Kentucky Senate president proposes cutting number of days lawmakers meet each year

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 5, 2014 

The Kentucky State Capitol building in Frankfort.

SAM RICHE — Lexington Herald-Leader Buy Photo

FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers wants to cut the number of days state lawmakers meet each year.

Stivers, R-Manchester, on Wednesday filed a constitutional amendment, Senate Bill 195, that would call for up to 15 meeting days of the legislature in odd-numbered years and 45 days in even-numbered years. The Kentucky General Assembly now meets for 30 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years.

Stivers said his measure would save taxpayers $7 million a year and provide more people the opportunity to find time to serve in the legislature.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he is willing to discuss with Stivers his proposal, but he said he would prefer allowing legislative sessions to run longer — ending on May 1 rather than the current constitutional deadline of April 15.

"We're having a more and more hard time trying to find people who want to serve because the hardships that become because of so little pay," Stumbo said. "It would be more beneficial to allow the same number of working days but adjourn May 1, or have at least another week.

"We could have four-day weeks rather than five-day weeks, giving citizen legislators the opportunity to return home to do their business there. It's now a full-time job with part-time pay."

Stumbo acknowledged that would be costlier to taxpayers since legislators are paid every day when they are in session, including weekends and holidays. Lawmakers now make $188.22 a day and receive $135.30 a day for expenses. Leaders have higher salaries.

Under Stivers' plan, the legislature would start each annual session at the present starting date — the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January.

In even-numbered years when legislators enact a two-year state budget, lawmakers would meet for four days. After that, the legislature would go into recess without pay, allowing the filing deadline for elections and the governor's budget presentation in late January to pass.

Lawmakers then would return to Frankfort for 41 working days, keeping the April 15 deadline to adjourn.

In odd-numbered years, lawmakers would meet for five days in early January to select their leaders and make committee appointments.

Lawmakers would have the option to continue 10 more working days or adjourn.

If the 10 additional days were not used right after the organizational session, the Senate president and House speaker could call lawmakers into a 10-day special session any time during the year. The two leaders would set the agendas.

Now, only the governor can call lawmakers into a special session and set its agenda. Lawmakers now determine when special sessions end.

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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