A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Special session shortlived; House adjourns saying issues too complicated for a five-day session

Staff report

While the two public pension bills remained in the House, members of the Senate were not sitting still during the second day of the special session, said Senate President Robert Stivers.

But the House discussions went on until about 4 p.m. when acting GOP House Speaker David Osborne said the issues were too complicated to resolve in a five-day session — and the House adjourned.

Later Tuesday evening, Gov. Bevin declared a “sad night in the Commonwealth” and said that the General Assembly “came up short of their responsibility” and some “do not understand the gravity of the problem.”

He continued, “We must believe and demand that the General Assembly will return to Frankfort in January with renewed focus and determination to fully address Kentucky’s pension crisis.”

Robert Stivers

As Stivers awaited word from the House Tuesday, he said Senators were “doing a lot more than just being here.”

“We are reading the bills, we’re having conversations. We’ve been in conversation with the House, with bill drafters, with our members, other entities that have contacted us saying, ‘We want to know what’s in the bill, how does it affect us,’’’ said the Manchester Republican.

Stivers describes the bills as they were introduced in the House, as structural changes to the public pension system.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, admits some frustration at being left out of the process, then hastily summoned to Frankfort for a special session.

Morgan McGarvey

“You call a special session on four hours notice,” McGarvey said. “We have members who live three hours away, the week before Christmas, and you don’t have a bill ready to go. That’s not a good way to run government, it’s not a good way to run a business, it’s not good for anybody.”

McGarvey also said the state’s bond rating would not be harmed, if the General Assembly waited until Jan. 8 when the regular legislative session begins.

“They’re trying to create an absolute apocalyptic situation that just isn’t there,” he said.  “Do we need to do something? Yes, we probably do. We need to look at our credit agencies and make sure that our bond ratings stay at a certain level.  Do we have to rush through a bill that nobody has seen when the governor called a special session?  No, I don’t think the state’s credit rating will go down by Friday.”

On the House side, Osborne issued this statement upon the adjournment of the 2018 special session.
“The pension crisis is the most important and yet most contentious issue facing our Commonwealth today. It affects every state worker, teacher and taxpayer in Kentucky.

David Osborne

“Last session we passed SB 151 to address this issue. It was not perfect, but we were informed and made a thoughtful decision. It was not ideal, but it did stop the bleeding. Now, thanks to the unwise and unprecedented action by the Supreme Court in setting aside 55 years of established legislative process, the policies of 98 legislative bodies, and Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, we are further down the road with even greater problems to resolve.
“Despite what some have said, we all received this bill and bill summary at the same time. The House Majority has taken the time to carefully analyze the bill, and we have given it a hearing. We have found that there are substantive changes from SB 151. While our members were prepared to affirm our vote on SB 151, the majority of our membership feels that there are too many complexities to consider within the constraints of a five-day session.
“Not a single legislator saw or had input in the bill until last night. Anyone who suggests differently is making a mockery of this process. They are irresponsible, and it’s the type of irresponsibility that made us one of the worst funded and insolvent pension systems in the nation.
“The Majority will not run from making the tough decisions that have been ignored for years. We have proven as much in our action to take on this pressing issue while reversing the trend of chronically underfunding the pension systems. However, we will not address this crisis within the confines of a five-day special session. We will take our time and analyze all points while working toward a solution during the upcoming 2019 Regular Session.” 

Gov. Bevin spoke Tuesday night, lamenting the closing of the special session:

“Tonight is a sad night in the Commonwealth. What is clear is that Kentucky, at this time, does not have the legislative ability to make the difficult decisions before us.

“The General Assembly has the sole authority to pass the laws needed to reform our failing pension system, and today they came up short of their responsibility as representatives of the people of Kentucky. The result indicates that some of our legislators do not understand the gravity of the problem, or are here to put their political and personal interests ahead of what is best for our state’s financial health. Either way, this is bad for Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin

“I convened the General Assembly into a special session to address the most pressing financial issue facing Kentuckians, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, nor because it was expected to be easy, but because it the right thing to do for the hundreds of thousands of current and retired state employees and the taxpayers of Kentucky.

“For the sake of our financial future, we must believe and demand that the General Assembly will return to Frankfort in January with renewed focus and determination to fully address Kentucky’s pension crisis. I am grateful to those members of the General Assembly who came in good faith and attempted, over the past two days, to do the right thing. Despite the sincere efforts of many, the challenge still remains.

“As Governor, I have been willing to be the standard bearer for this critical issue that our administration inherited from those previous governors and general assemblies that abdicated their responsibility to act. I cannot fix the pension system alone. I have done everything in my power to move Kentucky forward and find a solution to this looming crisis. If I had the authority to save the pension system, I would do so.

“I am still determined to work with anyone to solve Kentucky’s remaining challenges. However, we must be joined in this effort by men and women of conviction who are willing to chart a bold course of action.

“While the General Assembly left the job unfinished tonight, I am convinced that Kentucky’s brightest days are still ahead. Together, we will ultimately succeed in making our Commonwealth the best version of itself. We will do this because we must.”

Kentucky Today contributed to this report.

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One Comment

  1. Betty Weaver says:

    If Bevin really believed his own words, he would work with both parties, input from citizens, and have a real, thoughtful discussion on this so important issue to All Kentuckians. Not a back door, in the dark, by the seat of his pants, quick arm twisting passage of legislation that literally affects hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians. Somehow, his words ring hollow. Actions speak louder than words. Or is that only a KY native truism?

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