FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Republican confidence in an easy passage of the state pension reform bill took a big turn Friday.
Confronted by intense opposition from teachers, retirees and other state employees, GOP leaders called off a vote in the senate and sent the bill back to committee.
"We are under attack and we will certainly go to the polls and make sure we go to the polls in November," Kentucky Education Association (KEA) President Stephanie Winkler said.
Sen. Robert Stivers (R-Senate President) said it wasn't the chanting, the signs, or the crowds of protesters that stopped what many thought was a done deal on pension reform.
But enough republicans apparently felt enough heat to start asking more questions.
"So our members want to ask questions and make sure they fully understand it," Stivers told reporters. "And we're going to afford them the opportunity."
Pension reform was pushed as a top priority for the 2018 legislative session. Gov. Matt Bevin first revealed his plan for a bill in October, but failed to call a special session.
The current pension reform bill departs significantly from the governor's original plans.
Chris Tobe, a former retirement board trustee, said the republicans' problem is fundamental.
"They have not really done their homework," Tobe said. "They have not provided a good actuarial analysis or legal analysis to this bill. And that's just a basic foundation of any good legislation and they failed to do it. So it was very easy for teachers to implode this bill."
Sen. Ray Jones (D-Senate Minority Floor Leader), said much of the pressure on GOP senators is coming from their hometowns.
"School boards are your biggest employer in almost every small county and public education touches every life in rural Kentucky," Jones said. "So I think there's probably some heartburn among the legislators from rural Kentucky."
It is not clear when or if pension reform will return to a vote before this session ends.