House Repubs close the blinds and put their foot on the accelerator

Bruce Maples
Bruce Maples
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In an obvious attempt to limit transparency and open government, and at the same time make it easier for the Republican majority in the House to run roughshod over the Democratic minority, the leadership today released new rules changes for the operation of the chamber.

The changes limit debate and discussion, as well as making it easier for committees (led by the Repubs) to operate in secret.

Open Government Coalition calls out the new rules

As Amye Bensenhaver of the KY Open Government Coalition wrote upon passage of the rules:

What to expect when you are expecting disaster?

The House majority greeted Kentuckians with unwelcome news even before the 2022 Regular Session began.

New rules of procedure issued by the majority on January 3 limit lawmakers’ opportunity to debate bills and may impair the public’s ability to monitor the movement of bills — further undermining foundational principles of representative government and the public’s right to know.

In an email to House leaders and members, lawmakers received notification of rules changes in the 2022 session that include:

  • Delete the “Report of Committee Postings” portion of the Orders of Business;
  • removing the process of posting bills or resolutions for hearings in committee;
  • Eliminate the ten minutes given to each side for debate once a motion for the previous question has been adopted, and instead bring the measure to an immediate vote;
  • Include explanation of vote as part of the time allotted for limited debate, and giving the Speaker of the House discretion to decide the time allotted;
  • Remove the process of posting bills or resolutions for hearing in committee.

We are not experts on parliamentary procedure, or the inner workings of the Kentucky General Assembly, but we can read. It’s clear that these rule changes limit notice to the public and the members’ opportunity to debate.

It’s unfortunate in an era when lawmakers aggressively alter and amend well-established open records and open meetings law — at the expense of the public’s right to know — that they elect to do so under rules that limit notice and an opportunity to adequately vet proposed laws that abridge existing rights.

The majority party seeks to minimize the gravity of these rule changes by characterizing them as “clarifications”— always a dog whistle.

These “clarifications” open one door — the door to passage of unvetted laws that reduce the public’s right to know by means of truncated notice and debate.

House Dems speak out as well

The Democratic minority tried to fight these changes, calling for more transparency and more discussion, not less. Brian Wilkerson, the House Dems communications director, posted some of their floor speeches on Twitter:

A preview of the rest of the session?

In the end, it was all for naught. The Repubs got what they wanted. As much as we might hope for some measure of collegiality and partnership, if this is a preview of the rest of the session, it seems the Repubs know they have a bullet-proof super-majority, and they intend to use it – and the devil take the hindmost.

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Bruce Maples has been involved in politics and activism since 2004, when he became active in the Kerry Kentucky movement. (Read the rest of his bio on the Bruce Maples Bio page in the bottom nav bar.)

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