State Supreme Court Strikes Down Pension Law

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled the pension reform law to be unconstitutional.

On a unanimous 7-0 vote, the state's high court has ruled against Governor Bevin, calling Senate Bill 151 unconstitutional because it did not get the required 51 votes needed in the House for a bill that appropriates money or creates a debt.

The court also agreed with the claim from Attorney General Andy Beshear that the failure of the bill to get three readings on three separate days is a violation of the state constitution. 

The bill was originally a bill relating to sewer systems and was gutted at the last minute to become the pension bill. 

The Supreme Court says their ruling is on the technical issues and not on the argument of the inviolable contract with state employees.

Both the Kentucky Republican and Democratic parties have issued statements on the ruling:

Below is a statement from Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Mac Brown concerning the State Supreme Court’s decision on SB 151.

“The chaos the Supreme Court’s overreach into the legislative branch has brought upon the legislative process will have ramifications far beyond SB 151, imperiling hundreds of bills passed using the same process and bringing a grinding halt to the ability of the General Assembly to pass compromise legislation late in session. That said, at no point in this court challenge have the contents of the bill been called into question. Republicans in the General Assembly took on a difficult issue and did what’s right for taxpayers and state employees to save our pension systems. We look forward to continuing to work to handle the crippling pension crisis 90 years of Democrat rule left behind.” 

The following is a statement from Kentucky Democratic Party Chair, Ben Self, regarding the Kentucky Supreme Court Pension Ruling:

“A unanimous decision from the Kentucky Supreme Court that Senate Bill 151 is unconstitutional sends a clear message to Matt Bevin and Republican lawmakers: you can’t change a sewer bill in the middle of the night and use it to flush the retirement benefits of our teachers, police, firefighters and other state workers at the last minute with no public input.

“But make no mistake, Matt Bevin and the Republicans will continue the attacks on hardworking Kentuckians and try to pass even more benefit cuts in this coming legislative session. The Kentucky Democratic Party intends to hold him accountable in 2019 and make him a one-term governor.”

Kentucky’s House Majority Leadership team released the following statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling on Senate Bill 151.


“The process deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court has been utilized for at least a half-century by both parties to pass critical legislation, and has never been challenged until now. The consequences of today’s unwise decision will be far-reaching – particularly for the separation of powers that lie at the heart of our system of government.

While the legislature would never presume to judge the manner in which the Court conducts judicial business, we are nonetheless bound by its decision, no matter how ill-advised. This unfortunate decision now subjects decades of good legislation to potential legal challenges, while revealing a complete and total lack of understanding for the separation of powers. It disrespects the hard work done by the people’s elected representatives and ignores the constitutional foundations of the three branches of government.

Further, Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure recognizes the General Assembly’s action on SB 151 as a constitutional action in every state, having been developed by the nation’s 99 legislative bodies and their legal counsel.

Because of this disappointing ruling, state employee retirement will continue to be the most insolvent pension system in America, and will serve as a drag on Kentucky’s entire economy. Senate Bill 151 was the first step in moving our pension systems toward a new day of solvency and health. Today’s decision puts retirement checks for hardworking public employees at risk, and is a major setback to the difficult work undertaken to reverse the indecision and inaction of the past two decades. Despite this, I am committed to leading in the effort to enact a solution for the critical situation that once again faces our Commonwealth.”


“This ruling is a huge victory, and it re-affirms what I and other caucus members said in committee and on the floor when we called the House Republicans out of order and said they were breaking the law for the way they handled Senate Bill 151, the ‘sewer’ pension bill. We said that the legislative rules and processes should not be ignored, because that shuts out the very public we serve. This ruling also properly protects our teachers, public employees and their retirees throughout the commonwealth. Going forward, our caucus remains firm in believing two things: That we should maintain the bipartisan pension reforms passed in 2013 and fund them.” -- House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins

Statement by Beshear on Today’s Pension Ruling by Supreme Court 

 “Today’s unanimous (7-0) ruling is a landmark win for every teacher, police officer, firefighter, social worker, EMS and all our hardworking public servants. It fully and finally voids the illegal cuts to their retirement, and clearly states that the governor and General Assembly violated the Constitution. The decision is also an important win for good government and transparency. It sends a message that the Constitution does not allow lawmakers to hide their actions. Because of today’s ruling, an 11-page sewer bill can never again be turned into a 291-page pension bill and passed in just six hours. It is my hope that moving forward the governor and General Assembly will start honoring the oath each elected official takes to support and follow the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” – Attorney General Andy Beshear.

You can read the two rulings on the bill by clicking here and here.

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