Protestors gathered on the Capitol steps in Frankfort during the 2018 regular session of the General Assembly | Photo by Olivia Krauth

The first 24 hours of the General Assembly’s surprise special session called by Gov. Matt Bevin on Monday have now seen two proposed bills designed to fill in for Senate Bill 151, the controversial public pension bill that was voided by the Kentucky Supreme Court last week.

According to Rep. Jerry Miller — the Louisville Republican who chairs the State Government Committee — Bevin’s office submitted the 252-page House Bill 1 that Miller filed and sponsored Monday night, not long after he saw it for the first time.

However, in the committee’s meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Miller announced that a substitute for this bill had been filed in committee that altered aspects of Bevin’s bill. He stated that this substitute more closely adhered to the bill they passed into law in this year’s session, before the courts struck it down on procedural grounds for it being passed without the legally required number of readings.

Neither HB 1 or the committee substitute — nor the smaller House Bill 2 also filed late Monday night — have received an independent actuarial analysis from the Legislative Research Commission, and Miller suggested to the committee on Tuesday that those are unlikely to come before the end of the week. The language for HB 1 was posted early Tuesday morning, and the committee substitute has not yet been posted.

Miller discussed the committee substitute in an “informational” meeting in which neither bill was voted on, but not before reading a letter from the governor’s general counsel Steve Pitt, who explained why certain provisions of SB 151 were not included in HB 1 filed on Monday.

According to the letter, such provisions of SB 151 were pulled because they could be considered low-hanging fruit in yet another potential lawsuit if that exact legislation was passed again — though Pitt did not concede that any of its provisions were illegal.

Among the provisions pulled from HB 1 filed Monday night was the requirement that employees hired in a Kentucky Retirement Systems plan pay an additional 1 percent of their salary for retiree health plans. Bevin’s bill also did not include “level dollar” funding of teachers’ retirement plan, which front loads such spending.

Also pulled from the bill offered by Bevin’s office Monday night was a provision of SB 151 that strengthened conflict of interest rules regarding public officials and KRS investments — despite this provision not being challenged in this year’s lawsuit. The deleted provision prohibited KRS board members, state officials and members of the General Assembly from financially benefiting from such pension investments.

However, Miller noted as the committee substitute was filed that some legislators wanted a pension bill that adhered as closely to SB 151 as possible — just as he indicated his preference to Insider Louisville three weeks ago

Democratic Reps. Jim Wayne and Derrick Graham criticized the lack of an actuarial analysis for either of the bills, and several teachers present in the audience heckled Republican legislators who defended the bill.

House Bill 2, which was also filed Monday night, limits the increased pension payments of local governments for their employees to 12 percent a year. While this provision is already law due to another bill passed in this year’s session, some Republican legislators fear that it could also be struck down like SB 151, as it was passed in a similar fashion.

The committee and the full House are expected to vote on a bill on Wednesday, with the Senate taking it up later in the week. If Republicans — who have a supermajority in each chamber — coalesce behind a bill, it could hypothetically pass into law by Friday.

Former Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover attempted to join forces with House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins on Monday to halt such an action from happening, filing a motion to immediately end the session without taking any action. However, this motion was not allowed to come to a vote by Republican leadership.

Democrats have blasted Bevin for calling the special session with just four hours notice and a week away from Christmas, when the General Assembly is already scheduled to begin its next regular session in three weeks. Special sessions costs taxpayers over $65,000 a day, and several of the legislators who could vote on legislation this week were voted out of office in November.

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka

Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]