- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky lawmakers would spend less time in session under a proposal that passed the Senate with bipartisan support on Wednesday.

The proposed change to the state constitution aims to cut the amount of time lawmakers are in session by a third over each two-year period.

Senate President Robert Stivers said his proposal would save money and encourage more people to run for legislative seats.

Lawmakers now meet for 90 days every two years, which takes them away from jobs and their families for months at a time, he said.

“There are people in this chamber, as we stand here and sit here today, that have thought about leaving or are leaving because we are no longer a citizen legislature,” said Stivers, R-Manchester.

The measure cleared the Republican-led Senate on a 34-3 vote and now goes to the Democratic-run House. The proposed revisions to the legislative calendar would go on the November ballot for Kentucky voters to decide if it clears the General Assembly.

The proposal would limit sessions in even-numbered years to 45 days.

Under the proposed timetable, lawmakers in those years would convene for five days in early January for organizational matters and to start introducing legislation. They would take an extended break until early February, when they would reconvene for the final 40 days lasting until April 15.

Sessions in even-numbered years now last 60 days and are highlighted by work on the state’s two-year budget.

In odd-numbered years, lawmakers could meet up to 15 days under the proposed scenario. Those sessions now last 30 days.

Under the proposal, lawmakers would meet for five days in early January, and then would have the option of extending the session for up to 10 more days. Or they could wrap up their work after those five days and still have 10 more days in which to reconvene later.

The Senate amended the bill to ensure broader input into deciding whether lawmakers should call themselves back into session at a later time. The change specified that House and Senate minority party leaders would be part of the discussion, along with the House speaker and Senate president.

“It’s important that when we come back in for a special session, to have buy-in from both parties,” said Democratic Sen. Morgan McGarvey of Louisville, who offered the amendment.

Stivers estimates the shortened legislative sessions would save several millions of dollars each year.

He has emphasized that his proposal would not infringe on a governor’s ability to call lawmakers into special sessions. If the governor convened special sessions, however, those days would not count against the available days lawmakers would have to reconvene themselves.


The legislation is Senate Bill 195.

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