The Kentucky Supreme Court just ruled unanimously in favor of the commonwealth’s teachers and public employees in its overturning of a controversial pension law.
On Thursday, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that Bevin lost his appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which ruled 7-0 that the law he championed that drastically cut state employees’ pensions was unconstitutional. In his opinion, Justice Daniel Venters wrote that the bill failed to meet Kentucky’s constitutional threshold for bills, which require three public readings in both the House and Senate before it can be passed.
“In deference to the General Assembly, we necessarily stop short of providing a complete and precise definition of what must occur to qualify as a reading of the bill, but we are well-settled in the conviction that what occurred here falls far short of the requirements,” Venters wrote.
As Grit Post reported in March, the 291-page pension bill was originally introduced as an amendment to a sewage bill, and Republicans voted it out of a legislative committee that did not have oversight of state employee pensions just mere minutes after Representative John “Bam” Carney (R) introduced it. Lawmakers passed it on a party-line vote in both chambers late in the evening, and Governor Bevin signed it into law as teachers protesting the measure filled the capitol rotunda.
Had it passed, the bill would have gone into effect January 1, changing all pension plans for new teachers hired in 2019 and beyond to a cash-only plan. It would also eliminate the guaranteed five percent return on investment for all teachers hired in the past five years, and erase the $5,000 death benefit given to teachers’ spouses in the event of a teacher unexpectedly passing away.
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd previously struck down the pension law as unconstitutional in June, though Governor Bevin appealed the decision to the Kentucky Supreme Court. After Thursday’s ruling by the commonwealth’s highest court, Shepherd’s decision will stand, meaning Bevin’s pension bill is officially dead.
Governor Bevin stated after the decision that the court’s ruling was “an unprecedented power grab by activist judges.”
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.