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Amended Complaint in SB 151 Lawsuit Seeks to Prevent AG Beshear from Invalidating Thousands of Kentucky Laws

Media Contact: Nicole Burton
502-564-2611
Nicole.Burton@ky.gov

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 14, 2018) – Gov. Bevin’s legal team has filed an amended complaint in Franklin Circuit Court arising from Attorney General Andy Beshear’s argument that Senate Bill 151 is invalid because it was signed by Speaker Pro Tempore David Osborne.  The amended complaint seeks a further declaration regarding AG Beshear’s absurd legal claim that Senate Bill 151 is invalid because it was not fully read out loud, word for word, and in its final form on the floor of both the House of Representatives and Senate three separate times.  

Under the Attorney General’s argument, every bill passed by the General Assembly would be subject to three complete readings in its final form in each legislative chamber.  There is currently no requirement under Kentucky law that a bill should be read three separate times “as passed.”  

“Reading every bill in its final form a total of three times on three different days before it is passed into law would create a horrific debacle for the General Assembly,” said Gov. Bevin’s General Counsel Steve Pitt.  “This argument shows that the Attorney General has a limited and naive understanding of our legislative process, and his outrageous claim, if allowed to stand, would not only tie the hands of our General Assembly, but it would invalidate thousands of laws passed using the same legislative process as Senate Bill 151.  There are decades of important laws impacting healthcare, education, and criminal justice that have now been called into question by the Attorney General’s claims.  The amended claim filed today ensures that this issue is resolved and the Attorney General’s irresponsible behavior will not lead to critical legislation being invalidated or further thrown into question.”

If the Attorney General’s argument is adopted by the court, every piece of legislation passed during the 2018 legislative session could be declared unconstitutional and invalid.  This includes House Bill 362, which was passed in the final days of the session to provide relief for Kentucky’s cities and counties by creating a 10-year phase-in for CERS contributions. House Bill 265 would also be ruled invalid under the Attorney General’s legal standard.  This bill fixed issues with the executive branch budget bill, including allowing the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System to fund health insurance for the dependents of certain educators and providing the state’s coal counties with a bigger share of the state’s revenues from coal severance taxes.

The consequences of AG Beshear’s legal claims extend far beyond the 2018 legislative session, however, and could invalidate decades of laws passed using the same process as Senate Bill 151.  

Examples from past legislative sessions are cited at length in the amended complaint and include bills such as House Bill 430 from the 2000 session of the General Assembly, which added fourth-degree assault to the list of crimes eligible for prosecution as a hate crime under KRS 532.031.  Senate Bill 192 of the 2015 session, which enacted numerous provisions related to substance-abuse treatment and tougher heroin penalties, could also be undone by the Attorney General’s claims.

Ironically, AG Beshear’s arguments also call into question all four of the bills that enacted the inviolable contract with state employees.  There is no indication that any of the bills were ever read out loud in their entirety on the floors of the House and Senate, thus failing to meet the Attorney General’s suggested legal standard.  If he is correct, that means state employee pensions have absolutely no inviolable contract protection.

The amended complaint urges the court to act swiftly and declare that Kentucky’s Constitution does not require that each bill must be literally read out loud and at length three times.

A copy of the amended complaint can be viewed here.

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