In late June, a circuit court judge in Kentucky ruled that Senate Bill 151, the stinking, pension-gutting law, is unconstitutional. The extremely rushed process by which the state legislature passed the bill clearly violated state law and rendered the entire bill unconstitutional. While Governor Bevin is expected to appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court, this ruling is a victory for working families, retirees, and communities throughout Kentucky.
For months in 2017, Gov. Bevin pledged to call a special session of the legislature to deal with both tax reform and public pensions. Eventually, he dropped tax reform and said the special session would just be about public pensions. Bevin introduced radical anti-pension legislation in October 2017, but he still didn’t call a special session, mostly due to a lack of support. Finally, 2018 arrived and with it, a new regular session of the Kentucky legislature. Still, pension legislation was not introduced and considered.
In February 2018, Republican state senators finally introduced pension legislation. State Senator Bowen introduced Senate Bill 1, which was heard in the State and Local Government Committee. SB 1 passed out of the committee, despite overwhelming opposition from the public during its committee hearing. The bill was expected to receive a vote on the Senate floor on Friday, March 9th, but due to the strong opposition, the bill was referred back to committee and the Senate adjourned for the weekend.
That seemed to be the end of anti-pension legislation in Kentucky during the regular legislative session. Until Thursday, March 29th, that is. In the span of eight hours, Republican lawmakers substituted anti-pension language in a bill dealing with “the local provision of wastewater services” and then passed this bill through both chambers of the legislature. Senate Bill 151 is 291 pages. The language of the bill was not even publicly available until the day after it passed the legislature, was introduced without a chance for review, and passed without an actuarial analysis. Doors were locked to keep citizens away from their legislators while they debated the bill. Gov. Bevin signed SB 151 a week later.
As soon as Gov. Bevin signed the legislation, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, along with the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police sued to stop the legislation from taking effect. Kentucky law requires that legislation receive at least three hearings in each chamber of the legislature. SB 151 did not, thus making the process by which it was passed unconstitutional. This formed the basis of the ruling by Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd on June 20. SB 151 also failed to receive a majority of votes in the State House. It passed 49-46, but it should have received 51 votes to pass.
It is expected that Gov. Bevin will appeal the ruling to the Kentucky Supreme Court. However, working families, retirees, and their allies are fighting back. If you live in Kentucky, please send an email to Gov. Bevin encouraging him to let the decision stand. SB 151 would devastate retirement security for working families in the commonwealth and the manner in which it was passed blatantly violates Kentucky law. Please write to Gov. Bevin and tell him don’t appeal the ruling!