Accusations Fly, Tensions Rise As State Lawmakers Tweak Pension Bill
After Republican leaders of the state Senate scrapped a critical vote to change retirement benefits for public workers last week, it's unclear when or if the legislation will come back up for a vote.
Senate President Robert Stivers said the bill's supporters were working with members of the Senate and House to see "what can or cannot be changed to get votes in both chambers."
Meanwhile, tensions have continued to rise over the bill after the no-vote, and teachers and state workers have continued to pack the state Capitol in protest of proposed reductions.
Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, a Republican from Lexington, said leaders of the state Senate are punishing her for not supporting the GOP proposal.
Kerr wrote in a Facebook post on Monday night that GOP leaders of the Senate retaliated against her by canceling a vote on a bill she sponsored dealing with the disposal of opioid medications.
“Because of my ‘no vote’ on the pension bill on Friday, my own leadership retaliated by turning their back on the war on opioids and Senate Bill 6. Senate Bill 6 is a simple measure to educate the public on the importance of cleaning out the medicine cabinet and getting rid of unused drugs,” Kerr wrote.
“The bill was on the agenda to be passed out of the senate today, but they recalled it…God help us, please.”
Kerr’s Senate Bill 6 would require pharmacists to tell patients how to dispose of excess opioid medications and offer them a special pouch that could be used to deactivate and discard pills. The bill was reassigned to the Health and Welfare Committee on Monday.
Stivers said leaders did not retaliate against Kerr and that the bill wasn’t called up for a vote due to “time constraints.”
“There’s a lot of stress, there’s a lot of things, a lot of time constraints and individuals say things. And I really don’t take offense to them,” Stivers said.
“But I can tell you to my knowledge, there was nothing done in retaliation for people’s stances on various issues.”
Meanwhile in the House, the Fraternal Order of Police and a group of police officer widows accused lawmakers of blocking House Bill 185, which would increase death benefits for some officers.
Ashley Rodman's husband, officer Nick Rodman, was killed in Louisville last year. She said the bill wasn't being called for a vote because the FOP doesn't support the pension bill.
"Our family is not getting taken care of and I know my husband would be livid if he knew that this was happening," Rodman said.
House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Steve Rudy said the bill wasn't voted on because he was amending the legislation with the sponsor.
Kentucky has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country and Republican leaders have made a series of proposals that would reduce benefits to current and future state workers while promising to pump more money into the systems.
But state worker groups have opposed the proposals, calling instead for lawmakers to seek new revenue without altering benefits.
The Senate was scheduled to vote on the bill last Friday, but sent the bill back for revisions after Republican leaders realized they didn't have the votes to pass it.
During a radio interview on Tuesday morning, Gov. Matt Bevin called for lawmakers to make changes to the system “even if people are unhappy about it.”
“Those people for whom this is a hard decision because they don’t understand it or because they’re just afraid of people or they’re so worried about getting re-elected -- folks like that maybe should find a different profession," he said.
There are 11 working days left in this year’s legislative session.