In an unexpected turn of events, Senate Bill 1 — the controversial pension reform bill — was sent back to committee, amid audible protests from teachers and other public employees.
The Senate spent half of the day, mostly in closed door talks, discussing the bill. After sending the bill back to committee, Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters changes to the bill would be considered as it was unlikely to pass in its current state.
The reform bill has garnered criticism and protests from public employees, especially teachers. Protesters outside of the Senate chambers were so loud, representatives could hear them in the House chambers, Rep. Attica Scott tweeted. After the expected vote was delayed, the protests turned to cheers, still audible in the chambers.
“That’s what we’re here about: For people to express their opinions. It got a little hard to hear every now and again, I will say that, but I do not think they influenced anything that would have happened here today,” Stivers said.
If the bill in its current form is voted on by the Senate, passed by the House and signed by Gov. Matt Bevin, cost of living pension adjustments for retired teachers would be cut by 33 percent for 12 years or until the system is 90 percent funded.
Retired teachers can’t receive Social Security benefits, so the adjustments help them keep up with rising living costs while on a fixed income.
If the proposed bill is passed, teachers also wouldn’t be able to accumulate sick days past July 1, a previous method of boosting retirement benefits. The change could encourage current teachers with under 20 years of experience to stay in the classroom longer to accrue the same benefits.
The changes could save taxpayers around $3.2 billion over the next 20 years, according to a state-hired consulting firm.
However, the current bill may not be legal. Tuesday, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear said that the bill has 21 violations, with the adjustment reductions and sick time caps both considered unlawful. The proposal would be struck down by lawsuit if passed, Beshear said in February.
This post has been updated.