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Ky. GOP Lawmaker: If Ruling Against Pension Law Upheld, 'We'll Come Back'

Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building
Henryk Sadura
Frankfort, Kentucky - State Capitol Building

After last week’s court decision that struck down Kentucky’s new pension law, a Republican state representative says he’s confident legislators will pass a new version of the measure if the decision is upheld.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd ruled last week that the pension law is unconstitutional because lawmakers passed it too quickly. Gov. Matt Bevin — one of the defendants in the court battle — has indicated he will appeal the decision.

Louisville Rep. Jerry Miller, co-chair of the legislature’s Public Pension Oversight Board, said that lawmakers would pass the bill again because “the reasons we passed the bill are still in existence.”

“Procedural violation or not, depending on what the Supreme Court rules, we’ll still have that need and I believe the legislature will muster the will to get that done,” Miller said Monday.

“If we need to, we’ll come back.”

The blocked pension law would mostly affect state employees hired in the future, but it would also make changes to how current workers can use saved-up sick days to help them qualify for retirement, among other provisions, and require employees hired between 2003 and 2008 to pay 1 percent of their salaries for retiree health insurance.

Future teachers will no longer receive defined benefit pensions, instead receiving “hybrid cash-balance” plans that rely on stock market growth.

Shepherd ruled that lawmakers didn’t follow procedure for passing bills outlined by the state constitution — it requires legislation to be read “at length” on three separate days before it can receive a vote in the House or Senate.

The pension bill was unveiled late during this year’s legislative session and passed out of both legislative chambers within a matter of hours.

Miller said the speedy pace is necessary for lawmakers to come to a consensus and pass bills with time running out on a legislative session.

“I’m not sure that that is going to be something the Supreme Court is going to want to venture in because then you get into well how many other bills and what other bills were passed using that method,” Miller said.

If the case is taken up by the Kentucky Supreme Court, it could have major implications for how lawmakers conduct business in the future.

Legislators frequently vote to suspend the requirement to formally present legislation on three separate days before it can be voted on.

“I’ve gone through four sessions now, the first two sessions were under Greg Stumbo as speaker,” Miller said. “It’s very similar to the way it was done then. I don’t know anybody who says this was new.”

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