One protester holds a sign denouncing Gov. Matt Bevin by using a photo of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, a Parks and Recreation character. | Photo by Olivia Krauth

With the state’s public educators watching, the Kentucky General Assembly overrode three of Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes on Friday. One was the budget, the other was the revenue bill with the tax overhaul and a third phased in pension costs for local governments.

The veto overrides served as a stinging rebuke to the Republican governor from the Republican-dominated legislature, who voted against the vetoes by a wide margin.

Bevin vetoed the budget and tax reform bills Monday. On Friday, in tackling the tax and budget bills, there was a party-line twist with Republicans voting to override a Republican governor and Democrats siding with Bevin.

Sen. Morgan McGarvey said he wouldn’t vote to override the budget veto in an act of consistency, as he initially voted against the bill and is still against it. The budget has good qualities, McGarvey said, but there’s “nothing that’s a gift” in it.

While all three bills — HB 200, HB 366 and HB 362 — have a far-reaching impact, most legislators’ focus fell on education. Multiple lawmakers mentioned education while explaining their votes, frequently looking at the teachers listening in the gallery. Hundreds more waited in the Capitol Rotunda or outside, listening via livestream and chanting “Vote them out.”

“I can’t imagine anyone voting against SEEK for every child in the state,” Sen. Dan Seum said while explaining his vote to override the budget veto. Seum noted several of his family members are teachers, many in Louisville schools.

Upon hearing the news of the final override, teachers were split between silence and cheers. For some, Friday was an imperfect situation with less than desirable outcomes. Teachers in Frankfort appeared divided over whether they wanted overrides, or to let the vetoes stand and try their hand at a special session.

Robert Bell, an Olmsted North teacher, said while some would consider an override a win, he thought it would be a “pretty substantial loss.” If the vetoes stand, things could get “really ugly.”

“The tax plan is a regressive giveaway to corporations and the wealthy,” Bell said. “The budget is a decent compromise but without revenue to balance it, it’s nothing.”

Friday afternoon, Bevin tweeted that he would hold a special session should lawmakers not override his budget veto. Due to the overrides, that special session seems unlikely.

Over 40 districts, including JCPS, closed for the day because of high teacher absenteeism or specifically to allow teachers to rally in Frankfort. It was the third day of organized teacher protests in Frankfort in the past two weeks, with several smaller walk-ins and rallies held in hometowns. 

Bell hopes the past few weeks emboldens teachers and other public employees, along with their allies, to fight for themselves. Volunteers at the protest echoed this sentiment, encouraging teachers to sign up to vote and remember these protests for the primaries in May and regular elections in November.

“Regardless of what happens, this isn’t over,” Bell said.

As Saturday is the final day of the regular session, another large-scale collective action is unlikely. However, legislators will vote to make tweaks on the tax and budget bills Saturday morning, so some changes are possible.

Before joining Insider Louisville, Krauth was a multiplatform reporter at TechRepublic, where she wrote news stories and features about the intersection of technology and business. Krauth is a graduate of the University of Louisville, where she was an award-winning editor of The Louisville Cardinal and obtained a degree in investigative journalism, with a minor in Russian studies. She completed a prestigious Dow Jones data internship at the Austin American-Statesman last summer. Email Olivia at [email protected]


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