Gov. Matt Bevin said in a radio interview Tuesday morning that there was still time for a special session of the Kentucky General Assembly to take up his legislation to change the state’s troubled public pension system, but that time was running out because legislators were distracted by the sexual harassment scandal among House Republicans.
In the interview with Cincinnati station 55KRC, Bevin said that House and Senate leaders had originally said they had the votes to pass his bill, though members continued to debate the details in the following weeks. However, Bevin added that “in recent weeks, I’ve got behavioral problems with the adults in the legislature in Kentucky. And we have people acting in sexually reprehensible ways, and that has created a tempest in the teapot.”
Bevin said he might still call a special session, but the sexual harassment scandal that ensnared four Republican members — including Rep. Jeff Hoover, who resigned as speaker of the House — was “distracting” legislators, who “are all unable to focus.”
“There is still time to get this done in a special session, but that time is fast closing,” said Bevin. “And it’s really to be determined whether we can actually do what needs to be done.”
Bevin said “it’s critical to get one before the budget session begins because we have to make hard financial decisions in Kentucky,” noting that the state had “the worst-funded pension system in America.” Bevin added that “if we don’t fix it, the checks will stop coming in very short order.”
Asked about the letters signed by four members of the House GOP leadership and 47 other Republican House members asking him to not call a special session and to take up pension legislation in the regular session beginning in January, Bevin said he wasn’t sure if House Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne actually penned the letter and equated it with the tens of thousands of letters he gets from other people throughout the state.
“I get many, many letters,” said Bevin. “Folks who want to see it moved now, others who don’t want to see it happen. And all of these are important.”
Asked about how innocent people sometimes settle with accusers in order to avoid costly legal fees, Bevin said that he agreed that sometimes happens, but then launched into what appeared to be a criticism of Hoover, though he did not use his name. Bevin criticized those members who entered into a settlement on sexual harassment claims but “refuse to answer questions” as tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars are being spent to investigate them, adding that “people have not denied any of the allegations, and they are reprehensible.”
“We don’t need to have merit legislators asking for sexual pictures and naked pictures of, and sending things of their young employees, young girls that work for them in their office,” said Bevin.
Asked if there is a lynch mob mentality to convict anyone who is accused, Bevin said people should be given the presumption of innocence “if you’ve not admitted to something and it’s not been proven, or if you have not paid people to keep known behavior silent and swear them to secrecy, and if you’ve not refused to participate in the due process of clearing your name.”
He then added “if, in fact, you apologized to your wife and the public… I mean, come on.”
In an emotional statement shortly after the settlement between a former staffer and four Republican House members was reported, Hoover resigned as House speaker, apologizing to his family for sending inappropriate text messages and banter, but denying a sexual relationship or harassment with the woman.
Bevin has called for any legislator who was involved in settling a sexual harassment claim to resign from the legislature, though his resolution to explicitly call for that was rejected by a vote of the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Central Committee, with some members questioning Bevin’s motives.