Justices to hear arguments on pension reform case

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – The Kentucky Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Thursday, on the appeal of a lower court ruling that declared the pension reform bill passed by the 2018 General Assembly was unconstitutional.

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear filed suit against Bevin after Senate Bill 151, originally a sewage measure but amended to essentially contain provisions of the original pension bill, 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, along 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 it, saying the changed bill did not receive the required three readings on three separate days in each chamber and that it was an 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.

Gov. Matt Bevin told reporters on Wednesday that the survival of the public pension system is at stake. “Assuming we want the pension system to continue to pay benefits to the people of Kentucky, and I do, then we better hope that [the justices] rule wisely,” said Bevin.

Regardless of the outcome, he continued, the process does not end here. “Unless you have discovered $60-odd billion that no one else has found yet, there is still much work left to be done. But it can be done.”

Beshear, who will be arguing the case before the High Court, said, “This case is about whether the Kentucky General Assembly can shut out the very public it is sworn to serve. The Kentucky Constitution prohibits an 11-page sewer bill from becoming a 291-page pension bill, passing in just six hours without a single public comment, without giving lawmakers time to read it and without the required number of votes.”

Because of the wide interest in the case, which affects some 360,000 public employees, teachers and retirees, the Supreme Court is partnering with Kentucky Educational Television to broadcast the proceedings live, statewide.

It will air on KET’s KY Channel, available in most parts of the state, and can also be viewed online at www.ket.org/legislature.

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