FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear has promised to sue should Gov. Matt Bevin sign a teachers' pension overhaul abruptly passed Thursday night.
"I am outraged. Last night, we saw government at its worst. When the leadership of the House and Senate in the dark of night amended what was supposed to be a sewage bill into what they claim is pension reform, they did it through this amendment where they didn't allow any public comment or testimony. They refused to hear from you," Beshear said in a video message posted to Twitter Friday morning.
Last night the House and Senate violated the inviolable contract and broke their word – but I am going to keep mine. I will file suit to stop SB 151. pic.twitter.com/DDHLHJArSj
— Andy Beshear (@AndyBeshearKY) March 30, 2018
Read Beshear's full statement below:
"Like all of you watching this video, I am outraged. Last night, we saw government at its worst. When the leadership of the house and senate in the dark of night amended what was supposed to be a sewage bill into what they claim is pension reform, they did it through this amendment where they didn't allow any public comment or testimony. They refused to hear from you.
They plopped a 291-page bill in front of legislators and made them vote on it without reading it, and they didn't even have the required actuarial analysis which would tell you and me whether it would even work -- whether it would even save a dime.
And that bill they passed last night violates the inviolable contract in just about every way the previous bills did. What that inviolable contract is is a promise made decades ago by the general assembly. They said that if you spend your life teaching our children, protecting our families as a police officer or fire fighter, serving neglected children as a social worker, that while we wouldn't pay you nearly what you're worth, we would guarantee you a solid retirement.
They took that promise, they made it into a contract, they passed it into law and they made that law inviolable, meaning it could never be broken. Well, last night the house and the senate violated that law and broke their word.
But, I am going to keep mine. I promised you and I promised the teachers and the workers that have been up here rallying that if they passed a bill that violated the inviolable contract that I will sue.
So I'm here today to reassure you -- if and when the governor signs that bill into law, your attorney general's office will file suit seeking to overturn as much, if not all, of this terrible bill as we can.
At the end of the day, I work for you. I remember what being a public servant is all about and at the end of the day, you are who I serve. I will not stop fighting for you. We will take this to court. Thank you."
Schools in several Northern Kentucky counties closed Friday as angry teachers refused to go to work, joining the state's two largest districts in Louisville and Lexington in protesting.
The Kentucky Education Association branded as "shameful" the swift way lawmakers pushed the measure through the Republican-led Legislature without allowing the public a chance to comment. One of the association's principal objections is that the measure will change the structure of pension benefits for future teachers.
Bevin supports the bill and tweeted Thursday night that public workers owe "a deep debt of gratitude" to the lawmakers who voted in favor.
Jefferson County officials in Louisville said they couldn't get enough substitutes to cover all their classes Friday. In Fayette County, officials said more than a third of school employees in the Lexington district were staying home.
North of Lexington, the Scott County school district called off classes. It said on Facebook that since the bill's passage, dozens of teachers requested substitutes to fill in for them Friday.
"We can currently only fill 54 of the nearly 150 that we need," the statement said. "That leaves too many classes not covered, which causes a situation that is unsafe and unproductive for students and staff."
About 200 teachers and supporters rallied at the Capitol on Thursday night as lawmakers finished their swift action on the surprise pension bill. Last week, thousands of teachers and supporters mostly from eastern Kentucky swarmed the statehouse.
The final version of the pension overhaul removed some of the most vilified provisions of previous proposals. Current and retired teachers, who are not eligible for Social Security benefits, would still get annual raises of 1.5 percent in their retirement checks. And current workers would not have to work longer to qualify for full benefits.
But new hires would be moved to a hybrid plan. They would be guaranteed all of the money they and taxpayers contributed to their retirement accounts, plus 85 percent of any investment gains. The state would keep the other 15 percent. The bill would also allow the state to change pension benefits for new teachers from an "inviolable contract" that would protect them from future benefit changes.
Retired educators like Carlotta Abbot worried about how it would impact the future of their profession.
"I have a 19-year-old granddaughter who wants to become an educator, and I cannot in good faith encourage her to become a teacher now," she said Thursday.
Lawmakers had struggled for months to overhaul one of the nation's worst-funded pension systems. The 291-page bill re-emerged suddenly Thursday in place of a sewage bill.
"It's just a travesty to our profession, to public education that they thought no more of us than to attach us to a garbage bill," Collins said Friday.
Kentucky's Legislature didn't meet Friday but is scheduled to reconvene at the Capitol in Frankfort on Monday. They may be greeted by throngs of angry teachers. KEA leaders in Frankfort are hoping to "get as many people here as possible," an association official said.
Bruce Schreiner of The Associated Press contributed to this report.