Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Wednesday denied a request by attorneys for Gov. Matt Bevin to amend the judge's ruling in a lawsuit over the state's new public pension bill.
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 to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
But first, Bevin's general counsel, Steve Pitt, asked the judge to rule on whether the law violates the state's "inviolable contract" -- language that guarantees teachers and state workers get the benefits promised when they are hired.
The governor's motion also asked 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.
During Wednesday's hearing on the motion, Pitt said it would allow the Kentucky Supreme Court "to fully address all the issues in this case without delay."
But Shepherd said nothing would preclude the governor from making that argument to the state's highest court.
In his 11-page ruling, Shepherd said, "Because the bill was never properly enacted, the legal issues regarding the inviolable contract are not ripe for review."
The judge, whom Bevin has called "an incompetent hack," also said he could not separate any parts of the bill from the rest.
Bevin spokesman Woody Maglinger said, "The Governor’s legal team had barely returned from today’s hearing when they received the Court’s pre-written 11-page order. It is disappointing that Judge Shepherd refused to take any time to seriously consider the issues raised during substantial oral arguments."
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who filed the lawsuit, said Shepherd "just denied Gov. Bevin's latest attempt to delay the pension bill lawsuit."
Pitt said Bevin most likely would ask the Supreme Court to rule on the inviolable contract. He said Bevin and the legislature want to know if they are not following the inviolable contract and do not want to drag this out. Both sides have said the case will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
During a hearing held before the ruling, Pitt said one might be tempted to say the attorney general might want to drag out this case because of "an upcoming election but I'm not going to charge or suggest that because I don't have any basis for that at this point in time, although some might reasonably suggest that."
Beshear asked the judge if the hearing "could stick to the issues."
Beshear, a Democrat, formally announced this week that he is a candidate for governor in 2019. Bevin, a Republican, has not yet said if he will seek re-election.
Beshear accused Bevin of trying to delay the case, noting various motions from the administration. He said the case already could have been scheduled for a hearing before the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The parties have 30 days to appeal the circuit court ruling to the high court once Shepherd rules on Bevin's latest motion.
Asked if he thinks Bevin might want the Supreme Court to hear the case after the November elections in which a new justice is elected from south-central Kentucky's 3rd District to replaced retiring Justice Daniel Venters, Beshear said he would not want to speculate on that.
Pitt repeated that Bevin does not want to delay the case.
Jim Carrroll, with Kentucky Government Retirees, said many public employees want to know as soon as possible the final court ruling on the case.
If the law stands, he said, he would expect many public employees to retire soon.