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League of Women Voters calls out General Assembly for anti-democratic power plays

We’ve seen this practices in Frankfort for a long time – but as the LWV notes, the anti-democratic actions have gotten much worse in recent years.

In a report released today, the KY League of Women Voters called on the leadership of the state legislature to stop using anti-democratic, fast-track procedures to pass the bills they want – power plays that have gotten much worse in recent years.

Specifically, the report noted four procedural maneuvers that make it “difficult or impossible for citizens, journalists, and fellow legislators to review and comment on important and sometimes controversial bills.”

  • Replacing bills with substitute versions on short notice with little time for review.
  • Holding required “readings” of bills before any committee has considered the bill, which allows fast-tracking the bill for passage with no time for public input.
  • Holding “floor” (full House or Senate) votes on bills the same day those bills were approved in committee.
  • Holding floor votes on free conference committee reports (which may contain new bill language) on the same day the reports are filed.

The team that produced the report looked at the processes used to pass bills in legislative sessions from 1998 to 2022. They found that 25 years ago, less than 5% of bills that become law used used one or more of these maneuvers. But by 2022, “32% of bills that passed the House and 24% that passed the Senate were fast-tracked in ways that cut out the public.”

Anyone who has followed our General Assembly is familiar with all of these. More than one lawmaker has called out these practices as anti-democratic, but the Republican leadership has only increased the use of these tactics.

The League’s report not only identified the problem, they also urged the General Assembly to “strengthen citizens’ participation in our democracy in four ways:

  • Hold the three required bill “readings” on three separate days after a standing committee sends the bill to the whole House or Senate for a vote.
  • Make committee substitute bills available online at least one full day before the committee meeting where the substitute will be considered.
  • Allow at least one full day between the last standing committee action on a bill and the House or Senate floor vote on the bill.
  • Allow at least one full day between free conference committee revisions to a bill and the House or Senate floor vote on that changed bill.”

As Jennifer Jackson, LWVKY president, noted in their press release:

“Our democracy depends on informed and active public participation in decision-making. While elections are crucial, public engagement should extend beyond voting alone. Citizens must have the opportunity to contribute throughout the legislative process, and lawmakers should prioritize careful study and listening to ensure a comprehensive and participatory approach to finalizing legislation.”

The entire report is available below, along with the appendix.

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Bruce Maples

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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