A judge has thrown out GOP Gov. Matt Bevin’s controversial Kentucky pension overhaul law, siding with Democratic state Attorney General Andy Beshear’s objection over how it was passed.
Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled in favor of Beshear on Wednesday, agreeing that the aggressive manner in which the reform was passed was unconstitutional. At the end of the 2018 legislative session, the governor’s retirement change was tucked into a sewage bill. Six hours later, it became law without being reviewed by lawmakers or made public knowledge.
Shepherd also voided the overhaul because the vote did not get three readings in each chamber. The judge said that, since the bill appropriated state funds, it was two votes short of the constitutional majority to pass. Beshear also argued that the law violated the state’s “inviolable contract” with teachers, but the judge said that objection was irrelevant as the measure was enacted improperly.
The bill cut pension benefits for Kentucky teachers and moved new hires into a 401(k)-style plan, rather than into the traditional defined benefits pension program. The governor’s plan was an attempt to shore up the struggling state’s $40 billion shortfall. Kentucky’s pension system is 31% funded.
The Beshear called the decision “a win for open, honest government.” Plus, “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,” he said in a Twitter video.
Elizabeth Kuhn, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the ruling was “expected” and announced Bevin’s plans to appeal the decision. She said that the consequences for the judge’s call are “tremendous” for Kentucky, claiming that other bills have been passed under the “exact same process” as the voided bill.
“If all of these bills are now invalidated based on Judge Shepherd’s ruling, our legal system will descend into chaos,” Kuhn said.