Gov. Matt Bevin said Thursday he still intends to call a special legislative session on pension reform this calendar year.
The Republican governor said he wants to avoid mixing that controversial issue with the arduous task of crafting a two-year state budget in the regular session that begins January 3.
“We start mixing it in with the budget session, it has the potential to become just mayhem,” he said during an interview on the Tom Roten radio show on WVHU in Huntington, W. Va.. “We got to eat this elephant one bite at a time.”
Bevin said he has not set a date for a special session on purpose.
“I have to make sure we have ‘i’s’ dotted and ‘t’s’ crossed,” Bevin said.
The window of opportunity for a special session this year is closing, especially with Christmas approaching and some legislators scheduled to be out of state in parts of December for national conferences.
Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The legislature determines how many days it would last. It takes at least five days for both the House and Senate to approve a bill in a special session and it costs taxpayers about $65,000 a day.
Some legislators say the pension issue should be taken up in the regular session next year since the proposed pension overhaul would not take effect until July.
Bevin acknowledged that a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the state House of Representatives has been a distraction to discussions about how to fix the state’s financially-strapped public pension systems.
He was referring to the resignation of state Rep. Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, as House speaker after Hoover and three other GOP lawmakers privately settled a claim of sexual harassment by a former legislative staffer.
Hoover and the three other lawmakers — Brian Linder of Dry Ridge, Michael Meredith of Oakland and Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green — have ignored Bevin’s request to resign from their legislative seats.
On the radio show, Bevin said he does not think citizens want elected officials who make policy for them to get sexually involved with their staffers.
“That is unacceptable,” the governor said.
But Bevin said he plans to move on and tackle pension reform as soon as possible.
“My intention is to get it done and get it done soon,” he said.