Kentucky: Senate committee passes Judicial Compensation Commission; drops House plan to have Commission examine Legislature’s salaries too

The Kentucky Senate State & Local Government Committee yesterday gave its approval to HB 469, a plan to create a Citizens’ Commission on Judicial Compensation. The Senate committee did, however, one key change compared to the version approved 98-0 by the House last week. The House version of the Commission would have made recommendations for both judicial and legislative compensation; the Senate version focuses exclusively on judges.

Moreover, and perhaps most critically, is the question of whether the Commission’s recommendation becomes law/binding unless overridden by the legislature. Both the House and Senate version include language that makes the recommendation take effect unless the legislature picks different compensation levels.

Unless expressly notwithstood in a branch budget enacted in the year following the submission of the branch budget recommendation, the commission’s salary recommendations shall constitute the authorized salary for the offices in which compensation recommendations have been made, and shall take effect on July 1 of the year following the year in which the budget request was submitted.

The Commission would be required to examine at least 9 specific items before making its recommendation for judicial compensation.

  1. The overall economic climate in the Commonwealth;
  2. The rate of inflation;
  3. The levels of compensation received by justices and judges of other states and of the federal government;
  4. The Commonwealth’s interest in attracting highly qualified and experienced persons to serve as justices and judges;
  5. The value of comparable service performed in the private sector, including arbitration and mediation;
  6. The compensation of attorneys and other qualified persons in the private sector;
  7. The consumer price index and changes in that index;
  8. The overall compensation currently received by other public officials and employees; and
  9. The time requirements of the office for which the compensation recommendation is made.

Both the House and Senate version retain the same Commission appointees: Governor (2 seats), Senate President (2), House Speaker (2), Chief Justice (2), and State Bar President (1).

Both the House and Senate version prohibit Commission members or their families from contributing to political campaigns; the House version also provided they cannot have contributed to a campaign in the four years prior to appointment.

HB 469 as amended now goes to the Senate Consent Calendar.