June 7, 2018 Media

Beshear fights illegal pension bill

Attorney General Andy Beshear fought Thursday in Franklin Circuit Court against Gov. Bevin and the Republican majority’s illegal pension bill impacting more than 200,000 Kentuckians and their families.

The legal battle continues the same fight against pension changes thousands of Kentuckians rallied against during the 2018 legislative session; a fight to protect public employees, preserve the future of public education and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Kentuckians from the grassroots organizations 120 United and KY United We Stand —  comprised of educators, public employees and retirees — stood on the courthouse steps before Thursday’s hearing ensuring the media and elected officials knew they had not quietly gone away and will remain opposed to any attacks on education and public employees.

Beshear met advocates on the courthouse steps saying they now could finally have their day in court.

“Your rights have been violated. Your government has failed you. But this morning, we take our stand. This morning, we fight back,” Beshear said. “Today, I’m going to argue for the type of government you deserve.”

As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, Beshear argued the bill violated state constitutional law as it didn’t receive three readings on three separate days. The bill guts the inviolable contract for teachers’ and public employees’ benefits established into law by the General Assembly in the late 1970s.

Moreover, the process by which the bill was passed didn’t allow for public hearings or input.

Characterizing the bill as the walking dead, Beshear used Gov. Bevin’s legal counsel’s own words against him in his closing remarks. House Republicans had not just raised a Senate bill from the dead but had given it a new life by transplanting it as an amendment into a bill wholly unrelated in nature.

Bevin suffered several defeats ahead of Thursday’s hearing. His legal counsel had written a letter to Judge Shepherd saying Shepherd should recuse himself from the case as he had a conflict of interest since he would collect a judicial pension.

After Shepherd refused, Bevin’s attorneys then sent a letter to Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Minton asking him to assign a new judge to the case. Minton denied the request.

Known widely for its foul legislative process, Republicans attached their pension bill to a sewage bill in the waning days of the session and successfully rammed it through both of their controlled chambers in less than eight hours.

Democrats in both the House and Senate voted against the bill protesting — among many things — Republicans hadn’t attached any fiscal analysis to the bill they were to expected to vote on impacting so many Kentuckians. At the very least, it was a more than 200-page bill no one had a chance to read.

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins came to the hearing saying it is a continuation of the fight for public education and the state’s future. Adkins told members of the press, the bill did affect current employees such as how they can use sick days and the bill will impact local school districts throughout the state.

“It definitely impacts being able to retain and recruit quality teachers in the future,” Adkins said.  “In my opinion, this fight is the same fight a few months ago during the session. This fight is about the future of public education and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

At the end of the hearing, Beshear said thousands of Kentuckians are outraged by the illegal pension bill not only as it was the same bill that died in the Senate, but they were not allowed any process by which to hear or give testimony on its impact.

“We deserve better. The Constitution requires better and this is our chance to give our people better government,” Beshear said.