The controversial bill pushed by Kentucky Republicans and Governor Matt Bevin (R) that would have gutted public employee pensions is officially dead.
On Wednesday, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd issued a 34-page ruling on the pension overhaul bill that Republican lawmakers hurriedly passed one night in March, deeming it unconstitutional. This means that, effectively, the pension cuts will not take effect.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Judge Shepherd declared the bill in violation of Section 46 of Kentucky’s constitution in two different ways.
First, the bill’s rushed passage through both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly was unconstitutional, as the state’s founding document states that legislation is required to have three separate readings on three separate days prior to a vote. However, Rep. John “Bam” Carney — the author of the 291-page bill cutting state employee pensions — snuck the language into an unrelated bill concerning sewage regulations, which was voted on before lawmakers even had a chance to read the bill.
Secondly, Judge Shepherd pointed out that the pension cut bill, as legislation appropriating state funds, needed the support of a majority of lawmakers to be legally passed. However, only 49 out of 100 lawmakers voted for it. Due to its illegal passage, Judge Shepherd didn’t address the bill’s violation of the “inviolable contract” that’s been part of state law for 25 years, which states that as gratitude for public employees’ contributions to the commonwealth, their pensions will not be altered. It’s likely that the bill may have been deemed unconstitutional anyway had Shepherd ruled on that provision.
Kyle O’Quinn, a Floyd Central High School teacher who protested the pension bill after it was passed, told Grit Post that Judge Shepherd’s ruling was welcome relief for Kentucky educators.
“It was about time reason and compassion for public service workers prevail,” O’Quinn said. “It is completely ridiculous that the governor expects workers whose salaries are contractual to live off even less through the year, and to do so with such shady and illegal methods.”
Letcher County teacher Lisa Montgomery also applauded Wednesday’s ruling.
“Bevin has demonized and deceived public workers, and morale has been low. However, our spirits are lifted, knowing that there are some who refuse to compromise the future of so many hard-working Kentuckians,” Montgomery told Grit Post. “We must stick together and stay active because the fight for public education is never over.”
“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,” Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear stated.
Governor Matt Bevin did not respond to Grit Post’s request for comment. However, it’s expected he’ll appeal Judge Shepherd’s decision invalidating his overhaul of pensions to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.