Lawmakers return to the Capitol on Monday with two days remaining to pass legislation intended to shore up Kentucky's pension plans for state and local government retirees.
Restoring solvency to the pension system, which has a $33 billion unfunded liability, has been divisive for the Republican-controlled Senate and the Democratic-led House, which have been working on the issue since the Legislature convened in January.
Rep. Tommy Turner, R-Somerset, said he expects lawmakers to meet until midnight both days.
"The last few days have historically been the busiest," Turner said. "I don't know why, but we always seem to wait until the last days, until time is running out, to get things done."
Kentucy Governor Steve Beshear has announced he is vetoing a controversial religious freedom bill. Civil rights groups had urged a veto, saying the measure would essentially legalize certain forms of discrimination against gays and lesbians by groups and individuals who could claim they were doing so because of their religious beliefs.
Some church groups from across the state have been urging Beshear to sign the bill, saying it would give stronger legal standing to people who claim their religious rights have been violated.
“Religious freedom is a cornerstone of this great nation, and a right enshrined in both the United States Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution,” Gov. Beshear said in a statement released by his office. “I value and cherish our rights to religious freedom and I appreciate the good intentions of House Bill 279 and the members of the General Assembly who supported this bill to protect our constitutional rights to practice our religion."
State leaders are still working to find solutions to the Kentucky's troubled pension system —but he's not promising a deal the time the General Assembly regular session ends next week, Gov. Steve Beshear said on Monday.
Beshear has mediated sessions between House and Senate leadership on reforming the pension systems and how to fund them, after the chambers came to an impasse on the issue.
Those conversations have continued since the General Assembly adjourned last week for the veto period, but Beshear said he can't predict whether legislators will strike a deal before the 2013 session ends.
"One can never predict what will happen in the end, particularly in a legislative session but I feel good about where we are right now," Beshear said.
If lawmakers can't reach a deal, a special session to deal with the issue is likely.
After five years of advocacy, supporters of raising Kentucky's dropout age to 18 celebrated Monday as Gov. Steve Beshear signed the bill into law.
Flanked by House and Senate lawmakers—as well as First Lady Jane Beshear—the governor officially signed the law in a ceremony in his conference room. The bill would make raising the dropout age voluntarily for school districts until 55 percent of all districts made the change. Then it would become mandatory statewide. The legislation is a compromise reached by lawmakers in the 2013 General Assembly session.
Jane Beshear says the fact the five year fight on the issue is over is monumental for education in the Commonwealth.
"And I can't say it's a small step, it's a huge step," she said.
Governor Steve Beshear has one week to veto a controversial law protecting religious freedom or else it will become law.
On the federal level, if a bill isn't signed by the President within a certain period of time, it's thrown out in a process called the pocket veto.
But in Kentucky, the process is reversed. The governor has 10 days to sign a bill into law. But if he doesn't sign or veto in that time, it becomes law anyway.
Consider it a pocket law. The legislation in question is the so-called Religious Freedom bill, which allows Kentuckians to bypass laws they saw interfere with their religious beliefs. Opponents say it would overturn Fairness laws in cities across the commonwealth, and have lobbied the governor to act.
But the governor hasn't hinted at what he'll do with the bill.