Op-ed from Senate President Pro-Tem David Givens:
Kentucky has one of the most restrictive constitutional limitations on General Assembly meetings of any state in the union. Legislatures in 36 other states can meet without permission from another branch of state government, one of the truest measures of checks and balances. We convene only for a 60-day session during even-numbered years and 30-day sessions during odd-numbered years. Outside of those periods we cannot meet to enact legislation unless the Governor calls us into a special session to address issues limited to what he or she feels is important.
Kentucky’s antiquated process was necessary at the turn of the 20th century, but modern technology, communication and transportation allows for the General Assembly to convene promptly. In addition, there’s no reason for a governor of any state to be allowed this magnitude of power. For anyone concerned about this being a partisan measure, the re-balancing of power provided in this fall’s Amendment 1 would apply to all future Governors and Kentucky legislators – not just those that may be Democrat or Republican.
I have worked with House of Representatives Speaker David Osborne and Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, among others, on House Bill 4, the legislation that proposed Amendment 1. The bill passed the General Assembly in the 2021 session by significant bipartisan margins, and will appear on the November 8 general election ballot. It would:
· 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, respectively. It will keep the 30-day session limits for odd years and 60-day session limit for even years but provide your representatives in Frankfort the flexibility to adjust the calendar if needed. Regular sessions would not, however, extend into the next calendar year.
· Allow the Senate President and the House Speaker, by joint proclamation, to bring the General Assembly back into session for a maximum of 12 additional days a year, with unpaid days of recess included as necessary.
This is a very limited change to our state’s constitution that will bring more balanced power to the branches of government – a rebalancing which we learned to be necessary during the pandemic. If a governor attempts to exercise power he or she does not possess, the General Assembly leadership would be empowered to respond to that overreach.
Now the decision falls to the voters in our commonwealth. The ballot text for this constitutional amendment is long and I encourage you to read it completely and pose any questions you may have to our office. Ultimately, I hope you will vote “YES” on Amendment 1, granting the General Assembly authority to call itself into session for limited time frames through the year. This will enable your General Assembly to, as needed, check the power of any Governor or respond to the immediate needs of the Commonwealth.
Kentucky does not have three co-equal branches of government when, for 8 months of each year, one branch tells another when it can meet and what issues can be addressed. Amendment 1 would permit your duly elected legislators to meet for up to 12 additional days a year, if needed, to be the voice of the people. I encourage you to vote YES on Amendment 1.
Senator Givens represents the 9th Senate District of Barren, Edmonson, Green, Hart and a portion of Warren counties. He serves as the Senate President Pro-Tem.