Thursday, December 13, 2018

Last Call For The Pension Dimension

Kentucky's public pension law that would have wrecked public employee benefits and kicked teachers off pensions entirely (while of course keeping lawmakers on it) has been unanimously struck down by Kentucky's Supreme Court.

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously struck down a controversial law that would have reduced retirement benefits for public employees, most notably by ending traditional pensions for school teachers hired after Jan. 1.

In a decision written by Justice Daniel Venters of Somerset, the court ruled on the most narrow of terms, finding that Republican legislative leaders erred by not giving the pension bill the constitutionally required three public readings in the Senate and House chambers before passing it last March.

Instead, the legislature hastily converted a sewage treatment bill into a pension bill on the 57th day of the 60-day session and then rushed it through final chamber votes in a matter of hours with no public review and little chance for debate. The sewage treatment bill already had received most of its necessary public readings, lawmakers said at the time.

That maneuver violated a process meant to provide transparency at the Capitol, the court said Thursday. Public readings of a bill over three separate days should give lawmakers and citizens a chance to understand what legislation is on the table, the court said.

“In deference to the General Assembly, we necessarily stop short of providing a complete and precise definition of what must occur to qualify as a reading of the bill, but we are well-settled in the conviction that what occurred here falls far short of the requirements,” Venters wrote.

The unanimous high court decision is a resounding defeat for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin and GOP legislative leaders, who have argued that an overhaul of Kentucky’s pension systems is essential for eliminating the state’s $37.9 billion public pension shortfall, which is one of the nation’s worst.

It was a victory for opponents, led by Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, who say the pension plans gradually will strengthen if the state simply sticks with its new-found commitment to full funding after roughly two decades of under-funding. And they say Bevin failed to show exactly how cuts in retirement benefits would produce the billions in savings that he touts.

Bevin screwed up so badly on this he had teachers protesting in front of the State Capitol.   His tax austerity plan blew up in his face, and now his pension wrecking plan is dead least until the the next general assembly session in 2019, but Bevin may not have the votes now after November's GOP losses.

We'll see what happens, but next year's election is going to be a national fight, I can guarantee it.

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