Supreme Court pension ruling a win for good government

Published 3:54 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Guest columnist

The Supreme Court of Kentucky unanimously ruled that Gov. Matt Bevin and the General Assembly broke the law and violated our Constitution when they turned an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill and passed it in six hours without letting legislators even read the bill.

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This action broke a solemn promise that our state made to more than 200,000 public servants, many of whom had already worked decades toward their retirement.

Just days after the bill passed, I addressed the 12,000 teachers and public servants who were rallying at the state Capitol. I told them that while the governor does not keep his promises, I do.

I then sued to void the sewer bill.

The Supreme Court ruling fully and finally voids it, and clearly states that Gov. Bevin and the General Assembly violated the Constitution.

The ruling is a landmark win for our teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers, EMS and countless more public servants and retirees.

The decision by members of Kentucky’s highest court is also a win for good government and transparency. It sends a message that when lawmakers hide their actions from the public and refuse to respect the Constitution, those actions will be overturned as illegal.

In the 2018 legislative session, the General Assembly tried to pass pension reform legislation in a transparent manner – as Senate Bill 1 – but the public rose up and defeated it.

What lawmakers did next might be the most egregious betrayal of the public’s trust we have seen in Kentucky –they turned an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill and rammed it through both the House and Senate in just six hours.

Kentuckians were outraged.

Over 12,000 teachers, firefighters and other public servants marched on the state Capitol because their government tricked and betrayed them.

After this march, Gov. Bevin attacked these public servants, accusing them of causing the abuse or addiction of children.

Alongside the Kentucky Education Association and the Fraternal Order of Police, I fought for more than seven months to undo the governor’s unconstitutional actions.

Let me be clear – the court’s decision and our fight for the people of Kentucky should be a lesson to all our public officials that we will stop any attempts by them in the future to shut our people out of the legislative process.

Kentuckians deserve a government that acts in an open, honest and transparent way, and government must honor its promises and abide by its contracts, just like every Kentucky family does.

And Kentuckians deserve a governor who doesn’t resort to name calling and scare tactics, claiming our defeat of their “pension reform” will destroy the very fabric of Kentucky.

This type of bullying and name-calling is an attempt to control the message because the governor and lawmakers denied the people of Kentucky the truth on how their “pension reform” was going to financially hurt our state at a time when we cannot afford to waste a single taxpayer dollar.

Yes, we must address our pension system. But the answer to a problem is never to break the law or to trick the public.

Lawmakers engaged in transparent, bipartisan reform in 2013. They should do so again by coming together, passing expanded gaming, and dedicating 100 percent of the revenue to our pension systems.

What we witnessed by the governor and lawmakers in the 2018 regular session is illegal and beneath the oath each elected official took to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

They might not keep their promises, but I do.

Andy Beshear is Kentucky’s attorney general.