to committee during a previous Senate hearing.
Attempts made during last week's session to resurrect the Omnibus bill were unsuccessful, after the office of the Senate's legal counsel was flooded with amendment requests (See "Senate Calls It a Day After Failing to Bring Back Omnibus Bill").
While Russell said he had heard what is included in Turnbull's recent proposal, other senators said they were still "in the dark."
"I have no idea what's on the agenda," Sen. Usie R. Richards said Wednesday evening. "But it's not ironic that the Legislature did not adjourn sine die during the last session. Obviously there's something in the making, and I'm dismayed at this point that there is an attempt to get so many things done with four days left in the Turnbull administration."
A copy of Turnbull's submission, which came down late Wednesday evening, was also not sent to the media.
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