Last month, Kentucky State Senator Joe Bowen introduced Senate Bill 1, legislation that would make harsh, unnecessary changes to Kentucky’s public pension plans. SB1 was the long-awaited pension bill that had been promised for months by Republican legislative leaders in the commonwealth. The bill was swiftly condemned by groups representing public employees and retirees in Kentucky, groups that were not consulted during the crafting of the legislation. Since the bill’s introduction, there has been an outpouring of protest and activism against SB1. In today’s blog post, we review some of the recent developments.
Senate Bill 1 was referred to the Senate State and Local Government Committee, where it had a hearing on February 28th. So many opponents of SB1 attended the hearing that they filled four overflow rooms.
Following its hearing, SB1 passed out of the State and Local Government Committee. It was expected to receive a vote on the floor of the State Senate on Friday, March 9th. Initially, Republican leaders in the Senate seemed confident they had the votes to pass this harmful legislation. However, following a meeting of the Senate Republican caucus on that Friday, a floor vote was postponed, SB1 was sent back to committee, and the Senate adjourned for the weekend.
Thousands of Kentucky public employees, retirees, and their allies have made their voices heard in opposition to Senate Bill 1. Their activism has killed whatever momentum this bill might have had and appears to have convinced enough Republican legislators in Kentucky not to support this bill. Despite this success, the fight is not over. Public pension supporters must keep up the pressure on Kentucky legislators to not support SB1. The bill could receive another hearing in the State and Local Government Committee and could still receive a vote in the Senate. If you live in Kentucky, please contact your legislators and urge them to oppose Senate Bill 1!
During this fight to defeat Senate Bill 1, a related news story broke. Last fall, Governor Bevin’s administration suppressed the release of an actuarial analysis of the pension bill Governor Bevin introduced that would have been even worse than SB1. The governor decided to cover up this analysis after a separate actuarial analysis found that his pension bill would have increased costs to taxpayers by $4.4 billion over twenty years. Ellen Suetholz, the coordinator of the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, filed an open records request to obtain the unreleased actuarial analysis. After the governor’s administration failed to comply with the request, Suetholz obtained a favorable ruling from the Kentucky Attorney General’s office compelling the governor to release the report within 30 days. On day 31, the Bevin administration sued Suetholz so they could continue blocking the release of the report. Apparently the governor will go to great lengths to hide the truth about his pension-cutting plans and to stifle informed debate in the commonwealth.