Kentucky lawmakers quickly override several Beshear vetoes

Kentucky Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear speaks to the press at the Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Kentucky lawmakers gathered in Frankfort on Monday afternoon to wind down the 2021 session, and Republicans worked quickly to override several vetoes made last week by Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear. 

Among the vetoed bills tackled by lawmakers included open records requests and a couple of education issues. 

House Bill 258 establishes a new pension tier for new teachers hired starting next year. The tier creates a hybrid plan where new educators’ retirement plans would be divided between a traditional pension plan and a supplemental one designed like a 401(k). It also would extend the minimum retirement age for maximum benefits for those teachers to age 57, from 55. 

Critics of the plan say it would hinder schools’ ability to attract quality teachers in the future, an argument Beshear picked up on in his veto message last week. 

State Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, said future teachers will have about a 10% cut in retirement benefits compared to current retirees. 

“Why is it on this floor we always talk about being competitive in the environment for business, but we don’t seem to apply that same standard to educators who teach our children who are the future?” Minter said. 

However, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. C. Ed Massey R-Hebron, spoke on the floor of the state House of Representatives on Monday and said the bill was the work of multiple groups, including teachers’ associations, for more than a year. 

Massey, a former public school teacher, said the Jefferson County Teachers Association, the state Department of Education and the state’s superintendents’ association asked Beshear not to reject the bill. 

“Instead he elected to veto it without any input to the process, which we’ve been doing for over a year,” Massy said. “So, when people on this floor stand up and say, ‘We’ve excluded people.’ We’ve excluded no one.” 

The House voted 63-31 to override the veto. Hours later, the state Senate voted 25-13 to override the veto and turn the pension plan bill into law. 

As lawmakers were discussing educators’ pensions, a group of educators stood outside the Capitol and announced they were forming a state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, a union organization. 

“It is time for all rank and file employees to have a voice,” said Christina Trosper, a Knox County teacher who has been part of KY120 United since it was established as a grassroots organization more than three years ago. “It is time for an organization that mirrors the organization of 120, an organization that builds from the ground up. It is time for all public employees to have a union.” 

Lawmakers in both chambers also overturned a veto on House Bill 312, which will now require public record requests in most cases to be made only by Kentucky residents. The bill also puts lawmakers who oversee the Legislative Research Commission have the final call on appeals for requests on records from the state legislature. 

The bill had the support of such groups as the Kentucky League of Cities, but the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky said the measure would “limit government transparency” by striking people’s ability to go to court to appeal for certain records. 

On Monday evening, school choice supporters scored a major victory when 51 House members voted to override a veto on House Bill 563. That bill would create “educational opportunity accounts,” funded from outside contributions. Families eligible to receive the funding could use the accounts to pay for tuition to out-of-district schools, and in some cases private schools. The funds could also be used to cover supplies, equipment and needed services, such as tutoring.  

The House voted 51-42, the minimum number of yes votes needed to override. It now heads to the state Senate, which needs 20 yes votes to concur. That vote could take place later Monday night. 

The legislative session is scheduled to end Tuesday.