Plan to cut length of Kentucky's legislative sessions by a third wins committee's approval

jbrammer@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2014 

FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers won unanimous support Wednesday from a Senate committee for his constitutional amendment to cut the number of days state lawmakers meet each year.

Stivers said the proposal would cut the number of days lawmakers meet in session from 90 days every two years to 60 days, saving the state up to $7 million a year.

Though some Democrats on the Senate State and Local Government Committee expressed concerns with the proposal, all 11 members voted for Senate Bill 195 and sent it to the full Senate for its consideration later this week or early next week.

"This is an attempt to return to what I think the framers of our constitution thought our role should be — one of a citizen legislature," said Stivers.

He predicted that having fewer legislative days each year would attract more candidates to run for the House and Senate.

Now, state lawmakers meet 60 working days in even-numbered years and 30 in odd-numbered years. The Kentucky Constitution requires them to begin each year on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January and adjourn by April 15.

Under Stivers' plan, the legislative session in each year would begin on the first Monday after the first Tuesday in January.

In even-numbered years, the legislature would meet for five days and then recess until the first Tuesday in February. Lawmakers then would complete 40 working days by April 15.

Stivers, R-Manchester, noted that House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has said he would prefer allowing legislative sessions to run longer, maybe up to May 1, so that lawmakers could meet four days a week rather than five. That would allow part-time legislators to take care of more business at home during a legislative session.

"Under my plan, we could take off every Monday in February, or a Friday, whatever day we want, and still get in 40 days by April 15," Stivers said. "There are all types of alternatives."

In odd-numbered years, Stivers' plan calls for meeting five days in early January to select legislative leaders and make committee appointments.

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

If the 10 additional days were not used in January, the Senate president and House speaker could call lawmakers into a 10-day special session at 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.

Several Democrats on the Senate committee Wednesday said more legislative leaders probably should be involved in deciding when to call special sessions. They also questioned if lawmakers would have an opportunity to override a governor's veto of legislation in a 10-day session.

Stivers called those concerns "points of discussion."

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

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