NewsCovering Kentucky


Kentucky House Republicans Abandon Special Session Without Pension Bill

Posted at 7:57 PM, Dec 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-18 21:19:59-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — After hours deliberating behind closed doors, Kentucky House Republicans returned to legislative chambers Tuesday evening to announce they were abandoning plans to push through pension reform legislation during an extraordinary special session called by Gov. Matt Bevin.

David Osborne, the acting Republican House Speaker, told the chamber that the issues were too complex to resolve in the amount of time left in the special session.

Osborne said that lawmakers did not see the legislation until Monday night and that “the majority of our membership feels that there are too many complexities to consider within the constraints of a five day session.”

“The Majority will not run from making the tough decisions that have been ignored for years. … However, we will not address this crisis within the confines of a five day special session,” he said.

Bevin, speaking to reporters after the House adjourned, said he had no regrets for calling the special session, saying “they came up short, the votes were not there.”

“For anyone who is in the retirement system or is working toward hoping one day to retire, this a dark and sad day,” the governor said.

Bevin also rejected critics who said the changed language of the new pensions bills were to blame for the failure, since many Republicans appeared ready to pass the previous bill’s language.

“With respect to confusion or not, I don’t know,” he said. “I’ve not even read that whole bill. I’ve not.”

Several critics of the pension plans immediately hailed the decision to end the special session.

“The governor’s attempt in the week before Christmas to cut the promised retirement of every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and countless more public servants was wrong and cruel,” Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2019, said in a statement. “Tonight, our values prevailed and partisanship took a backseat to what is right.”

Kentucky Education Association President Stephanie Winkler also weighed in.

“Real and effective solutions to our pension systems will not be solved by political games and chaos. … It’s our hope that a unanimous rebuke by the state Supreme Court last week and an admonishment by legislators tonight will finally make that clear to the governor,” she said in a statement.

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, like Beshear a Democratic candidate for governor in 2019, described the actions of his Republican counterparts as unprecedented.

“There’s never been anything done in this chamber like was done last night,” he said.

Ben Self, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, said the special session was bad governance and costly to taxpayers.

“These two days, wasting more than $100,000, were a full display of Matt Bevin’s erratic and arrogant leadership,” he declared.

Bevin called the special session on Monday evening. Lawmakers and critics — including many teachers — raced to the capital and staged protests then and again Tuesday.

Before Day 2 of the special session began, teachers got into a heated back and forth with lawmakers during a public committee meeting.

Critics were upset because the new bills being discussed — House Bill 1 and House Bill 2 — were basically the same as Senate Bill 151, which was shot down as unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Some were also upset with the way lawmakers were going about trying to change the pension law during a special session.

“They’re shady about it,” said Greenup County teacher Paula Pleasant. “When you have a press conference at 3:45 from the governor and you call a special session by 8 o’clock and we have representatives all the way in Western Kentucky, they cannot get here in time.”