Lawmakers who backed pension changes have to go, rallygoers say
Fourteen U-Haul and Budget trucks, with horns blaring, drove up Capital Avenue Saturday morning to signal teachers’ and state workers’ efforts to vote out next month state lawmakers who voted for the controversial public pension law.
“Welcome to the first ‘Vote ‘Em Out, Move ‘Em Out’ rally,” state AFL-CIO president Bill Londrigan told the crowd of about 100 that included Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Democratic Floor Leader Rocky Adkins.
The crowd did not match the thousands of teachers and state workers who marched on the Capitol last spring in the last days of the legislative session to protest lawmakers’ decision to quickly change a waste water bill to a pension measure .
The legislation was approved by the Republican-controlled House and Senate and signed into law by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who had upset teachers with his comments that teachers’ absence from their classrooms to protest left many children home alone and vulnerable to sexual predators and drug abuse. Bevin later apologized for his remarks but some questioned his sincerity.
The Kentucky Supreme Court is now considering a suit against the law filed by Beshear on behalf of the Kentucky Education Association and State Fraternal Order of Police. A ruling is expected by the end of the year.
Bevin had criticized last month Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd, who ruled against the law and indicated on Facebook that he was “interested” in Saturday’s Capitol rally. Bevin said the judge’s Facebook response showed his bias on pension reform, but Shepherd told the Courier Journal that he only wanted to be informed whether the trucks would block his driveway.
Participants at Saturday’s rally wanted to focus on the Nov. 6 general elections in which all 100 state House seats and 19 of the state Senate’s 38 seats are up for grabs. The rally was sponsored by the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, which represents active and retired public employees.
Tres Watson, spokesman for the Kentucky Republican Party, said of the rally, “Thanks to Republicans, for the first time in decades, the state budget is fully funding its share of public pensions. If they want to protest those responsible for our pension debt, I suggest they head to the Democrat Party headquarters and protest the eight years of waste, neglect and corruption experienced during the Beshear administration.” He was referring to former Gov. Steve Beshear, the father of Andy Beshear.
The rally featured about 10 speakers.
Sue Ellen Caldwell, with the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association, predicted that the voting power of teachers is like “a sleeping giant” and will be unleashed at the polls on Nov. 6.
Lea Collins, with the Kentucky Education Association, claimed Gov. Bevin “has energized us. We are holding our elected officials accountable. “
Beshear and Adkins did not speak but said they were there to support and encourage teachers and state workers. Beshear has announced his candidacy for governor next year and Adkins is strongly considering running next year for the state’s highest elected office.
“I’ve been fighting for public servants, for our teachers, firefighters, police officers, every state, city, county and school employee since they started trying to pass these illegal and very wrong bills,” said Beshear.
Asked about the difference in crowd size at the Capitol from last spring to Saturday, Beshear said the backing against the pension is strong but its critics also are confident they will prevail in court and at the polls in November.
Adkins said he is excited about the Nov. 6 elections and repeated his call for Beshear and all Democratic candidates to not raise campaign funds for 2019 until after this fall’s elections. Beshear reported on Friday that his 2019 campaign has raised nearly $700,000.
Beshear said he has been speaking out for Democratic candidates this fall and he is committed to beating Bevin next year and need money to do that. He said Bevin is a multimillionaire supported by the well-heeled Koch brothers.