First night of special session on KY pension reform produces little action

Governor calls crisis ‘single-greatest threat’ to state’s financial health

First night of special session on KY pension reform produces little action
Lawmakers began the special session at 8 p.m. Monday and adjourned around 11:30 p.m. for the night. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Gov. Matt Bevin spoke for several minutes at a hastily-called news conference Monday afternoon, at which he announced a special session that will convene later tonight to address the state’s pension crisis.

This comes four days after the state Supreme Court struck down the legislature’s pension-reform law, also known as SB 151, which Bevin has made a defining issue of his term.

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“Kentucky’s pension crisis represents the single greatest threat to the long-term financial health of the Commonwealth,” he said. “Last week’s decision by the Supreme Court to strike down SB 151, based solely on process and with utter disregard for legal precedent and the separation of powers, has only served to create further uncertainty, fear and the likelihood of financial insolvency.”

Monday night, lawmakers met mostly behind closed doors for the first night of the special session.

No bills or resolutions regarding pension reform were shared publicly.

Around 11:20 p.m., more than three hours after the session started, the chair of the House State Government Committee, Rep. Jerry T. Miller (R-Louisville), announced his committee would meet the next day for an information-only meeting.

His committee would take no vote, he said on the floor of the chamber, but would review the bills. They would wrap up in time to join the General Assembly to reconvene the special session at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

The special session then adjourned for the evening just before 11:30 p.m.

Teachers did show up to protest the session on Monday night.

Thursday, the Kentucky Supreme Court issued the following ruling on the pension bill:

“Upon review, we conclude that the passage of SB 151 did not comply with the three-readings requirement of §46 and that the legislation is, therefore, constitutionally invalid and declared void. Based upon this disposition, we do not address the arguments challenging the substantive provisions of SB 151.”

You can read the full Supreme Court opinion here.

Last spring, the pension bill rushed to passage after being attached to a sewer bill, prompting a massive outcry from teachers who had converged on Frankfort from all corners of the state.

That memory was still fresh for many when Attorney General Andy Beshear responded to Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling by saying “From this day forward, the legislature has to act in the light of day and never again under the cover of night."

Following his nearly four-minute speech, Bevin took no questions from reporters. He tweeted his statement a few minutes later:

(Story continues below the tweet)

The Kentucky Democratic Party issued its response via email and Twitter:

“That Governor Bevin would call a Special Session just a few weeks before the 2019 General Assembly convenes is an unbelievable waste of taxpayer resources. Governor Bevin’s political stunt—which will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars—is a slap in the face to hardworking Kentuckians.”

And Beshear did the same:

The group KY120United, which supports teachers and other state employees, also reacted on Twitter with a call to rally in Frankfort on Monday night:

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