Kentucky voters to decide on changes to legislative session

Debra Murray, Co-Editor-in-Chief

There are two amendments on the ballot this election: the second focuses on abortion rights in Kentucky, but the first amendment could bring change to state legislative power. 

Amendment 1 would remove specific legislative session end dates from the constitution and provide instead that odd-year sessions are limited to 30 legislative days and even-year sessions are limited to 60 legislative days. Amendment 1 would allow the Legislature to extend the session beyond the current cutoff if three-fifths of each chamber vote in favor.

It would also allow the Speaker of the House and the Senate President to call a special session for up to 12 additional days for emergencies or potentially other matters. 

This joint proclamation would only have to be declared by the speaker and the president, not lawmakers, and the session would not have to be specific to a topic, as currently required.

As of 2021, Kentucky was one of only 14 states that only the governor could call a special session. In the other 36 states, special sessions may be called by the governor or the state legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Supporters feel that this would lead to the two branches to be more efficient.

“If we’re going to be here, then let’s be as effective as we can possibly be,” House Speaker David Osborne said in a video aired by Kentucky Educational Television in October. “Let’s be as efficient as we can possibly be. … We don’t want to fall into that trap of becoming a full-time legislature. We need to honor the intent of our service as a part-time legislature.”

Opponents worry that passing this amendment would make the branches too strong.

“No branch should be too strong,” Governor Andy Beshear said in the same KET video. “Yet the legislature wants to give itself more power so that it could call itself into session to change an executive branch decision over the most minute thing.”

Co-Editor-in-Chief Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy.