Judge rules in favor of AG Beshear on pension lawsuit

06/20/2018 02:02 PM

FRANKFORT- The controversial pension reform has been ruled unconstitutional by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd.

Judge Shepherd released his opinion on Senate Bill 151 Thursday afternoon. The opinion rules the bill is unconstitutional and void because the General Assembly violated the Kentucky Constitution, specifically when it came to the three reading requirement and the majority vote requirement.

The opinion went on to say the Bevin administration is “permanently enjoined” from enforcing the measure. Judge Shepherd did, however, agree with the defendant’s argument that Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne was authorized to sign the bill as acting Speaker of the House.

According to Beshear, Judge Shepherd did not make a decision on whether or not the contents of the bill violated the inviolable contract because he had already ruled the process unconstitutional, thereby voiding the bill.

Attorney General Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky, who brought the lawsuit says the ruling helps keep open government in the Commonwealth.

“Today’s decision is a win for open, honest government, ruling that the Kentucky General Assembly violated the Constitution when it turned an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill. The ruling voids Senate Bill 151 in its entirety, which restores the promised retirements to over 200,000 teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public servants. I am honored to serve as their voice in court,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

As expected, the Bevin administration says they will be appealing ruling—and maintained this opinion will invalidate hundreds of bills that have passed in previous years.

“Today’s ruling from Judge Shepherd was expected in light of his inherent conflict in deciding the validity of SB 151, and an appeal from our legal team is imminent. Judge Shepherd refused to consider whether or not the bill violates the inviolable contract when issuing his ruling, and he invalidated the bill based, in part, on a procedural argument not even raised by AG Beshear. The consequences of this ruling are tremendous for Kentucky because hundreds, if not thousands, of bills have previously been passed by the General Assembly using the exact same process as Senate Bill 151. If all of these bills are now invalidated based on Judge Shepherd’s ruling, our legal system will descend into chaos. For example, cities and counties will go bankrupt without pension phase-in funding, and programs to combat the drug epidemic will be negatively impacted.” read a statement from Elizabeth Kuhn, Bevin Administration Communications Director.

Ben Self, chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party, reiterated the Attorney General’s comments following the ruling:

“The court’s ruling confirms Governor Bevin and the Republican majority’s sewage pension bill is not only bad for Kentucky’s teachers, firefighters, police officers and public employees but also shows that cramming legislation through without a transparent, public process violates the Kentucky Constitution.”

The appeal will likely go directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Michon Lindstrom

Michon is a producer for Pure Politics. Michon comes to Kentucky from Springfield, Illinois where she served as the statehouse reporter for the NBC affiliate. During her time in the Land of Lincoln she covered the state’s two year budget impasse and the largest school funding overall in Illinois history. Pure Politics airs weeknights at 7 and 11:30 on Spectrum News. Follow Michon on Twitter at @MichonLindstrom or reach her by email at michon.lindstrom@charter.com

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