When our commonwealth and state government were founded in 1792, the world was much different than it is today. We live in a world where information travels rapidly, breaking news is at our fingertips, and we travel with ease in comparison to the days of horses and buggies. Our nation and state’s founding principles remain the same: self-governance and a government of, by and for the people.
On these principles, I wish to appeal to you and encourage your support of Constitutional Amendment
No state or federal government branch is more in lockstep with the needs and desires of the public as the legislative branch, which at both the state and national levels, consists of two chambers. One, the House; a “grand depository of the democratic principle,” as George Mason described. The other, a smaller, more deliberate body; the Senate.
Members of these bodies proportionately represent fellow residents of their states and districts. You can connect with these individuals directly to share your thoughts and concerns on issues impacting your state and communities. Your state representatives and senators are people you know and hear from regularly. They are accessible and answer to the constituents who elect them.
While your lawmakers work year-round assisting with constituent needs, studying state issues and being at home in their districts, many states—including Kentucky—have a part-time legislature, sometimes known as a “gray” or “hybrid” legislature. In Kentucky, the General Assembly convenes one 60-day session during even-numbered years and one 30-day session during odd-numbered years. Throughout the remainder of the year, lawmakers cannot take any legislative action, even if it is desperately needed. All the while, the governor controls the power of the purse and the executive branch, where they can operate with impunity.
In today’s world, with the ease of travel and rapidly changing situations, your General Assembly needs more flexibility to respond to our rapidly changing world. There is a need to rebalance the three branches of state government. This was never clearer than with the COVID-19 pandemic, as businesses throughout the state were shuttered, schools were closed and the license plates of church attendees was even recorded for those who did not abide by unconstitutional executive orders.
The purpose of Constitutional Amendment 1 is simple. It does not change the part-time nature of the Kentucky General Assembly. Amendment 1 would allow your duly-elected voices in the state legislature to call special legislative sessions for up to 12 additional days each year, should a need arise.
The fact is, Kentucky is one of only 14 states in which the legislative branch’s ability to meet in a special session is dependent on the governor, thus limiting the General Assembly’s responsiveness to emergencies and the needs of the public it serves.
To remedy this, the state Senate actively worked with the state House of Representatives on House Bill 4 in the 2021 session at the height of COVID-19 restrictions. The bill established the parameters for this constitutional amendment. It passed the General Assembly during the 2021 session by significant bipartisan margins. The amendment would specifically:
- Empower the legislature, by a three-fifths vote, to extend the end dates for the session beyond the current March 30 and April 15 deadlines. It will keep the 30-day session limits for odd years and the 60-day session limit for even years but provide your representatives in Frankfort the flexibility to adjust the calendar as needed. Regular sessions would not extend into the following calendar year.
- By joint proclamation, allow the Senate President and the House Speaker to bring the General Assembly into session for 12 additional days a year, with days of recess included as necessary.
This amendment to our state’s constitution will help your representatives better meet the demands of modern times and bring much-needed rebalancing to the three branches of state government.
The final decision rests with you, the Kentucky voter. Ultimately, I hope you will vote yes on this amendment and grant the General Assembly the constitutional ability to respond to issues that may warrant it. This will enable your General Assembly to, as needed, check the power of the governor or respond to the needs of the people of this great commonwealth that require immediate attention.
I urge you to ratify this necessary constitutional amendment on November 8.
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