FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Kentucky General Assembly gaveled in Friday morning on day one of a special session to address changes to the pension plan affecting the state’s regional public universities and quasi-governmental agencies.
Three measures were introduced in the House, given their first of the required three readings, and referred to the House State Government Committee that is expected to take them up during a rare Saturday afternoon session.
House Bill 1, sponsored by Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, is Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposal, which was spelled out in his special session call, formally issued Thursday afternoon.
House Bill 2, sponsored by Rep. Joe Graviss, D-Versailles, is the Democratic caucus counter proposal to the governor’s bill that was unveiled last week.
House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, freezes the employer contribution rate the quasi-governmental agencies would have to pay.
While all three measures contain an emergency clause, only HB 2 and 3 are described as appropriations measures, meaning it would take a supermajority of 60 votes in the 100-member House to pass, according to the Kentucky Constitution, because this is not a budget year.
While the House was in session, Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, expressed his appreciation to the Republican majority for allowing the two Democratic-sponsored bills to be considered, he did take exception to the governor’s call, which he said dictated the provisions of the legislation that can be considered.
“Separation of power is being threatened,” Adkins told his colleagues. “For any Governor to try and restrict the call in a way that would hamper our ability to offer amendments, offer pieces of legislation for discussion, in my opinion, threatens the very legislative independence that has been fought for years.”
“This, in my opinion, may be the first step of driving a stake in the heart of legislative independence.”
House Speaker Pro Tem David Meade, R-Stanford, responded to Adkins’ remarks, saying a detailed special session call like this is nothing unusual, and is the prerogative of the governor. He cited a previous special session that dealt with the pension system.
“In 2008, Governor (Steve) Beshear made a 182-page call with the bill included in it,” Meade said. “The sponsor of the bill was the Gentleman from Elliott,” referring to Adkins. “There was no argument then, there was no discussion of legislative independence then. As for legislative independence, we pass legislation, the governor does not pass legislation. If we don’t like the call, and we don’t like what is included in the call, we don’t have to pass anything.”
Adkins told reporters after the House adjourned Meade’s comparison was unfair as there was a bipartisan agreement in advance of the 2008 special session.
“That piece of legislation was one that Democrats and Republicans agreed to and was worked on in a very bipartisan way,” Adkins said. “That piece of legislation was one that all the stakeholders were in favor of, and as a matter of fact, the vote in this chamber was 98-0 and it only lost one vote in the Senate.”
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, told reporters he believes they will pass a bill this session. But when asked if it will have 60 votes, he said, “No, but it doesn’t need 60 votes.”
As for whether he’s concerned that changes to the bill could jeopardize passage, Osborne said, “I don’t think there are concerns about that. Any changes that are made, I think will be very well thought out and with the consent of the majority of the members.”
The House will return at noon on Saturday, during which the three bills are expected to have their second reading, and then be taken up by the State Government Committee. A third reading and floor vote is expected on Monday.
The Senate could have the first reading Monday afternoon following House action, a second reading and committee hearing on Tuesday and the third reading and final action on Wednesday. If no changes are made to the House-passed version, the special session could then end.