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Franklin County Circuit Court strikes down public pension bill

Franklin County Circuit Court strikes down public pension bill

Bill Stephens

June 22nd, 2018

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FRANKFORT — State Senator Dorsey Ridley, D-Henderson, says yesterday’s ruling by the Franklin County Circuit Court striking down Senate Bill 151, the public pension bill, was the right decision.

The bill was found to be “unconstitutional and void.” Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled that SB 151 violates the Kentucky Constitution because it did not receive three readings on three separate days. Further, he said SB 151 did not receive at least 51 votes in the House as is required for a funding appropriation measure. The bill passed the House 49-46.

“I appreciate Judge Shepherd’s decision,” said Senate Ridley, the Senate Democratic Caucus Chair. “It confirms what I, along with my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Caucus, have been saying since the introduction of the bill. It was an awful piece of legislation that was handled very poorly and rushed through the process without proper vetting.”

Senate Bill 151 was originally a nine-page sewer bill, changed to a 291-page public pension bill. Introduced and passed in both the House and Senate on the same day, the bill received its first five readings as a sewer bill.

“This is a victory for teachers and all public workers and I am pleased to be standing on the winning side,” said Senator Ridley. “I applaud Attorney General Andy Beshear for continuing this fight in the court system.”

“The bill would have hurt public education and made recruiting new teachers unnecessarily challenging,” Senator Ridley added, explaining that under the bill, teachers hired after January 2019 would have been placed in a hybrid-cash balance plan, rather than in the current defined benefits plan, and teachers would have had to work until age 65 or thereabouts.

SB 151 also capped the use of sick days for future teacher and public employee retirees, effective December 31 of this year. “This would likely have caused some of our best teachers and public employees to retire before they really wanted to and caused us to lose some great educators and public employees,” he said.

The judge did not rule on whether the new law violates the inviolable contract of employees and retirees.

SB 151 would not have affected the unfunded mandate, nor added any new money to the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System. Since its passage, the Senate Democratic Caucus has criticized the bill for gaining approval with no public hearing, no actuarial analysis, and no outside testimony.

“Following today’s ruling, I am hopeful that the legislature can come together and work in a bi-partisan manner to fulfill our promise of a pension and move our state forward,” said Senator Ridley.

However, there could be further action on this bill. Governor Bevin could appeal Judge Shepherd’s ruling. Both parties have agreed that any appeals should go directly to the Kentucky Supreme Court, which should expedite the case.

“Be assured, I will be following this case closely,” said Senator Ridley, “and will continue to fight for what is right and I will always fight for teachers and for education.”

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