Beshear, Bevin's counsel square off on controversial pension case

Beshear, Bevin's counsel square off on controversial pension case
AG Beshear argued that the pension reform law is unconstitutional. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Bevin's General Counsel Steve Pitt. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Bevin's General Counsel Steve Pitt. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Judge Phillip Shepherd. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Judge Phillip Shepherd. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Just 24 hours after Governor Matt Bevin tried and failed to get a Franklin Circuit judge thrown off the pension bill case, Judge Phillip Shepherd heard arguments from both sides in Frankfort.

The Governor's General Counsel Steve Pitt squared off against Attorney General Andy Beshear debating the controversial law in a crowded Franklin Circuit courtroom on Thursday. Both sides believed they made compelling arguments as a crowded courtroom full of teachers and state employees were there to hear it.

"It's important for legislators and our Governor to realize that we're not going away." state employee Nema Brewer said.

Beshear made the case that Kentucky's pension reform law, Senate Bill 151, is unconstitutional.

"If the process through which Senate Bill 151 was passed violates the constitution for any reason, if the court accepts even one of our arguments, it voids the bill in its entirety," Beshear told Judge Shepherd of the law.

AG Beshear, along with the Kentucky Education Association and the State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police, claimed the bill was voided when many lawmakers didn't even get a chance to read the bill before it was pushed through to passage inside a nearly 300 page sewer bill. He also told the judge the passage equals a reduction of benefits that violates the teacher contract.

"It eliminates any inviolable contract for future teachers," Beshear told reporters. "Anyone who starts after this bill's passage, unless we void it, has no benefits that are guaranteed to them whatsoever."

The Governor's General Counsel Steve Pitt argued no one is out to change benefits of current employees or retirees.

"This is a good bill that hurts no one," Pitt told the judge.

Pitt also said the courts should not intervene in legislature rules. He told the judge the bill is an investment in the state to aid the failing pension system. Pitt later told reporters when it comes to the way the law was passed, it's nothing new and other bills have been passed the same way.

"The process arguments, I think, are a sideshow to the constitutional arguments, and I hope the court will see it that way," Pitt said.

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Pitt said he anticipates once Judge Shepherd gives his decision, the case will likely go straight to the Kentucky Supreme Court.

The judge said he hopes to make a ruling soon as some parts of the law take effect in July.

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