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Kentucky attorney general sues to stop pension bill

Posted at 11:08 AM, Apr 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-11 17:53:11-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky's Democratic attorney general says he's filed suit to stop changes to public employee pensions in the commonwealth.

For at least one Northern Kentucky teacher, it might be too late.

Attorney General Andy Beshear alleged Senate Bill 151, which Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed Tuesday, breaches the state government's "inviolable contract" with its workers.

"That's a promise the General Assembly made to teachers, social workers, police officers, firefighters decades ago that said if you dedicate your life to public service -- teaching our children, protecting our families, serving the neglected -- that while we wouldn't pay you enough, we would guarantee you a good and safe retirement," Beshear said.

He also argued the way lawmakers passed pension changes -- by amending a sewage bill at the last minute -- violates multiple provisions of Kentucky's constitution and multiple state statutes.

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Beshear wants the bill thrown out entirely. He is seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the changes from becoming law until the lawsuit gets a full hearing.

The Fraternal Order of Police and Kentucky Education Association joined him in the suit, filed in Franklin County Circuit Court in Frankfort.

Brittany Terry, a substitute teacher for Boone County Schools and Erlanger-Elsmere Schools, already turned in her resignation notice. On the line that asks her reason, she wrote: "leaving the state for one with teacher benefits/pension."

"It's heartbreaking," she said. "I wanted nothing more than to work with Boone County Schools. I love the kids here, I love the teachers here. I hate to leave it."

Terry spoke by videocall Wednesday from South Carolina, where she's looking for a new home. She said her family has already put their home in Hebron up for sale.

It's been tough on her three kids, she said.

"Our youngest was born here. This is the only home they know. They understand why we're moving, but they're equally devastated," she said.

Beshear thinks Terry's path could be one many more teachers take if the pension bill stands.

"It will cause massive retirements at a time when our schools can't handle it. Some schools and school systems will lose a large percentage of their employees that have the most expertise, that they won't be able to replace in time," he said.

Teachers rallied at the Capitol last week over Bevin's proposed cuts to education funding and the pension bill. They plan to be back again Friday, when lawmakers try to override Bevin's veto of budget and revenue measures that would have avoided most school cuts.