FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Flexing their political muscle, Republican lawmakers on Monday began sweeping aside the Democratic governor’s vetoes of bills to change retirement benefits for new teachers and potentially shield legislative records from public scrutiny.
Soon after gaveling in after a nearly two-week break, the GOP-dominated legislature turned quickly to overriding a stack of vetoes by Gov. Andy Beshear. Some of the bills would strip away parts of the governor’s executive authority, shifting the power to statewide Republican officeholders. The governor has hinted he expects court challenges to some vetoed bills if they become law.
Lawmakers reconvened Monday with two days left in their 30-day session, which ends Tuesday.
The House voted to override Beshear’s veto of a bill to create a “hybrid” pension tier blending defined benefit and contribution components for new Kentucky teachers hired starting in 2022. It would mean that teachers hired starting next January would be required to contribute more toward their retirement benefits. The bill shifted to the Senate, which could complete the veto override.
The bill would not affect teachers already enrolled in the retirement system.
Opponents said the measure would hurt efforts to recruit people into teaching. Democratic Rep. Tina Bojanowski said the measure would make it necessary for new teachers to “work longer, pay more and end up receiving fewer benefits in the long term.”
Republican Rep. C. Ed Massey responded that education groups were involved as the bill was crafted.
“To say that this is against teachers is just a false narrative,” he said.
House Republicans also swept aside Beshear’s veto of a bill that opponents said would weaken Kentucky’s open records law. The measure would give Kentucky lawmakers more authority to deny requests for legislative records. Instead of an appeal to Franklin County Circuit Court, the bill’s intent is for those appeals to be heard by a panel of legislative leadership from both parties. The bill moves next to the Senate for a potential override vote.
Meanwhile, Democrats denounced override votes on bills meant to reduce some of the governor’s authority. Democratic Rep. Mary Lou Marzian called them a “power grab” by Republicans.
Among the measures overridden by the House were bills to:
—Reduce the number of voting members the governor can appoint to the Kentucky State Fair Board.
—Remove the governor from his position as a member and chair of the State Investment Commission, shifting the treasurer into the chairmanship.
—Allow the state fish and wildlife board to appoint its own commissioner and set the salary.
Veto override votes were still pending on those bills in the Senate, where Republicans also hold a supermajority.
One major showdown still looming was on the Democratic governor’s veto of a bill to allow a form of scholarship tax credits to pay for private school tuition in several of the state’s most populated counties. Many public school advocates oppose the proposal.
In a late burst of action in the final two days, lawmakers also could consider several high-profile bills that haven’t yet cleared the legislature. Those proposals would curb no-knock police warrants, relax early voting rules and shield businesses from pandemic-related lawsuits.
On Monday, a Senate committee narrowly advanced a contentious bill to require that future constables receive professional law enforcement training before wielding police powers.
The House-passed bill, sent to the full Senate, would not apply to current constables. It would require new constables starting in 2023 to receive certification like other law enforcement officers before exercising such police powers as making traffic stops and arrests.