Judge Rules Kentucky Pension Bill Unconstitutional; Appeal Likely

Jun 20, 2018

A Kentucky Circuit Court Judge has ruled the Commonwealth's recent pension reform bill is unconstitutional.
Credit J. Tyler Franklin / WFPL

A judge has struck down changes made to Kentucky’s pension systems earlier this year, ruling that lawmakers violated the state constitution by rushing the bill to passage in a matter of hours.

The pension bill was the subject of massive protests during this year’s legislative session when thousands of teachers and other state workers swarmed the state Capitol.

Republican leaders of the legislature and Gov. Matt Bevin said the bill was necessary in order to address the state’s ailing pension systems, which are short more than $30 billion in unfunded liabilities.

After promising that pension changes were likely dead, on one of the last days of the legislative session, a new pension bill was unveiled and passed out of both the House and Senate within a matter of hours.

The measure was attached to a bill that previously dealt with governance of sewage districts and amounted to a scaled back version of Senate Bill 1.

Almost all of the provisions applied to future workers — especially teachers — but it still made changes to how current workers can use saved-up sick days to help them qualify for retirement, among other provisions.

Attorney General Andy Beshear sued Bevin for signing the bill into law, saying that lawmakers didn’t follow proper procedure and that the pension changes violated state worker contract rights.

In his ruling, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd said that lawmakers didn’t present the bill on three separate days as required by the state Constitution.

He also said since that the bill was technically an appropriation measure it needed a constitutional majority to pass out of the House, but the legislation only received a simple majority of all present members — 49 votes.

Shepherd did not rule that the bill violated contract rights.