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UPDATED: Bevin Says Teacher Protests Left Students Vulnerable To Sex Abuse, Poison

Ryland Barton

After thousands of teachers traveled to Frankfort on Friday to protest, Gov. Matt Bevin said that somewhere in Kentucky children were sexually assaulted or ingested poison because they were left unattended.

Bevin made the comments to several reporters early Friday evening, hours after the Republican-led legislature overrode his vetoes of the state budget and tax reform bills amid noisy protests from teachers.

“Do you know how many hundreds of thousands of children today were left home alone?” Bevin asked reporters, according to a video posted on Twitter by WDRB News reporter Marcus Green.

“I guarantee you somewhere in Kentucky today a child was sexually assaulted that was left at home because there was nobody there to watch them,” Bevin continued. “I guarantee you somewhere today a child was physically harmed or ingested poison because they were home alone because a single parent didn’t have any money to take care of them.”

Over 10,000 teachers and supporters gathered in Frankfort to call for higher education funding and protest recent changes to state worker pension benefits signed into law by Bevin.

Teachers have had a near-constant presence in the state Capitol during this year’s legislative session as Bevin and Republican leaders of the legislature mulled changes to pension benefits for public workers.

The pension bill that Bevin signed will mostly affect future workers, especially teachers, who will no longer receive conventional pension plans.

The new law affects current workers by capping the amount of saved-up sick leave they can apply towards retirement at the end of this year.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, and the statewide unions for teachers and police have filed a lawsuit to block the changes.

More 30 school districts canceled school ahead of the rallies on Friday because teachers called off work.

UPDATE: 6:07 pm.:

The Republican-led Kentucky legislature has rebuffed Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of the two-year state budget and revenue bills, prompting cheers from teachers assembled in the State Capitol Rotunda.

In a speech from the Senate floor, Hazard Republican Sen. Brandon Smith called on lawmakers to override Bevin’s veto of the budget to keep the governor from calling lawmakers back for a special legislative session.

“If you thinking siding with the governor and giving him the authority to control this budget is a good idea, then vote no,” Smith said.

The statewide teachers’ union called on lawmakers to override Bevin’s vetoes of the two-year budget and revenue bills because the legislation set aside more funding for public education than the governor’s proposed spending plan did.

As the state House of Representatives debated the override, Bevintweeted out a plea for lawmakers to accept his veto.

“We have time to do this correctly. The people of Kentucky deserve nothing less Transparency makes for good policy AND good politics. I have met with House and Senate leaders all week to propose more responsible ways to pay for 100% of the requested education funding. Crickets,” Bevin wrote from his official account.

Rep. Jeff Hoover, a Republican from Jamestown, criticized the governor for never calling a special legislative session on tax reform last year, despite promising to do so.

“It is incumbent on us to take action and not count on a special session,” Hoover said.

Bevin then took to Twitter again to reignite criticism of Hoover for secretly settling a sexual harassment complaint made by a staffer last year.

“The only reason we did not have a special session last year is because Jeff Hoover, a married man, was sexually involved with a very young, single member of his staff and was paying hush money to hide his actions…The result was chaos in the KY House that stopped everything,” Bevin wrote.

Hoover officially admitted to breaking legislative ethics rules earlier this week for exchanging sexually charged text messages with a legislative staffer who used to work for him. He will be fined $1,000.

UPDATE: 5:12 pm.:

The Kentucky Senate has voted to override Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of House Bill 362, which would let local governments phase-in pension increases.

UPDATE: 4:30 p.m.:

Kentucky lawmakers have officially finalized an override of Gov. Bevin’s veto of the $480 million tax hike that helps pay for increases in public education spending. The measure now becomes law.

UPDATE: 4:18 p.m.  From the Associated Press: 

The Kentucky House has overridden Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a two-year state spending plan that increases education funding with the help of a $480 million tax increase.

The Republican-controlled House voted 66-28 to override Bevin’s vetoes of House Bill 200. The bill authorizes the state to spend $4,000 for every public school student, the highest level in state history.

The increase is possible because of a more than $480 million tax increase approved in a separate bill.

Bevin had vetoed both bills, warning the new taxes would not generate enough money to cover the new spending. Thousands of public school teachers rallied Friday at the Capitol, urging lawmakers to override the vetoes anyway.

Original Post:

Kentucky’s Republican-led House of Representatives has overridden Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a $480 million tax hike that helps pay for increases in public education spending.

On Friday afternoon, the House voted 57-40 to override Bevin’s veto of the tax bill.

Lawmakers are also considering whether to override Bevin’s veto of the state budget bill ahead of a deadline Saturday night.

Both chambers of the legislature need to override the governor’s vetoes or pass new budget and tax bills in order to avoid Bevin calling a special legislative session in the coming months.

Meanwhile, thousands of teachers rallied at the state Capitol on Friday, pushing for lawmakers to increase funding for education and protesting a law signed by Bevin that changes state worker pension benefits.

Teachers rallying at the Capitol said they were still frustrated by lawmakers’ passage and Bevin’s signature of a bill that tweaks benefits to current state workers and moves future educators out of the conventional pension system.

Sammi Hatfield teaches third grade in Montgomery County. She said the protest had moved on beyond pensions to the stagnant funding for public education.

“They thought it was personal then, but it’s really personal now,” Hatfield said. “Because what they were doing then was impacting me and all my fellow teachers. But what they’re doing now impacts my students and their students.”

Kentucky State Police limited access into the building to only 500 protesters at a time, creating a crowded bottleneck of people trying to enter the Capitol.

The budget bill vetoed by Bevin increased the SEEK formula, the main funding source for public education, but teaching advocates argue that the increase doesn’t account for inflation.

Plus, the budget would eliminate several ancillary education programs like teacher professional development and grants for textbooks and other instructional materials.

The budget would also issue 6.25 percent cuts to extended school services like after-school, summer school and pre-school programs.

Sherri Botts teaches fifth grade in Lexington. She said teachers will push to elect candidates that will put more money towards public education.

“There are protests and rallies going on all across this commonwealth. We have the ear of the voters and come November, things are going to change,” Botts said.

This fall, all 100 seats in the state House are up for re-election and half of the 38 seats in the Senate.

At least 40 teachers are running for Kentucky legislative seats this year, most of them Democrats.

This post has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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