MEADETRUTH

Election 2022

FACT: Constitutional Amendment 1 Would Make Legislature More Effective, Efficient

November 7th, 2022

By House Speaker David Osborne

The time has come to set the record straight about Constitutional Amendment 1, a proposal that would provide Kentucky’s legislative branch with more authority over when it meets. The current constitution, adopted in 1891, requires that lawmakers adjourn by March 30 in odd years and April 15 in even years. Once the legislature adjourns, it cannot meet again until the next January unless called into an extraordinary session by a governor. This 130-year old provision is better suited for a time when it took days for a legislator to travel to the state capital rather than today’s fast-moving world.

 

Admittedly, the amendment’s language is complicated, but necessarily so to meet legal requirements. However, the idea is simple: the legislative branch needs more flexibility to deal with modern issues, including emergencies like the Covid pandemic, natural disasters, and economic crises. The proposal itself can be distilled into three common sense changes. If approved, Constitutional Amendment 1 would:

 

  • allow the legislature to use the same number of days currently allowed, but more strategically to allow them time to give proper attention and receive proper input on the complex legislative matters that modern times require; and
  • revise the calendar if 3/5 of all members agree it is necessary; and
  • allow the Speaker of the House and the Senate President to convene the General Assembly for up to 12 additional days to deal with emergencies and other timely matters.

 

The number of days in a session would remain sixty in even years and thirty in odd years. The ability to call the legislature into special session for unlimited days would remain only with the Governor.

 

The proposed amendment has been the topic of discussion for years, even farther back than a similar measure I filed in 2018. It was placed on this year’s ballot after passing in 2021 with bipartisan support that included both House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins and Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey.

 

While the proposal is fairly straightforward, there are a number of false claims, much of which stems from the only group spending money in either opposition or support of the amendment – the teacher’s union that advocated to keep our schools closed through the pandemic. To paraphrase the late U.S. Senator Daniel Moynihan, individuals have a right to their own opinion, but not their own facts.

 

To those who claim this is a power grab, let me be clear that the legislature has no interest in acting as the executive or judicial branches. We are simply asking for the flexibility to do our job more effectively. Legislators in 36 other states meet without the permission of another branch of state government and I can assure you that our own judicial branch is independent in their own ability.

 

I am aware of others who say the benefits of a strong three branch system of government are not worth potential costs if additional session days are necessary. While the cost is estimated at $68,000 a day, that only comes into play when additional days are used. The legislature has taken steps to become more efficient, trimming the historically necessary five-day special session to three while utilizing technology to ensure the process is more accessible and transparent. Kentuckians can watch live and recorded legislative committee meetings and House and Senate proceedings on Kentucky Educational Television and the legislature’s YouTube page (@KY LRC Committee Meetings). Constituents engage regularly with their legislators by phone, email, and mail.

 

Each branch of government must actively participate in shaping the state’s response and hold the other branches accountable for the steps they take. The legislature is the only branch of government with the constitutional authority to make law and budget money. After all, our government was never intended to be run by one person making decisions for everyone.