Obituary: Senator Tom Buford

Sen. Tom Buford

KPA members with carriers owe a debt of gratitude to Senator Tom Buford who died Tuesday at age 72.

Senator Buford was always willing to listen whenever one of his district newspapers would contact him about legislative concerns. He might not promise to always vote “our way” but he was always willing to discuss the issue and even give suggestions on what the obstacles would be and why there might be hesitancy to support KPA’s position.

But one of the last initiatives KPA has pushed legislatively ended up with the Jessamine County Republican as sponsor. That was during the 2014 session.

Background: Back in 1976, legislation was passed to get back at newspapers, specifically the Courier-Journal. The legislation mandated that newspaper carriers be considered employees of the newspaper for worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.

Newspapers maintained an arm’s length distance from considering them as employees but meeting all of the requirements that they be independent contractors. Arguments in committee meetings and before a special task force in the 1980s on worker’s comp and unemployment insurance never convinced legislators to treat carriers otherwise.

In the early 1990s, at the request of a couple of daily newspapers, we tried to get the process started over changing the legislation. Then-KPA General Counsel Mike Judy and I met with representatives of the State Labor Department and Worker’s Compensation division about amending the language and came away with a promise. “You all shouldn’t even think about trying that because we won’t let it pass.” Even a few of our own members tried to convince Mike and me that we just needed to leave the issue alone because amending it would never pass.

Something changed between the early 1990s and 2012 or 2013. Again, some daily newspapers wondered aloud what KPA could do. It was costly and it was unjust for the carriers to be treated as employees. They still met all requirements of independent contractor status. Most of those wanting KPA to push for a change were new publishers, coming in from out-of-state. And they’d let us know the states where they had been did not have carriers defined as an employee and wondered why KPA never fought the issue. I explained the effort in the 1990s and the background on how the restriction came about but told them we’d see what could be done.

By 2012, momentum was gathering from the publishers for KPA to push the issue and we decided to give it a try. It certainly wasn’t a problem developing the language for all it took was deleting one paragraph from state law. Accomplish that and carriers would not be considered employees any longer.

With guidance from Leigh Ann Thacker and Danny Slaton, with our lobbying firm Top Shelf Lobby, the process began. We met with the State Labor Cabinet and got the green light to proceed. We met with the Unemployment Insurance Compensation Board and got assurances they would not fight us because they had no issue with it. Wherever we turned, we got the same result. Support for pushing the issue through the legislature.

Leigh Ann and Danny spoke with Senator Buford and he offered to sponsor the legislation with assurances he would push hard to get support for it in the Senate.

In the 2014 session, Senator Buford introduced Senate Bill 105 and it was off through the process. When the committee learned the state had no issue with the bill and when no one spoke against it, SB 105 was approved and sent to the full Senate. Interesting that Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, had signed on as a co-sponsor but the eight votes against the bill were all Democrats and many of them from Louisville. But it was approved 30-8 and headed to the House.

When it got to the House, it was sent to a committee and again, no one spoke against it so it was passed on to the full chamber.

The results were even more impressive there with a 95-1 vote. Considering this was sponsored by a Republican Senator, you might expect there would be more “nay” votes (the House was Democratic party dominant then) so for the sake of not approving something from the other party. But it passed with only (not surprisingly) Rep. Jim Gooch voting against.

So Kentucky publishers can give credit to Senator Tom Buford for changing carriers from employees to independent contractors in both worker’s compensation and unemployment insurance.


From the Jessamine Journal

Kentucky’s Senate Majority Caucus announced late Tuesday the passing of Sen. Tom Buford, who served Jessamine County since 1991.

“It is with great sadness that we learned today of the passing of our colleague and dear friend, Sen. Tom Buford. Tom was a dedicated public servant who proudly represented his constituents in the 22nd District, and brought an abundance of insight and experience to some of the commonwealth’s most complex issues during his over 30 years of service in the General Assembly. Tom’s wit, intellect, and zest for life will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and loved ones during this incredibly difficult time.”

Born in 1949, Buford served on the Senate’s Licensing & Occupations Committee, the Banking & Insurance Committee and the Appropriations & Revenue Committee. He served as the Senate Minority whip from 1991-1992 and as the Minority Caucus Chair from 1993-1996.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of my fellow senator and close friend, Tom Buford,” said Senate President Robert Stivers. “I had the honor of serving alongside Tom in the Senate for close to 25 years, and was I lucky to have had the opportunity to witness his political acumen as well as his infectious sense of humor. Tom was proud to serve Kentucky as a state senator and to represent the wonderful people of the 22nd District. Tom was proud to be a father and husband to his wife, Carol, and two children, Stephanie and Beau. I want to convey the tremendous respect I have for Tom’s years of service to the Commonwealth. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”Born in 1949, Buford served on the Senate’s Licensing & Occupations Committee, the Banking & Insurance Committee and the Appropriations & Revenue Committee. He served as the Senate Minority whip from 1991-1992 and as the Minority Caucus Chair from 1993-1996.

“I am deeply saddened by the news of the passing of my fellow senator and close friend, Tom Buford,” said Senate President Robert Stivers. “I had the honor of serving alongside Tom in the Senate for close to 25 years, and was I lucky to have had the opportunity to witness his political acumen as well as his infectious sense of humor. Tom was proud to serve Kentucky as a state senator and to represent the wonderful people of the 22nd District. Tom was proud to be a father and husband to his wife, Carol, and two children, Stephanie and Beau. I want to convey the tremendous respect I have for Tom’s years of service to the Commonwealth. My heartfelt sympathy goes out to his family and loved ones.”

“We are very saddened at the news of Sen. Tom Buford’s passing. We are grateful for Tom’s legacy of service and leadership to his state and community as a lawmaker and a business leader, and he will be missed as a loving father, grandfather and friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to his wife Carol, their children and grandchildren, and all of their loved ones that they may be comforted in this time of loss,” said Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown.

Funeral arrangements for Sen. Buford were not available for this week’s print issue. The latest information can be found on our website at www.jessaminejournal.com.

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