Bevin-backed pension relief bill clears tight House vote, heads to Senate

Governor Bevin's special session proclamation cleared hurdle in Frankfort

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - A pension relief bill laid out by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s narrow special session proclamation cleared a major hurdle in Frankfort on Monday.

The Bevin-backed House Bill 1 needed 51 votes to be passed by the House Monday, and received 52.

The slim margin of victory in the House likely won’t be replicated the Senate, which has a higher percentage of republicans.

Bevin vowed to call a special session after an April veto.

Nine Republican House members stood against the bill containing specific points laid out by Governor Bevin.

“The input I got from my constituents it’s not,” Rep Travis Brenda, (R) Cartersville, said, discussing whether HB 1 was those he represents want. “So, that’s why I was a no vote.”

House Speaker David Osborne ruled lawmakers couldn’t divert from the perimeters put forth by Bevin because of a severibility clause included in his special session proclamation. If any of his specific requirements were not included, legislative leaders said the clause could cause the whole bill to be scrapped.

HB 1 gives quasi government employers - like those at some health departments, mental health and rape crisis centers- roughly one year to decide whether to pay their way out of the pension system in a lump sum, or over time- or stay in and face significantly higher costs than what were required before this month. Some legislators said the latter option puts a number of agencies at risk of shutting down.

Before July 1, employers had to pay 49 percent of payroll to contribute to employee pensions. After that date, the number jumped to 84 percent.

A democratic plan didn’t include a pension exit option, but rather froze the long term rate at 49 percent and shifted money from a health insurance account. It failed in committee over the weekend.

Democratic amendments would have provided stable rates over the next year if the bill ended up in a legal battle. They were ruled out of order Monday by Osborne due to the governor’s narrow proclamation.

Democrats called the special session a manufactured crisis aimed at forcing people into less secure private retirement plans, noting teachers or other public workers could be next.

“There’s no question that this governor has the attitude of trying privatize public pensions,” Rep Rocky Adkins, (D) House Minority Leader, said. “The way you privatize public pensions is, you take the first step that was taken today in House Bill 1.”

Republicans called the Democratic concerns voiced that teachers and other public employees pension could be privatized next, irresponsible pandering.

“It’s a lot of fear-mongering, quite frankly,” Rep David Osborne, (R) House Speaker, said. “A lot of hyperbole in there, but certainly we’ve been talking about pensions for the last several years.”

Members of House leadership said they see opportunity to pass more legislation related to quasi government agency pension relief in the 2020 regular legislative session.

The Senate introduced House Bill 1 Monday. It will now begin the same process the House just completed with a final vote expected by Wednesday.

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