Volume 58, Issue 8
On November 8th, Vote NO on Amendment 1 to the Constitution, Allowing Legislators to Call Themselves into Session
Looking for a part-time job? Maybe one that pays more than most teachers make in a year? One that offers a fully funded pension when you retire? A $166 daily expense allowance? Health care and life insurance? That's what our part-time legislators are getting right now. And if they have their way in November, you can add "make your own schedule and be accountable to no one" to that list.
The important thing to remember about all amendments to the Kentucky Constitution is that the legislature must approve them to be included on the ballot in the first place. So proposed amendments don't necessarily reflect what Kentucky citizens want; they reflect what the legislature wants. That's [particularly true for proposed Amendment 1, which is approved, will release the legislature from most of its current constraints.
The language of Constitutional Amendment 1 is long and complicated, and that's because it will significantly change the way Kentucky citizens are governed. What could Amendment 1 do?
Eliminate the deadlines for the end of legislative sessions, which are currently April 15 (even year 60-day sessions) and March 30 (odd year 30-day sessions), and let the legislature decide when - or if - they want to leave Frankfort
Although the amendment will nominally keep the 60-day/30-day session limits, the only real deadline will be that each annual session must end by December 31. That means legislative days can be spread throughout the whole year, essentially creating a full-time legislature.
Allow the legislature to call themselves into "special session" for up to 12 additional days each year, which can also be intermittent. So even-year legislative sessions could be as much as 72 days spread throughout the entire year and odd-year sessions could be as much as 42 days spread throughout the year.
Eliminate the subject limits on what can be considered during a special session of the legislature, so not only can they call themselves into session, but they can do that for any reason they want and consider any topic they want, further blurring the line between "regular" and "special" legislative days.
Public records reveal that legislators earned an average of $65,339 for the 2020 legislative session, which was 60 days long; some earned much more than that. The average amount doesn't include the 8% raise they gave themselves during the 2022 session. Adding 12 legislative days will increase their annual pay during a 60-day session by 20%, meaning that the average legislator will earn over $78,000 for 72 days of work. But according to the 2020 U.S. census, the average Kentuckian makes $52,238 for an entire year. Legislators already make much more than their constituents, and every dollar they receive is paid by your taxes.
The balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is a basic tenant of democracy. Amendment 1 will dangerously change that, giving almost unlimited power to the Kentucky General Assembly. That is clearly not what our founders intended when the constitution was originally written. Although the document has been amended a number of times over the years, it has never been amended to allow such an obvious power grab by one branch of government.
Since 2000, Kentucky governors have called a special session 14 times. When there is vital business to tend to, our government has acted. The current structure works and does not need to be changed.
To summarize: if Amendment 1 passes, the legislature will have more power, more pay, and less accountability. None of that will be good for Kentucky.
VOTE NO on Amendment 1