Kentucky Governor Gives Short Notice on Pension Special Session

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to reporters on Monday.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin speaks to reporters on Monday. Kentucky Governor's Office / Facebook

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Days after the state Supreme Court strikes down a controversial pension reform law, teachers and other public employees rush to Frankfort—again.

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday called for a surprise special legislative session to address the state’s ongoing pension struggles, just a few days after the state’s Supreme Court struck down a controversial reform law pushed through the GOP-controlled legislature earlier this year, ruling that the way it was passed didn’t meet the constitutional three-readings requirement.  

“I am going to use the powers that have been granted to me to call the legislature into special session. That will be effective tonight at 8 o’clock,” Bevin, a Republican, told reporters in Frankfort. The Louisville Courier-Journal described the governor’s short notice—just four hours—as something that’s “extraordinarily rare, if not unprecedented.”

“This is not an ideal time for anybody. ... But there is nothing ideal about the situation that has been put upon us,” Bevin said, stressing that immediate action was needed to head off further credit downgrades. Kentucky has some of the nation’s worst public pension shortfalls, estimated at approximately $43 billion.

The Republican governor’s sudden call for a special session sent teachers and other public employees scrambling for the State Capitol to protest the action.

“This is how cowards run a government,” Nema Brewer, co-founder of KY 120 United, told the Lexington Herald-Leader. “They’re just raw because they got their hands slapped by the Kentucky Supreme Court for passing a pension bill the last time that was unconstitutional. But we’re headed to Frankfort. We’ll have a presence there. And we’re not happy.”

The displeasure was shared by not just by Democrats, but some Republican lawmakers as well. In the Kentucky House, Republican Rep. Jeff Hoover and Democratic Rep. Rocky Adkins told the Courier-Journal they wanted to adjourn—which would save the state money—and take up pension reform in the regularly scheduled session that starts in three weeks.

The state House and Senate both adjourned Monday night but plan to gavel back in on Tuesday morning to continue the special session.

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Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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