FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear on Monday filed his brief for next week’s Supreme Court oral arguments on the constitutionality of the pension reform bill passed by the 2018 General Assembly.
The 130-page document is a reply to the brief by Gov. Matt Bevin, which was filed Aug. 27.
Beshear filed suit against Bevin after Senate Bill 151, which was originally a sewage measure, but was amended to essentially contain provisions of the original pension bill and was approved by a House committee and both houses of the General Assembly in the space of just a few hours.
The suit by Beshear, together with the Kentucky Educational Association and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, was filed against Bevin shortly after the governor signed the measure into law in early April.
In his June ruling declaring the bill unconstitutional, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd took issue with the process used to change SB 151 from legislation dealing with sewage to become the public pension reform bill, saying the changed bill did not receive the required three readings on three separate days in each chamber, and that it was appropriations bill, meaning it required 51 votes to pass. The bill only cleared the chamber, 49-46. It easily received the number of votes needed in the Senate.
Shepherd’s ruling did not address whether the bill broke the so-called “inviolate contract” made with public employees when they accepted employment.
Beshear’s brief concentrated on the points Shepherd determined made the bill unconstitutional and where they violated two sections of state law, specifically one statute that requires an actuarial analysis and another that says a fiscal note must accompany the bill.
While the General Assembly can enact legislation that suspends earlier enacted law, known as “a notwithstanding clause” and is something that happens often with budget legislation, such language was not included in SB 151, according to Beshear.
In summing up his brief, Bevins’ General Counsel, M. Stephen Pitt, said, “Based on the outcome of this case, its future will either be a bleak one defined by insolvency, extreme taxation, and maybe even a time when pension checks stop coming in the mail—as they have in places like Prichard, Alabama—or it will move toward a bright one defined by solvent pension systems, low taxes that encourage economic development, and adequate financial resources to pay for both pensions and important government services.”
Beshear summed up his case in the brief filed Monday saying, “SB 151 is government at its worst. The process by which SB 151 was passed violated Section 46 of the Kentucky Constitution. This Court should affirm the decision of the Trial Court and declare SB 151 null and void. In addition, this Court should hold SB 151 unconstitutional and void because it violates Sections 2, 13, and 19 of the Kentucky Constitution and KRS 6.350 and KRS 6.955.” Those are the laws requiring an actuarial analysis and a fiscal note on these types of bills.
The governor’s attorneys have until Sept. 14 to reply to the AG’s brief, and the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Sept. 20.