Judge looks to make decision as soon as possible in lawsuit opposing pension reform bill

04/19/2018 04:52 PM

FRANKFORT – The question of whether Senate Bill 151, the pension reform bill, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin is legal, is at the heart of the matter of the latest lawsuit against the Bevin administration.

Thursday, legal teams for the Kentucky Attorney General and Bevin’s administration appeared before Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd.

No decision was made at the 45 minute hearing, but Shepherd did say that he understands the need to move the case along as quickly as he can.

Beshear has issues with what’s in the pension bill as well as how it was passed in one day. He also questions the legality of Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, signing the bill.

The first item Shepherd will take up during next Wednesday’s hearing is a motion, which was presented by Steve Pitt, general counsel for Gov. Matt Bevin, to disqualify Beshear from working the case because he provided legal advice to lawmakers regarding the legislation.

“He sent two letters to all members of the legislature providing legal advice as to what should and what should not be in the pension bill from his legal standpoint,” Pitt said. “He filed a lawsuit against the very people that he provided legal advice to. That, we believe, is contrary to the Kentucky Code for Professional Responsibility for lawyers.”

Beshear feels that the motion to disqualify him from the case is the administration’s attempt to keep him from holding Bevin accountable for a law which is not legal.

“In the end, the Bevin administration simply wants to prevent me from fighting for teachers, for firefighters and for making them accountable,” Beshear said. “Every Kentucky family has to follow the law under the constitution, and so does the governor.”

Beshear admits that one thing that he hopes comes out of this hearing is to stop the practice of moving key pieces of legislation by adding amendments to minor bills and ramming them through the General Assembly.

“Our constitution has what we call a three day rule, it requires legislation to be read three times on three separate days, and when they made that a part of the constitution, the reason was for caution and deliberation,” Beshear said. “It is a practice where by this legislature can make decisions in the dark. They can make a secret back room deal and not allow any type of public comment or debate on major legislation they pass, and look how it’s been abused. In the last year and a half alone, a dog biting bill became a higher education bill and was rammed through, a sewage bill became a pension bill, and was rammed through and a well digger bill became a tax on pensions which thank goodness didn’t make it all the way through. It’s a practice that has to stop.”

Pitt claims that the process with SB 151 was legal and looks forward to Shepherd ruling in Bevin’s favor.

“It was legal in the process and, of course, we believe in all particulars, this bill is legal and does not violate the so called inviolable contract,” Pitt said. In fact, it’s going to be interesting in discovery to hopefully flesh out for the first time what that inviolable contract is.”

Judge Shepherd told both parties that he will combine all the issues into one case, and will begin hearing the substance of this case in early June, in an effort to get the case to the State Supreme Court as soon as possible.

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