Leadership Debate, Education Rally Mark Day One Of 2018 Session

Jan 2, 2018

The introduction of new House rules for the 2018 legislative session evolved into a debate over who should control the gavel in the chamber.

Day one began with an official announcement of special elections to fill vacant seats and a moment of silence for Rep. Dan Johnson, who committed suicide after denying sexual assault allegations in December.

But it was a vote on new House rules, including one creating a committee to consider charges against members, that took the spotlight. Democratic critics claimed the Republican majority was using the new language to allow Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne to keep the gavel while skirting a hard vote on replacing Jeff Hoover - who technically remains speaker despite announcing his intention to resign over a sexual harassment settlement.

"You cannot have a speaker pro tem fulfill those duties when it ks the responsibility of the chamber to elect a speaker," Rep. Jim Wayne told colleagues.

The rules were approved, however.

Hoover must submit a formal resignation while the House is in session, but in a statement to CHNI News, the Jamestown Republican indicated he's reconsidering the path forward and has asked Osborne to handle the top duties until further notice.

Meanwhile, public education advocates took to the rotunda to continue pressing lawmakers on pensions and school funding.

"Find funding first!" was the slogan chanted by participants.

Many credit the outcry from some teacher groups with helping derail Gov. Matt Bevin's initial legislative offering on pensions, which would shift future teachers to 401(k)-style plans.

Tuesday speakers railed against what they called a war on education in the state. Gay Adelmann, a co-founder of Save Our Schools Kentucky, said the goal of the rally was to keep shining a light on pensions and other priorities.

"We needed to feel like people had something to grab onto or we were going to lose that momentum," she said. "I do think the momentum is building. I don't think people have forgotten and I think today's just day one."

Adelmann  worries the SEEK formula - the K-12 funding mechanism in Kentucky - could also be on the chopping block as lawmakers look for ways to shore up one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country.