Take Back supports Amendment 2 Yes for Life, opposes Amendment 1 power grab

Take Back Kentucky supports Ballot Amendment 2 which clarifies that the Kentucky Constitution does not guarantee a right or taxpayer monies to abortion.

Take Back Kentucky opposes Amendment 1, because eliminating the end date of the legislative session will open the state to a year round fight to stop bad legislation, while doing nothing to guarantee the abuse of emergency powers. No one’s life, liberty or property is safe when the legislature is in session, and making the whole year a potential ongoing few days at a time session will make it harder for grassroots organizations to react and prevent bad legislation from happening. If the emergency powers are being abused they should be strictly curtailed and limited, rather than being used as an excuse to undo the guards which prevent drastic changes in law during moments of public or legislative emotion.


Former TBK moderator and now State Senator Adrienne Southworth opposed the bill to place Amendment 1 on the ballot and wrote an op ed on the matter on her Facebook page, which we share here:

The question I have repeatedly gotten this month has been, what about Amendment 1? This year, two constitutional amendments are on your ballot. Lesser-known is Amendment #1, regarding legislative session dates. I voted no on putting this wording on your ballot, and the more I research, the more solidly I oppose this measure today.


Although it appears long, Amendment 1 actually changes only two things: 1) removes the deadline to finish the legislative session, and 2) allows the President and Speaker to call special sessions like the governor currently can.

The Constitution currently ends the legislative session by March 30 in odd-numbered years and April 15 in even-numbered years. This deadline creates a sense of urgency for important issues, and controls against constant law changes. We all know Congress can pass things in the dark of night on Christmas Eve. In Kentucky that is not possible, YET. Amendment 1 would allow that to change. Exhibit A: This year, SB 88 was introduced to allow bills to continue through December 31.


The popularly-cited reason for removing the deadline for the legislature to finish its business is the covid shutdowns. The talking point goes like this: the legislature was not in session and could not do anything to help covid. Let’s rehearse the facts: March 6, 2020, the governor declared an emergency order, and shut things down entirely around March 16. The legislature was in session until April 15. The legislative schedule lightened, but came back in full force by April 1 to pass covid relief and allow the expanded mail-in election process, among other things. The Legislature officially missed 7 days total in 2020, was still in session one month after the shutdowns started, and even was running during the Easter Sunday police citations. Were any bills passed to reduce the governor’s reach at that time? No.


The real problem was discussed in the summer of 2020. We passed SB 1 in 2021 to trim the enormous delegations of power we provide the governor. SB 1 was not perfect, but it and the subsequent Supreme Court decision prove that the Legislature already has the power to set these emergency boundaries on the governor. Amendment 1 does nothing about the governor’s emergency powers.


If the goal was the legislature making decisions in longstanding emergencies instead of the governor, then we could pass more bills about time limits, reasons he can make orders, or what defines an emergency. But we cannot use an outdated example from 2020 to support a Constitutional Amendment in 2022, because the laws have already changed since


The second part of Amendment 1 duplicates but also expands power. The President of the Senate and Speaker of the House could jointly call special sessions in addition to the Governor. Again, this is popularly characterized as a way to address unforeseen emergencies. Oddly, nowhere is “emergency” in Amendment 1.


Kentucky used to not have legislative sessions every year. In 2000, we amended the Constitution by adding the odd-year 30-day session to consolidate the numerous spontaneous special sessions into one organized time. Since then, we have still had 15 special sessions. Why add more people who can call spontaneous sessions at whim? Promises by office-holders to not abuse extreme power fail to guarantee current or future practice.


In fall 2021, when the governor for a covid emergency session, someone decided that it was also an emergency to approve over $400 million of funding to jumpstart mystery battery plants statewide. In 2022, the governor called an emergency session to move funds faster to the eastern Kentucky flood area. Among memorials for those who lost their lives in flood and rescue efforts, some decided it was appropriate to call resolutions celebrating NASA and the moon landing. With zero parameters on a reason to call a special session, it is concerning that leaders of a single branch would have no multi-branch checks and balances inherent in most of our American system. As we saw at Christmastime 2018, a governor can call a session but the legislature adjourn without passing anything.


Another talking point I have heard is that most other states already allow this and Kentucky is just behind. The facts disagree. Everyone should recall December 2020, when other states circulated petitions to call special sessions relating to certification of their presidential electors. Why was that? Legislatures were not in session, and their leaders were not able to simply call a session for any reason at any time. Only 5 states allow leaders to call their own sessions currently: Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Ohio. At least 32 other states require a petition and 2/3 or 3/4 of legislative member support to call the session. Maine is particularly interesting, requiring percentages of each party from each chamber.


The most important thing I do when approving language for your ballot is to ensure that the final wording of any new Constitution is going to be Constitution-quality for years, decades, and perhaps centuries to come. We must ensure that what the people want the Constitution to say is what it actually says.


The part-time legislature has been considered ideal. Removing constitutional limits allows concentrated power. One thing most people do not know is that I could be paid every day, all year around, if the president approved it. Of course I don’t request that, nor does he approve everything, but this is an example of compounding concentrations of power. The same person who can pay unlimited non-session days could also call session days for votes, even without 97% of the other senators’ input. I have also observed that once bills are on the agenda and amendments are disallowed, implicit force can make things pass that otherwise do not enjoy the overwhelming consensus we all imagine should emanate from a statewide legislature.


The key reason I voted no and will vote no again this November on Amendment 1 is that I do not support power grabs. When the voters only get an up-or-down vote on the entire package, it is too late to iron out problems. The legislature should get this balanced before asking the people to vote. If you were able to vote on the whole legislature calling a session, like most other states, this would be a different article. The 3/4-members petition process is not the same, and sessions do not need to stay open all year if we can call back in for emergencies that pop up.


Amendment 1 has no fancy website. Kentucky’s constitution depends on informing yourself. If you want any clarifications on what I have shared, I am always paying attention to my email Adrienne.Southworth@lrc.ky.gov. As a reminder, vote on November 8!

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