FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Lawmakers wrapped up a tumultuous legislative session on Saturday, ending more than than three months of scandalous accusations and raucous protests.
They punctuated the session, which began in early January, by condemning Gov. Matt Bevin for remarks he made Friday criticizing teachers for leaving their classrooms to take part in demonstrations at the Capitol.
"I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them," Bevin said, according to a video posted to Twitter by a reporter for WDRB-TV. "I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn't have any money to take care of them. I'm offended by the idea that people so cavalierly and so flippantly disregarded what's truly best for children."
Senate President Robert Stivers said Saturday that Bevin needs to either clarify his comments or apologize.
Despite the political tuburlence that marked the legislative session, acting House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said important work was completed, including reforms to the state's government pension systems and an overhaul of the adoption and foster care system.
“This has been a good session, a productive session," he said. "It’s a session that will move Kentucky forward. I hate for those things to be marred.”
Bills passed on the last day would tweak the budget and revenue bills that Osborne said were needed to correct errors or omissions. That included funding for Kentucky Wired, a multi-year initiative to bring broadband Internet service to every part of the state. Kentucky Wired has been beset by problems, cost overruns, and delays.
Lawmakers also passed a resolution directing the General Assembly’s Program Review Committee to investigate the origins of the problems with the Kentucky Wired program.
“It is obvious that, as crafted, it was a horrendous deal for the state of Kentucky,” Osborne said. “It was the most poorly conceived contract that I think I’ve ever seen. It was destined for failure from the beginning.”
Another of the last-day votes would restore a tax credit available to some Kentucky manufacturers, including Toyota and GE Appliances. It had been inadvertently cut as lawmakers rushed to pass the tax overhaul.
School districts in Kentucky’s economically poor coal-producing regions would be given some relief as part of a spending-related measure. The bill divides $7 million among 31 school districts based on how much was lost in unmined minerals tax revenue.
The session will be remembered for protests and controversy and a fight to overhaul the pension system. And there was a sexual harassment scandal that forced Rep. Jeff Hoover to step down as House speaker, though he kept his legislative seat. He was called before the Legislative Ethics Commission, which gave him a public reprimand and fined him $1,000.
Bevin's feud with the Kentucky Education Association, which represents teachers accross the state, has grabbed headlines in recent weeks.
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said teachers came to Frankfort to be a part of the process, which is their right as citizens.
"It’s good to see people getting off the sideline, getting in the game, and coming here to be a part of this process," Adkins said. "For the governor to be offended in some way that people are here, it’s time for him to understand that the Capitol is the people’s house, that this is not Matt Bevin’s house, and there may be somebody else in Kentucky who might have a little different opinion on things than he may have.”