Volume 58, Issue 9

Constitutional Amendment 1 soundly defeated at ballot box as voters back balance of power

The balance of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government is a basic tenant of democracy and Amendment 1 would have dangerously changed that, giving almost unlimited power to the Kentucky General Assembly.

By more than 90,000 votes—a 54% to 46% margin—Kentuckians went to the polls and soundly defeated an effort by the state’s majority party to reset the balance of power in Frankfort.

If passed, Amendment 1 would have changed the state’s constitution and allowed the legislature to call itself into session. The constitution currently allows only the governor that power.

Voters seemingly defeated the amendment for two reasons: fear of a more full-time and more expensive legislature, and the long and complicated language on the ballot.

Public records reveal that legislators already earned an average of $65,339 for the 2020 legislative session, which was 60 days long; some earned much more than that. That average amount doesn’t include the 8% raise they gave themselves during the 2022 session. Adding 12 legislative days would have increased their annual pay during 60-day session by 20%, meaning that the average legislator would earn over $78,000 for 72 days of work under the constitutional change. According to the 2020 U.S. census, the average Kentuckian makes $52,238 working for an entire year.

The long and complicated language was confusing because it was written to significantly change the way Kentucky citizens are governed.

Amendment 1 would have:

  • Eliminated deadlines for the end of legislative sessions, which are currently April 15 (even year 60-day sessions) and March 30 (odd year 30-day sessions), and let the legislature decide when—or if—they want to leave Frankfort.
  • Although the amendment would have nominally kept the 60 day/30 day session limits, the only real deadline would have been that each annual session must end by December 31. If passed, legislative days could have been spread throughout the whole year, essentially creating a full-time legislature.
  • Allowed the legislature to call themselves into “special session” for up to 12 additional days each year, which could have also been intermittent. So even-year legislative sessions could have been as much as 72 days spread throughout the entire year and odd-year sessions could have been as much as 42 days spread throughout the entire year.
  • Eliminated the subject limits on what can be considered during a special session of the legislature, so not only could they call themselves into session, but could also do that for any reason and consider any topic, further blurring the line between “regular” and “special” legislative days.

Thanks to Kentucky’s voters, the constitution and the balance of power will remain intact.