State Senator Danny Carroll said based on Franklin County Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd's history, he's not surprised by the ruling.
"I think what's important is no one should get too excited until everything is finalized. We still have the Court of Appeals and then possibly the Supreme Court finally making a ruling on it," Carroll said.
Shepherd ruled on Wednesday that the recently enacted pension law was unconstitutional because of how lawmakers passed it. Republican leaders replaced a bill that had been about sewer systems with the pension bill on one of the final days of the legislative session. Because the bill had technically already passed the Senate, lawmakers were able to send it to the governor's desk in about six hours instead of the minimum five days the state Constitution requires to pass new legislation.
As for the process, Carroll said it's very common and has been used for years by both parties. He said the repercussions of this ruling - if it stands - could reach bills that have been passed long ago, possibly including the inviolable contract on the pensions.
Carroll said, "I'm not sure that the Attorney General has really thought through the ramifications of what this could mean, and it's really kind of ironic that he would file suit on just this one particular bill, which is obviously politically motivated because there are bills that the Democratic party did the same with that his father was involved with in years past that could also be brought into question because of this."
Carroll said if the practice is ruled unconstitutional upon appeal, the legislature has the duty to make sure they never use that process again.
Judge Shepherd also ruled that a constitutional majority was also required because funds were being appropriated, but Carroll disagrees.
"We don't believe that that is the case. The bill did not appropriate any funds, it just simply changed the way money that is already appropriated in other pieces of legislation is handled," he said.
Carroll said it's possible that a special session could be called so legislators could pass the bill again, but he doesn't believe that would happen. He said that would cost taxpayers $70,000 per day if the Governor demanded it. But he said it's more likely the suit will go through the appeals process and will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court.
When asked about the process, Carroll said he's not a fan of how the bill got passed, but they were running out of time. During his time in Frankfort, he's learned that becomes a motivator for action and compromise.
Carroll said, "Even though I'm not a big fan of the process that was used at all, I think the one thing worse than that would have been for us to leave Frankfort without a pension bill, without a budget. We've been discussing pension reform for years and years, we've been discussing tax reform for years and years, so none of these topics were new to anyone and it's been discussed ad nauseam. I don't like the last-minute decisions like that, but everybody knew what they were voting on, everybody was very familiar with the topics, and we need to move forward on this in this state. It's time for us to stop talking about things and time for us to start moving, and I think that's what we made the effort to do during the session."
Carroll said he's confident that the Supreme Court will eventually rule in favor of the legislators, but, "it's just sad that politics is getting in the way of us trying to make a difference in this state and trying to fix things that have been neglected for decades in the past."