Gov. Matt Bevin’s draft bill to reshape Kentucky’s retirement systems has run aground in the state House, where growing concerns for the financial security of school teachers and public employees were joined Thursday by sexual harassment allegations that put House Speaker Jeff Hoover’s political future in doubt.
Hoover, R-Jamestown, stood alongside Bevin and Senate President Robert Stivers last month to unveil the framework of controversial pension changes that Kentucky’s Republican leaders are promoting. His role could be threatened by a news report that said Hoover — who is married with three daughters — has settled a sexual harassment claim made by a woman employed in his House office.
Even without Hoover’s troubles as a distraction, “the votes aren’t here for this bill is what I’m hearing,” said state Rep. Brian Linder, R-Dry Ridge, co-chairman of the Public Pension Oversight Board. Various changes would have to be made to satisfy different interest groups raising objections and win the necessary House votes, Linder said.
“I’m kind of a compromiser,” Linder said. “I’ve always worked in my life to try and get people to common ground.”
As for Hoover, Linder said, “as speaker, he plays an important role in all of this.”
“I haven’t really had a chance to talk to anybody about this yet,” Linder said. “I came in late this morning, so I haven’t really had a chance to gauge anybody’s feelings about this. But he’s obviously been a big part of this, so I don’t know how this is going to go forward.”
Another lawmaker was more blunt. State Rep. C. Wesley Morgan, R-Richmond, said the allegations against Hoover are serious enough, if true, to derail the pension debate for the present.
“It would absolutely be a disaster for any immediate special session,” said Morgan, who opposes the draft pension bill that Bevin made public last Friday.
State Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, said it’s time to pause the pension debate, anyway, regardless of “Speaker Hoover’s issues.”
“It’s never helpful to be discussing those type of things,” said Kay, who is also a member of the pension oversight panel.
Kentucky's House GOP I think wasn't prepared for how awful Bevin has been at trying to sell this plan, especially in smaller rural counties where the government is one of the largest employers in GOP communities. People around here like teachers and county clerks and game wardens and the nice lady at the DMV, they know them personally, they go to church with them and see them at their kids' ball games and 4-H and ROTC.
It was cool when they could blame Bevin for across-the-board cuts. But going after teachers and other state employees like this when Bevin is trying to force them to take their share of the burden only pisses everyone off.
So now, Hoover's sexual harassment settlement is a pretty good excuse for the KY GOP to run for the hills, and they will.