Kentucky state capitol

In November, Kentucky vot­ers will be asked to approve – or reject – two amend­ments to the Kentucky Constitution.

The pro­pos­al with­in the sec­ond pro­posed amend­ment will be dis­cussed in a future col­umn.  And it is impor­tant to dif­fer­en­ti­ate between these pro­posed amend­ments to the Kentucky Constitution rather than the U.S. Constitution.

The cur­rent Kentucky Constitution is the last of four adopt­ed by this state and dates to 1892.  It is inter­est­ing to note that the U.S. Constitution, with all its amend­ments, is con­tained in 31 pages.  The Kentucky Constitution com­pris­es 199 pages and, unlike the U.S. ver­sion, which most­ly lim­its gov­ern­ment and gives pow­ers to the peo­ple, pri­mar­i­ly places lim­its on what the peo­ple can do and expands the pow­er of state government.

It quick­ly becomes obvi­ous that the drafters of our 1892 doc­u­ment took lit­tle guid­ance from those who com­piled our nation­al doc­u­ment of over 100 years earlier.

Added to that is the fact that amend­ments to the Kentucky doc­u­ment are offered near­ly every elec­tion, which would seem to sug­gest that it is so flawed that it needs con­stant adjustment.

The ques­tion about Amendment No. 1 on the bal­lot is relat­ed to the pow­ers of the leg­is­la­ture and the gov­er­nor.  The text of the ques­tion as it will appear on the bal­lot is not avail­able at the time this is being writ­ten, but the con­tent is described by the Legislative Research Commission as:  “Removes leg­isla­tive ses­sion end dates and pro­vides that odd-year ses­sions are lim­it­ed to 30 leg­isla­tive days, and even-year ses­sions are lim­it­ed to 60 leg­isla­tive days, allows the state leg­is­la­ture to change the end date of the leg­isla­tive ses­sion through a three-fifths vote in each cham­ber, pro­vide that a spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sion for up to 12 days may be called by the House speak­er and the Senate pres­i­dent and change pro­vi­sions regard­ing when a law takes effect.”

See the problem?

First, it attacks too many issues at once and unnec­es­sar­i­ly com­pli­cates the pro­pos­al.  Second, it shifts pow­ers now law­ful­ly exer­cised by oth­er seg­ments of gov­ern­ment, plac­ing them with­in the leg­is­la­ture, which inci­den­tal­ly is the body propos­ing the amend­ment.  Third, and most oner­ous, is the pro­pos­al to allow the leg­is­la­ture to call itself into ses­sion, a pow­er now resid­ing with the gov­er­nor under the bal­ance of pow­ers that should exist with­in government.

And what seems pro­found­ly appar­ent is that, if the gov­er­nor were a mem­ber of the same par­ty which now over­whelm­ing­ly con­trols the House and Senate of the state, this pro­pos­al would nev­er have been brought up.

It makes no dif­fer­ence whether the gov­er­nor is a Democrat and the leg­is­la­ture Republican or vice ver­sa. Proposals to changes in our Constitution should not be based on either par­ty attempt­ing to gar­ner more pow­er for itself in oppo­si­tion to the con­trols and bal­ances con­tained with­in that document.

Remember the com­ment above about how our state Constitution seems to define pow­ers for the gov­ern­ment rather than for the peo­ple.  This amend­ment con­tin­ues that trend.

Amendment Number 1 deserves a NO vote in November.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.