Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear

Attorney General Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit in Franklin Circuit Court on Wednesday calling for the pension bill that was signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin a day earlier to be declared unconstitutional, in addition to seeking a temporary injunction to block the implementation of the law while this litigation proceeds.

Beshear was joined in his lawsuit challenging Senate Bill 151 by the Kentucky Education Association and the Kentucky State Lodge Fraternal Order of the Police — the largest unions for teachers and law enforcement in the state — with the defendants being Bevin and the Republican leaders of the state House and Senate.

Much like he had declared about earlier versions of Senate Bill 1 — the original pension bill whose language was inserted into a sewage bill and quickly passed the legislature two weeks ago — Beshear’s complaint asserts that SB 151 contains up to 15 violations of the inviolable contract of workers and retirees in Kentucky’s pension systems, including teachers and police officers.

Beshear’s complaint also contends the bill is illegal because it violates numerous statutes governing how bills become laws. The attorney general’s filing states that SB 151 was passed without a legally required actuarial analysis, and was not given the three required readings for a new bill before it was passed, as it substituted the entire language from another bill.

A spokeswoman for the governor issued a statement calling Beshear’s lawsuit a ploy to score “political points” and campaign contributions from the KEA.

Bevin’s office also criticized the attorney general’s father — former Gov. Steve Beshear — for underfunding the pension system in his two terms, asserting that his son “is carrying on the Beshear family legacy by trying to block a law that will strengthen our pension system.”

“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,” stated Bevin’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn.

At a news conference after his lawsuit was filed, Beshear stated that if the pension bill goes into effect, it will cause “mass retirements” of teachers and law enforcement, leading to both an educational and public safety crisis.

Referring to the rushed passage of the bill, Beshear called this “government at its worst,” adding that “this bill is bad, it’s dangerous and it won’t work.”

Stating that SB 151 “violates the rights of tens of thousands of Kentuckians,” Beshear added that it “passed without any public comment, without any analysis about if it would even work, and without a chance for most legislators to even read it.”

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers did not immediately react to the lawsuit, but House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon, arguing that “there is no question that the bill meets all constitutional requirements, both in the manner in which it was passed and its content.”

“SB 151 takes needed steps to address the pressing pension issue and allows this Commonwealth to move towards fiscal solvency,” stated Osborne, R-Louisville. “We would urge the Attorney General, the KEA, and the Fraternal Order of Police to not waste taxpayer dollars on pursuing this ill-founded lawsuit and instead work with us on this important issue.”

Teachers who have vociferously criticized and protested against the passage of the pension bill are expected to turn out in great numbers to Frankfort on Friday, when the General Assembly reconvenes for the last two days of this year’s legislative session. Bevin has been extremely critical of protesting teachers and the KEA, accusing them in radio interviews of being “selfish” and using “thug tactics.”

Beshear’s full complaint filed Wednesday morning can be read below:

Beshear/KEA/FOP lawsuit against pension bill by insiderlouisville on Scribd

This story has been updated to include the statement of Osborne.

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Joe Sonka
Joe Sonka is a staff writer at Insider Louisville focusing on government, politics, education and public safety. He is a former news editor and staff writer at LEO Weekly and has also freelanced for The Nation and ThinkProgress. He has won first place awards from the Louisville Metro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists in the categories of Health Reporting, Enterprise Reporting, Government/Politics, Minority/Women’s Affairs Reporting, Continuing Coverage and Best Blog. Email him at [email protected]