FRANKFORT, Ky. – A constitutional amendment allowing lawmakers to extend the legislative session passed the House Committee on Elections, Constitutional Amendments, and Intergovernmental Affairs Thursday.
House Bill 647, if approved by voters, would allow the General Assembly to call itself into a special session at the end of the year. It would require a 3/5 majority of House members approving the extension and can only be done if there is one day left in the regular session.
Like a special session called by the governor, the extended session would require subjects be stated that would be considered during the days, they would only be able to add up to ten days—and lawmakers would not be paid for the extra time.
The bill would also strike language in the Kentucky Constitution that requires the legislature adjourn by April 15 on even-number years and March 30 on odd-numbered years.
Bill sponsor House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, says this bill is meant to help the legislature be more efficient something that is becoming increasingly relevant as the country deals with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Could we be more effective and efficient if we did not have those hard deadlines that we have to comply with?” Osborne said. ” We are expected to make significant projections through the year about things that will happen, for example right now with the budget we are expected to use consensus forecasting group numbers that we got in December to project into a situation that none of us could have ever potentially anticipated, so without that hard deadline of March 30 or April 15, we would have a more reasonable approach to the way we can approach certain pieces of legislation.”
The measure passed out of committee and heads to the full House floor.
The same committee also passed Senate Bill 58, which would make changes to the way governors can use their pardon powers. This measure was filed in response to several controversial pardons from former Governor Matt Bevin in December. Voters would have to approve to make the changes to the pardons. The bill passed with 3 no votes and heads to the full House floor as well.
Senate Bill 15, known as Marsy’s Law also passed the committee. If approved by voters it would create a crime victim’s bill of rights within the Kentucky Constitution. Kentucky voters ratified the law in 2018 with more than 60 percent of the vote but it was shut down by the Kentucky Supreme Court over the ballot wording. The amendment filed this session is identical to what was approved by voters in 2018 but has one change allowing victims of crime to be aware when a governor pardons or commutes the sentence of an attacker.
All these bills would have to be approved by Kentucky voters in November, however, the legislature is only allowed to put four amendments on the ballot.