Kentucky lawmakers create bill in hopes to call themselves into special session

Posted at 8:20 PM, Jan 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-26 20:20:59-05

FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — Kentucky lawmakers would like the power to call themselves into a special session.

Since Kentucky's constitution makes the legislature part-time, the governor is currently the only one with the power to call them into special session.

These types of sessions are reserved for special actions. For example, during the pandemic, the governor called lawmakers in to take protective actions to help reduce the level of COVID-19 spread.

However, Republican lawmakers want the ability to call themselves into a special session without the governor's action. They are moving forward on the ability to call themselves into session through a joint proclamation from the House Speaker and the Senate President.

Why? At Wednesday's Senate State and Local Government committee meeting, Senator Damon Thayer made it clear this is a direct response to the governor's COVID-19 orders.

"I just want to remind everybody why we are here today and even discussing this. It was because, in June and July of 2020, we were in the middle of mask mandates, and shutdowns, and lockdowns, and the State Police citing people for going to church on Easter Sunday," said Thayer. "The people of this Commonwealth were losing their minds to every member of this body about - 'you guys need to do something to reel in this out-of-control governor.'"

Since the action lawmakers want requires a constitutional change, Kentucky voters must agree to it. So, the issue will be resolved at the ballot box.

However, some lawmakers believe the legislature shouldn't have unlimited power. So, they're moving another bill along that has some rules attached.

"I don't believe the General Assembly should be able to yank law and statute all over the place. So, we're limiting it to 12 days solely - annually - for the General Assembly to come back in for special circumstances," said Senator David Givens, the sponsor of Senate Bill 88.

Givens explains that unlike the governor's special session calls, which clearly outline the only actions lawmakers can consider, lawmakers can give themselves flexibility.

"That joint proclamation by the president and the speaker does not have to be specific to a topic," he said.

How does the governor feel about this? On Wednesday, Governor Andy Beshear told LEX 18 he believes it is unnecessary.

"It's contrary to what our constitution was set up to do. And that's to create a part-time legislature," said Beshear.

"The goal of a part-time legislature is to be deliberative - that they can think through goals, think through the process, and make sure they have a good product when they come in for that period of time," added Beshear.