Politics

As one of its final acts of this year’s legislative session, the Republican-led Kentucky House of Representatives passed a resolution formally condemning Gov. Matt Bevin for saying that teachers neglected students by attending protests in Frankfort on Friday, leading to child abuse.

The reprimand came after Democrats and several Republican statehouse leaders demanded an apology from Bevin for the remarks.

Acting-House Speaker David Osborne said he didn’t understand why Bevin made the statement because he didn’t hear of any problems that arose from the protests.

“I think it’s unfortunate that some statements that have been made will overshadow some of the good work that we’ve done in this session,” Osborne said.

The resolution was passed by a voice vote without any representatives objecting.

Thousands of teachers descended on the state Capitol Friday to call for more education funding and protest recent changes made to retirement benefits for current and future public workers.

It was the latest in a string of protests and rallies put on by teachers and other state workers during this year’s legislative session.

The statewide teachers union called for lawmakers to override Bevin’s vetoes of the two-year state budget and revenue bills, which set aside more money for public education than the governor’s proposed spending plan.

Both chambers ended up rebuffing Bevin’s vetoes, passing the measures into law.

After the day’s events, Bevin made the comment about teachers to a group of reporters outside the Capitol.

“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.”

Democrats quickly condemned Bevin’s comments.

Mary Nishimuta, executive director of the Kentucky Democratic Party, called the comments “inappropriate and perverse.”

“His insults of teachers over the last year have been beneath the decorum of any respectable elected official,” Nishimuta wrote in a statement. “This rhetoric has crossed a line. As a mother, suggesting children were abused as a prop for his political rhetoric is disturbing and absurdly in poor taste.”

On Friday, Senate President Robert Stivers said he would hate it if Bevin’s comments “marred” his accomplishments.

“It hurts me to think that the things that have been done by this administration will be overshadowed by a statement that is indefensible,” Stivers said. “If anyone asks me for my advice, I would say that they should come out and make a statement, either clarifying it or being apologetic and getting the statement behind them.”

Saturday was the final day of the 2018 legislative session. Lawmakers will attend periodic committee hearings for the rest of the year, but will not formally reconvene until Jan 8, 2018 unless Bevin calls a special session.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.