FRANKFORT – Lawmakers are shortening the Kentucky General Assembly for a second time due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic, giving them little time to act on the governor’s vetoes or pass additional legislation.
When lawmakers last met on April 1, they approved a resolution to adjourn until April 13 and meet a total of three consecutive days. Now, legislative leaders will resume the General Assembly on April 14 with an optional final day on April 15 — the last day they can meet under the Kentucky Constitution.
When they convene again, lawmakers could consider overriding vetoes cast by Gov. Andy Beshear. As of Friday, April 10, Beshear has vetoed five bills, two of which are high profile.
Senate Bill 2 would require a photo ID to be presented at the polls prior to voting.
“Its provisions would create an obstacle to the ability of Kentuckians to exercise their right to vote, resulting in fewer people voting and undermining our democracy,” Beshear said.
The governor said there is no recent documented evidence of in-person voter fraud, “therefore the legislation would be attempting to resolve a problem that does not exist.”
The bill also threatens the health and safety of Kentuckians, Beshear said, “by requiring them to obtain an identification during the novel coronavirus outbreak, a public health emergency. During this time, the offices that would provide this identification are not open to in-person traffic, which would be necessary to create the actual identification.”
The governor also vetoed House Bill 336, which would allow a candidate for governor who wins the party nomination to delay the naming of a running mate until August.
“It is inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the 1992 Amendments to the Kentucky Constitution,” Beshear said. “That year, Kentuckians amended the Constitution to require the governor and lieutenant governor to run as a united slate. House Bill 336 would interfere with this arrangement.”
Overriding a veto requires the support of a simple majority of the members in both the House and Senate; unlike Congress, where a two-thirds majority is needed. The governor’s allotted time to veto passed bills expires on April 13.
Due to the session lasting only two more days, medical marijuana and sports wagering bills are likely dead.
Several pro-life bills could pass during the final two days, but if they were vetoed by the governor, lawmakers could not override them.
They include SB 9, known as the “Born Alive” bill; HB 67, a proposed Constitutional Amendment that would make it clear there is no right to an abortion in the state Constitution; and HB 451, which would allow the attorney general to be proactive in seeking injunctive relief in the state’s enforcement of abortion laws.
The General Assembly can meet for up to 60 days in even-numbered years, but by not gaveling in on April 13, the 2020 session will last only 52 or 53 days, depending on when they adjourn.
Every year, lawmakers approve a schedule that includes a 10-business-day veto recess, following by two more days of meeting after the 10 days governors have to decide if they will sign legislation, veto it or allow it to become law without their signature.