A bit of civics as legislative session comes to an end

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From the House

By Rep. David Floyd

If you’re into Civics, you’ll love today’s column.  I’ll explain why your General Assembly is in recess right now at a time we call the “Veto Period” and close out the last of this session’s Saturday Coffees.

Kentucky’s Constitution allows for 30 legislative days in odd-numbered years. We are constitutionally required to organize the General Assembly on the “first Tuesday after the first Monday” in January.  Then we adjourn until the “first Tuesday in February” and then we have to finish up all business by March 30.  This is all in our Constitution.

Here’s an interesting story.  Kentucky voters amended the Constitution in 2000 to meet every year (not just even-numbered years).  The session was to end on March 30.  Why not March 31?

Because the person who wrote the amendment just forgot that March has 31 days.  That’s the way it will stay because it’s not worth amending the Constitution to fix that.  And it doesn’t really make any difference.

A bill that passes both Houses of the General Assembly will become a law when the governor signs it and take effect ninety days after the adjournment of the session. (We can always declare an “emergency” and in that case an act may become a law when approved by the Governor.  This is what happened with the alcohol and cigarette taxes, which will take effect on April Fool’s Day.)

If the Governor doesn’t sign the act, or refuses to sign it, then ten days after final passage it will become law without his/her signature. That is, unless the governor vetoes it and sends it back to us.

Since the Constitution requires us to adjourn by March 30th, the governor could use his veto power without fear of override if we send him a bill too late in the session. He could wait until nine days have passed and then veto the bill. And since we run out of legislative days (we only have 30 this year) that could create a scenario where the governor could veto and there would be no legislative review.

That’s why we recess after 28 days and then reconvene 10 days later (March 26). In this way we can consider any vetoes and override if we so decide. Governor Beshear might not veto anything, but we don’t want to surrender our ability to override any veto that he might make.

How do we override a veto?  We’d need at least 51 members of the House and 20 members of the Senate who vote to override.  

We had our last “coffee” this past weekend.  These are Saturdays during legislative sessions, and I go to different parts of the district to gas stations or restaurants where people normally gather.  Sometimes there are a dozen or so who show up to talk or ask questions; and sometimes we have only one or two.

Either way is great with me.  All I am trying to do is be available where you are, instead of where I am.

I have to tell you that I love these times.

Occasionally someone comes in upset, and that’s fine.  I always say that “hearing from you is the best part of my job” and it doesn’t matter what mood you’re in; although I’d prefer civil and polite, just as you’d want me to be with you.

But these events are valuable, helping me to better represent you.  I very much appreciate all the business owners who let people gather in this way.

If you need assistance just call or email me (david.floyd@lrc.ky.gov) and I’ll try to help.  You can also leave a message for me in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181.