Beshear, unions for teachers, police file lawsuit over pension bill

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File photo: Attorney General Andy Beshear on Monday announched he has filed suit against a third opioid distributor, Ohio-based Cardinal Health. (Kentucky Today/Tom Latek)

By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear kept his promise and filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning against the public pension bill that Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law the night before.

 

In addition to Beshear, the 49-page suit, filed at Franklin Circuit Court, also lists the unions of the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police as plaintiffs.

The defendants in the lawsuit are Gov. Bevin, Senate President Robert Stivers, D-Manchester, House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, the Board of Trustees of the Teachers Retirement System of Kentucky and the Board of Trustees of the Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Senate Bill 151, which originally dealt with wastewater treatment, was amended in a House committee to include the language of the original pension bill, SB 1, then approved by the full House and Senate in less than nine hours on March 29.

The suit claims the new SB 151 “substantially alters and ultimately reduces the retirement benefits of the over 200,000 active members of the pension systems, including teachers, police officers and firefighters.  In doing so, it breaks the ‘inviolable’ contract that the Commonwealth made with employees,” under several sections of state law.

“Under those laws, the legislature promised Kentucky’s public employees that in exchange for their decades of public service, they would be guaranteed certain retirement benefits,” the suit reads. “By enacting SB 151, Governor Bevin and the General Assembly have substantially impaired and broken that contract, in violation of the Kentucky Constitution and state statute.”

The lawsuit stated SB 151 was reported out of the House State Government Committee without an actuarial analysis.  It quotes state law as saying, “No bill affecting pensions may be reported out of committee unless accompanied by an actuarial analysis.”

The lawsuit seeks a temporary injunction to prevent the enforcement of SB 151 until the case is heard and, in final judgment, a permanent injunction.

In response to the lawsuit, Elizabeth Kuhn, communications director for Gov. Bevin, issued the following statement:

“The Beshears have always treated pensions as political currency, so it’s no surprise that Attorney General Beshear filed this political lawsuit today,” she said. “Over eight years, former governor Steve Beshear underfunded the pension system by billions, recklessly diverting much needed funds to other causes and allowing the system to become the worst funded in the country.

“Now, the Attorney General is carrying on the Beshear family legacy by trying to block a law that will strengthen our pension system.”

Kuhn said Beshear “has threatened litigation since the process began, proving that he cared less about the contents of pension reform and more about scoring political points with the KEA — a reliable source for family fundraising. Rather than looking out for the best interest of Kentuckians, the Attorney General has chosen a political path, one that will cause irreparable damage to public employees and taxpayers.”

In a statement, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, said the pension bill “negatively impacts the retirement systems for teachers and public employees and is certain to be thrown out in court.”