FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — On Wednesday, the full Senate, convened in a special session, voted to pass House Bill 1.
The legislation hopes to address rising pension costs, and offer something of an escape clause, for regional universities and certain other agencies known as "quasi-governmental" bodies. Some critics, however, questioned the bill's legality.
Even though concerns were brought up in the House earlier this week and Tuesday during a Senate hearing, Republican leaders were confident they would have enough votes to pass the bill. Democrats said the legislation breaks the "inviolable contract," the state constitutional guarantee of benefits between employees and the commonwealth.
Bevin's plan lets the quasi-governmental groups avoid paying higher pension costs until next year. It also gives the option of leaving the state pension system.
Democratic leaders accused Republicans of rushing the legislation through the special session in an effort to help Bevin dismantle the pension system.
"I don't know why they have this need for speed other than they want to ram it through," said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the Senate Floor Minority Leader. "They want to begin dismantling this retirement system, so they can continue to impact other groups."
After a lengthy debate, Governor Bevin's pension bill passed the Kentucky Senate 27-11. Democratic leaders warned that the bill is the beginning of the end of public pensions in Kentucky, Republican leaders didn't appreciate those comments and accused the Democrats of fear mongering.
"If it's held, that we can take people out of the retirement system, based on all the things that have been said up here by the Governor, by the people in the legislature, there is a legitimate fear that that will be the plan going forward," said McGarvey.
Bevin disagreed with that belief.
"The fact that a state senator would say something so irresponsible, that's childish actually to be that kind of a fearmongerer. To say that they're coming for you next, what are they afraid that someone's going to save their pension too?" Bevin said.
Around two hours after the Senate passed Governor Bevin's pension bill, Bevin signed it into law, and because of the emergency clause in there, it takes effect immediately.