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Kentucky special session ends in adjournment, pension bill not passed

On Tuesday, Acting GOP House Speaker David Osborne said the issues are too complicated to resolve in a five-day session, and the House adjourned.

Lawmakers are heading back home for the holidays. In a surprising move, Kentucky's House of Representatives adjourned a special session without passing a pension bill.

On Dec. 17, Governor Matt Bevin had called lawmakers back to the capitol after the state Supreme Court struck down the last pension law. The next evening, the special session was adjourned because lawmakers could not come to an agreement on pension reform.

Gov. Bevin called the abrupt end to the special session ‘disheartening’ and one of the darkest financial days in the state's history. He said there simply weren't enough votes among his own party to pass the bill.

Gov. Bevin's lawyers urged lawmakers to make some headway this week or the state could suffer a credit downgrade because of the unfunded pension for state workers. 

Speaker Pro Temp David Osborne addressed the House floor while urging his Republican colleagues to come prepared early next year to tackle the issue. 

"This majority will not run from our obligation. This majority will do what the voters of Kentucky hired us to do. We will tie up the difficult issues,” Osborne said.

House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins was unhappy with the way the governor called the special session 

"I will continue to stand here and be a voice for this house democratic caucus and the people of Kentucky when I think this majority party is wrong. And they are wrong on this issue. They try to come in here and ramrod this bill down everybody's throat again,” Adkins said.

"It doesn't matter what happens to me personally, it doesn't matter what happens with these legislators personally. With any future legislature. This problem still exists. It has to be on the docket," Gov. Bevin said.

The 2019 legislative session starts January 8. That is when lawmakers will reconvene. There will be some new faces as those who won election in November will also take their seats.

MORE | Teachers flock to Frankfort to oppose Gov. Bevin's last-minute legislative session

MORE | Governor calls special legislative session to address Kentucky's pension crisis

Governor Matt Bevin released the following statement:

"Tonight is a sad night in the Commonwealth. What is clear is that Kentucky, at this time, does not have the legislative ability to make the difficult decisions before us.

The General Assembly has the sole authority to pass the laws needed to reform our failing pension system, and today they came up short of their responsibility as representatives of the people of Kentucky. The result indicates that some of our legislators do not understand the gravity of the problem, or are here to put their political and personal interests ahead of what is best for our state’s financial health. Either way, this is bad for Kentucky.

I convened the General Assembly into a special session to address the most pressing financial issue facing Kentuckians, not because it is a politically popular thing to do, nor because it was expected to be easy, but because it the right thing to do for the hundreds of thousands of current and retired state employees and the taxpayers of Kentucky.

For the sake of our financial future, we must believe and demand that the General Assembly will return to Frankfort in January with renewed focus and determination to fully address Kentucky’s pension crisis. I am grateful to those members of the General Assembly who came in good faith and attempted, over the past two days, to do the right thing. Despite the sincere efforts of many, the challenge still remains.

As Governor, I have been willing to be the standard bearer for this critical issue that our administration inherited from those previous governors and general assemblies that abdicated their responsibility to act. I cannot fix the pension system alone. I have done everything in my power to move Kentucky forward and find a solution to this looming crisis. If I had the authority to save the pension system, I would do so.

I am still determined to work with anyone to solve Kentucky’s remaining challenges. However, we must be joined in this effort by men and women of conviction who are willing to chart a bold course of action.

While the General Assembly left the job unfinished tonight, I am convinced that Kentucky’s brightest days are still ahead. Together, we will ultimately succeed in making our Commonwealth the best version of itself. We will do this because we must."

Attorney General Andy Beshear released the following statement:

“The governor’s attempt in the week before Christmas to cut the promised retirement of every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and countless more public servants was wrong and cruel. Tonight, our values prevailed, and partisanship took a backseat to what is right.”

The Kentucky Democratic Party released the following statement:

“Tonight’s adjournment is not only victory for our teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees, but also a victory for all Kentuckians. These two days, wasting more than $100,000, were a full display of Matt Bevin’s erratic and arrogant leadership.”

The Kentucky Education Association released the following statement:

“The KEA applauds the members of the House for standing up against the political circus created by Governor Bevin and voting to adjourn the special session of the General Assembly. Real leadership from these legislators demonstrates what our Commonwealth desperately needs: Serious and sober consideration for the rule of law. 

“Real and effective solutions to our pension systems will not be solved by political games and chaos created by an ineffective executive, but by engaging in a democratic process that allows all who have a stake in it to be heard. That includes educators, police officers, firefighters, public employees and the taxpayers of Kentucky. It’s our hope that a unanimous rebuke by the state Supreme Court last week and an admonishment by legislators tonight will finally make that clear to the governor. 

“Serious issues and solutions should be considered critically and deliberatively. There is no room for shortcuts in democracy. It’s time the governor learned such an important lesson once and for all. It’s time he did what’s best for all Kentuckians, not just his own political agenda.”

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