Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 19, 2014

General Assembly calendar amendment goes to House

FRANKFORT — Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg agree. The length of General Assembly sessions each year makes it difficult for those with private jobs to serve as “citizen legislators.”

But they don’t agree on the solution which means there probably won’t be one anytime soon.

The Republican-controlled Senate Wednesday passed a measure sponsored by Stivers which would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment changing how long and when the General Assembly meets. Currently, the legislature convenes for a 60-day session in even-numbered years and for a 30-day session in odd-numbered years.

Before a constitutional amendment approved in 2000 provided for annual sessions, the legislature met every other year for 60 days.

Under Stivers’ measure the legislature would convene for a five-day session in odd-numbered years and a 45-day session in even numbered years. But the leaders of the General Assembly could call the legislature into special session for up to 10 days over the two-year period or biennium.

Presently, only the governor can call a special session and determine its agenda. Stivers’ measure wouldn’t alter the governor’s ability to do that, but any sessions called by the governor would not count against the 10 days during which the General Assembly could call itself into session.

Lawmakers would have to conclude their work during either of the annual sessions by April 15, just as they are now constitutionally required to do.

“There are people here today,” Stivers said as he explained his bill Wednesday on the Senate floor, “who are leaving or thinking about leaving because we are no longer a citizen legislature.”

He said his measure would also save money because it would reduce the maximum number of days to 60 over two years from the current 90 days over the biennium. And it would be easier for those who must earn a living to serve, Stivers said.

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