Teachers gather at the state Capitol to rally against pension reform bill which Senate may vote on today

03/09/2018 11:30 AM

FRANKFORT – (UPDATED) Hundreds of teachers and retired teachers have assembled on the second floor of the state Capitol nears the steps leading up to the Senate chamber to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 1, the pension reform bill, which is scheduled for a floor vote.

Senate Republicans went into a caucus meeting at 9:30 am, as Senate and House Democrats met and voiced their support for the teachers.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, R-Lexington, told the teachers that the Commonwealth owed them for their years of service, and if the vote doesn’t go their way, they need to turn out heavily in November to defeat GOP members in the General Assembly.

“We owe you because when you started teaching, we promised you certain things, we promised you retirement, we promised you cost of living adjustments, we promised that if you come to work everyday, in rain an snow, in sleet and hot weather, that we would honor those benefits,” Thomas said. “Let me tell you, no matter what happens today, the fight continues. In the end, we’re going to make sure public education, and your benefits, and your pension remain intact, and if we don’t do it today, we will do it in November because we owe you.”

Sen Dorsey Ridley,D-Henderson, planned to file a floor amendment on the Senate floor restoring the cost of living adjustments (COLAs) cuts.

Ridley attempt in committee to do that failed.

“So, where it really counts will be in November when we bring new Democrats, ladies and gentleman who are educators to the General Assembly,” Ridley said.

Attorney General Andy Beshear met with the teachers to show his support and reiterated his stance from earlier in the week that the cutting of COLAs is illegal and will result in legal action because it breaks the inviolable contract.

“The General Assembly, decades ago, made a promise, the promise that if you dedicate your life to public service, if you spend decades teaching our children, protecting our families through law enforcement, protecting neglected children, your being a social worker, we will guarantee a solid retirement,” Beshear said. “They just didn’t make that promise, they turned it into a contract. They passed that contract into law.”

Senate Republicans exited caucus at 11:35am, saying they had not take a whip count on yes votes for the bill. Senators then recessed for lunch; announcing they will be back at 1 p.m. “or until the call of the chair.”

Stivers, who said on Thursday that the votes were there in his caucus to pass SB1, said late this morning that one of the reasons for the delay was so that members of the GOP majority could have a full discussion about the implications of the bill.

“One of the things that I have fully committed to is that we would have full and open discussion so that members of our caucus would have opportunity to ask questions, have discussions, understand implications,” Stivers said.

Minority Floor Leader Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, believes that there are a number of rural GOP lawmakers who might be having second thoughts on the bill.

“I’ve been here long enough to know it’s better not to speculate, but if they had the votes, we would have come out here and they would have called Senate Bill 2 (1), and they would be debating it right now,” Jones said. “I’ve been around here long enough to know when you see this happen, there are people in that caucus who have reservations about it.”

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