Politics & Government

Bevin asks judge to amend ruling striking down the Kentucky pension overhaul bill

Attorney General Andy Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin are locked in a court battle over a new state pension law.
Attorney General Andy Beshear and Gov. Matt Bevin are locked in a court battle over a new state pension law. File photos

Attorneys for Gov. Matt Bevin are asking a Franklin County judge to amend his ruling in the lawsuit over the state's new public pension law.

Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a ruling June 20 striking down the law and enjoining Bevin from implementing it.

Shepherd ruled that the pension bill violated the Kentucky Constitution because legislators did not give it three readings on separate days in each chamber, and because it was not approved by 51 members of the House, which is required for bills that appropriate money. The Bevin administration has said it will appeal the ruling.

But first, Bevin is asking the judge to rule on a few other issues: whether the law violates the state's "inviolable contract" with teachers and other public workers and whether parts of the bill that are outside the "inviolable contract" and don't violate the 51-vote requirement can be separated from the rest of the law and stand on their own.

A ruling on those issues, the governor argues, will allow the appeals court to decide the constitutionality of Senate Bill 151 all at once, rather than dragging out the litigation with a "piecemeal" approach.

"By resolving these issues now, the court will ensure that the Kentucky Supreme Court can settle the constitutionality of Senate Bill 151 once and for all," the motion states. "Kentuckians need and deserve resolution through a single appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court."

The motion was filed Friday in Franklin Circuit Court.

“No matter what side of this case you are on, we can all agree that Kentuckians deserve resolution on the validity of SB 151,” Bevin's attorney, Steve Pitt, said in a news release. “We filed a motion today so that we can have a speedy and clear up-or-down ruling from the court on every issue at question with SB 151. If the bill is invalid based only on legislative-process issues, then these issues could be easily resolved by the General Assembly in an upcoming session. However, without a ruling from the court on the merits of SB 151, uncertainty surrounding the constitutionality of the bill will remain.”

Attorney General Andy Beshear challenged the law with the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police.

“Gov. Bevin is determined to cut the promised retirements of Kentucky’s teachers, police officers, firefighters, EMS, social workers, and other public servants," Beshear said in a statement Saturday. "These hard working families beat him in court and voided the sewer bill. Gov. Bevin should stop his attacks on working Kentuckians.”

The new law places teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2019, in a hybrid cash-balance plan, which is similar to a 401(k), rather than a traditional pension, and requires those teachers to work longer before becoming eligible for retirement. It also caps the amount of accrued sick leave teachers may convert toward retirement to the amount accrued as of Dec. 31, 2019.

State employees hired between 2003 and 2008 also are required to pay 1 percent more for health care.

The bill, approved by the legislature just six hours after it was introduced, sparked thousands of angry teachers to march on the state Capitol.

Attorney General Andy Beshear celebrates Judge Phillip Shepherd's ruling that the Republican pension law is unconstitutional. Governor Matt Bevin is expected to appeal the ruling.