First day of 2024 legislative session sees brief transparency push, hints of which issues might be early priorities
The Kentucky General Assembly kicked off its long, 60-day budget session Tuesday — swatting away efforts to slow down the lawmaking process and offering glimpses of issues that might land on the front burner.
Republican majorities rejected efforts by the Democratic minority in the Kentucky legislature to adopt rules they say would make the lawmaking process more transparent and accessible for citizens.
The push for a change in the rules adopted at the beginning of the session came in the wake of a report by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky. It found procedural maneuvers used to fast-track bills increased dramatically over the last two decades.
On day one of the session, Democrats pressed for the league's recommended changes — including making revised committee bills available online at least a day before they’re considered in committee and holding three required readings of bills on three separate days.
"Our people expect us to stand up when we know that things are wrong and they know things are wrong. That is our responsibility," House Democratic Caucus Chair Derrick Graham said.
Republican majorities swiftly bypassed the issue, moving forward with their rules as originally proposed.
Senate President Robert Stivers said the rules fall within the law and maintained the maneuvers were taking place 25 years ago.
"I was here in '98. I saw what was done. I was here in '97. I saw what happened in the special sessions, when bills came out in the last days because there were agreements. So I disagree with the conclusions of their report," the Manchester Republican said.
But the new analysis showed back then, the maneuvers were far less common — with fewer than 5% of bills becoming law via fast-tracking methods. By 2022, that percentage had risen to 24% in the Senate and 32% in the House, according to the report.
The Kentucky General Assembly kicked off its long, 60-day budget session today/Tuesday -- swatting away efforts to slow down the lawmaking process and offering glimpses of issues that might land on the front burner.
At the top of the priorities list is the two-year budget. Stivers said Gov. Andy Beshear's 11% teacher raises aren't off the table but highlighted differences over how best to attract and retain teachers.
"It's not crazy. It's not out bounds," Stivers said of the governor's sought-after raises. "I think the bigger questions becomes how you do something."
Where the Senate leader is sounding hesitant to dip into the state's large rainy day fund, House Speaker David Obsorne said it's likely his chamber will want to use some of those dollars to bolster pensions.
Stivers said he sees potential for common ground with the governor on energy and infrastructure issues.
As for political hot buttons, the GOP leader said the General Assembly is seriously considering proposals to split up the Jefferson County Public School system, the largest in the state. Asked about the bipartisan push for red flag-style gun reforms, Stivers said it's too early to speculate whether it could gain traction.