GOP lawmakers override stack of Democratic governor’s veto

Published 9:17 pm Monday, March 29, 2021

Flexing their political muscle, Republican lawmakers on Monday swept 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. The endeavor spanned hours of work. Some of the vetoed 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 and Senate, both with GOP supermajorities, 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 would not affect teachers already enrolled in the retirement system.

Opponents said the measure would hamper 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.

Republican lawmakers also wrapped up an override of 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. Both the House and Senate swept aside the veto.