Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Back in the late 80's early 90's there was an internal Democrat spat between the Governor and the Lt. Governor that resulted in a Constitutional change starting in 1992 to limit those powers. Back then the Lt. Governor (LG) had considerably more to do. The LG was head of the Senate much like the VP is at the Federal level, as well as served on various boards and commissions. There is of course the responsibility of being able to take over the governorship if need be either permanently or temporarily. The LG also did other duties as assigned by the Gov, so the LG can do more or less depending on the administration and how much the Gov actually wants to utilize the LG.
The change was that the LG was no longer president of the Senate. Why was the LG no longer president of the Senate? Because they called a special legislative session while the governor was out of the state, which was an abuse of their authority. The Gov and LG were not getting along and the LG was going to run for Governor next election. So instead of punishing the LG for abusing their power or only limiting what it meant for an LG to take control of the Executive, they did both. A Governor being out of the state is not a reason to assume the Governorship, not in the modern era anyway.
Now for some reason, and this was before the Hampton/Bevin feud, as this is the 2nd year it has been introduced, some legislators think it needs to happen. We at KLR thinks it needs to go back to the LG having more authority not less, the whole assumption of power issue has already been fixed. The initial reason, as with the Federal government is the LG is supposed to be an Executive check and balance against the Legislative by serving as the President of the Senate. One would think it would be better to have an LG help carry the load and do more not less or not at all for the Gov. Having the LG also keeps accountability in government because she was elected not appointed, and if the LG ever needs to step in they can do so knowing they were elected by the people.
The proposal now is to have the line of succession be the Senate President or Senate Minority Leader depending on what the party of the Governor was and then the Speaker of the House or the Minority Leader again depending on the Governor's party affiliation. The problem with this bill is, one assuming that we will never have an Independent/3rd Party in office, and also turning over authority to someone who wasn't elected by all Kentuckians and may not have even been elected in a party that holds the majority. The legislative bodies should be allowed to set their own rules on how they can conduct business, because as a amazing as it sounds the President of the Senate can be a minority member, then what does this bill propose we do.
This bill also removes 3rd in line the Attorney General and 4th in line, Auditor (why it is these two has to do with the timeframe in which our current constitution was written). We at KLR think it should remain this way as well because at least the plurality of the voters voted in the AG and the Auditor.
This bill would be a Constitutional Amendment requiring citizens to vote on it.
Call the Legislative Hotline at 502-564-8100 or 1-800-372-7181 and tell your Senator, All Senate Leadership, and members of the Senate State and Local Government Committee to Oppose SB 31, and to Keep the Lt. Governor Office.