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EXPLAINER: What are the two constitutional amendments on the ballot in Kentucky this November?

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Posted at 5:29 PM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-05 14:52:01-04

(LEX 18) — This November, Kentucky voters will find two proposed constitutional changes on their ballots.

But what exactly are they voting on?

Constitutional Amendment 2 is the one you may have heard about by now. The amendment will determine the future of abortion rights in Kentucky. It asks voters if they want to put this sentence into the state constitution: "To protect human life, nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion."

Abortion is currently outlawed in Kentucky under the state's trigger law, which took effect after the United State Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June. However, a lawsuit, which seeks to establish abortion as a state right, is pending in court. So, if voters reject Constitutional Amendment 2, they will keep open the possibility of abortion being established as a state right.

However, if voters approve the amendment, it would eliminate abortion rights from the state's constitution. That would cut off the current legal challenges.

This amendment has received significant attention as supporters and opponents of abortion rights fight for your vote. But Constitutional Amendment 1 - the much longer question on the ballot - has not.

Constitutional Amendment 1 would give state lawmakers more power by allowing the Kentucky General Assembly to call itself into special session and potentially extend regular legislative sessions to end later than they currently do.

Currently, the state constitution mandates that regular sessions end by March 30th in odd-numbered years and by April 15th in even-numbered years. If lawmakers want to pass laws past those deadlines, it needs to happen in a special session. And only a governor can call lawmakers into a special session in Kentucky. The governor also sets the agenda for the special session.

Under the proposed constitutional change, the legislature could be called into a special session "by a joint proclamation of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives." The amendment cap those sessions to a maximum of 12 days per year.

Other state legislatures have the power to call themselves into special sessions. However, in most of those other states, a vote in each chamber is needed to call the special session. Under Kentucky's amendment, Kentucky would be one of the very few states where that vote would not be needed. The House Speaker and Senate President would hold the power to call a special session together.