FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - The Kentucky Supreme Court acted quickly Friday to accept the direct appeal of a Franklin Circuit Court ruling on the public pension reform bill passed by the 2018 General Assembly and scheduled the case to be heard in September.
Earlier in the day, Gov. Matt Bevin’s general counsel filed a notice of appeal of a ruling by Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd that declared the pension reform bill unconstitutional.
“It is essential that Kentucky’s public servants receive a speedy and final resolution regarding the legality of pension reform legislation,” said M. Stephen Pitt, noting it was important for it to go directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Pitts said the state’s pension system is already close to collapsing.
“Without the reforms in Senate Bill 151, the system will continue to decline and remain the worst funded in the nation,” he said. “They must be decided by our state’s highest court and not based on the highly suspect ruling of a single judge.”
The pension bill was originally a sewage bill, which was amended, heard in a House committee and passed by both the House and Senate within a matter of a few hours.
Attorney General Andy Beshear, who filed suit against the legislation shortly after it was signed into law by Gov. Bevin, agreed the case should be transferred to the Supreme Court. He also noted the governor’s attorneys waited until the afternoon of the final day an appeal could be filed.
“Our public servants and their families deserve a quick and final decision that protects the retirements they were promised,” he said.
Pitt requested the case be taken up during the Oct. 22-26 court week and that justices set aside an entire day to hear the case, with morning hours dedicated to the process by which lawmakers passed the bill and the afternoon be devoted to the substantive challenge to the bill.
However, the justices ordered the case to be heard at 10 a.m. on Sept. 20, with 20 minutes allocated to both sides. They also set an accelerated schedule for filing briefs in the case and must keep initial written briefs to 100 pages.
Pitt said it was imperative that the Supreme Court “resolve the legislative process issues on which the circuit court based its decision, so that the General Assembly has every tool at its disposal to advance important legislative priorities.”