Kentucky Capitol

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers will have a full plate when they return to Frankfort on Tuesday for the 2019 session.

But it's not clear if there is room on that plate to deal with the state's biggest issue: pension reform.

Gov. Matt Bevin has called on lawmakers to pass a bill this session, but House and Senate leaders are making no guarantees. Republicans control both chambers, but Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer sounded more confident about prospects for a pension bill.

“I think the votes are here in the Senate to pass significant pension reform,” Thayer said. “Our members in the Senate understand that this is a crisis and that we have to take some significant steps.”

New House Majority Leader Bam Carney was more cautious following massive teacher protests last spring and a failed special session on pensions in December.

“I think finding consensus may be difficult,” Carney said. “I think trying to get everybody on the same page is going to take some time.”

Carney said he is not sure there is enough time in this short 30-day session to cut a deal.

“It's my goal that we do not allow pensions to be the only issue this session," he said. "I think there's too many very important things we need to get done."

But both leaders do agree passing a school safety bill is high on the agenda. In fact, it has been designated as Senate Bill 1.

“That will be our top priority bill,” Thayer said.

A special bipartisan working group has been studying the school safety issue since June.

“I think both chambers have agreed that school safety is going to be a huge priority,” Carney said.

Both said cleaning up the tax reform law passed last year is also urgent. In March, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that the law required the state’s 6 percent sales tax be applied to charities.

“That was never the legislative intent,” Thayer said.

Lawmakers are also likely to consider reforming the state’s criminal bail system.

The chambers could also take up the issue of sports betting, but it appears, once again, that the push for medical marijuana may flame out.

“I don't see the votes for medical marijuana yet in the Senate,” Thayer said.

Carney said the issue will likely not be brought to the House floor for a vote if it has no chance in the Senate.

“I think it will have a hard time going through both chambers,” he said.

The session begins Tuesday with a huge controversy over a contested race in House District 13. Incumbent Republican Rep. DJ Johnson is challenging the election result in which he lost to Democrat Jim Glenn by one vote. It is unclear whether the House will seat Glenn or perhaps conduct its own recount.

Carney said only, “We’re going to follow the Constitution.”

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I cover a range of stories for WDRB, but really enjoy tracking what's going on at our State Capitol. I grew up on military bases all over the world, but am a Kentuckian at heart. I'm an EKU alum, and have lived in Louisville for 30 years.