Tue January 3, 2012
State Capitol

General Assembly Opens for 60-Day Session

When noon EST rolls around today, the state Capitol in Frankfort could resemble a different Kentucky icon: the starting gate at a horse race. Once the House and Senate kick off the 2012 General Assembly Tuesday, the legislature will officially have 60 days to try to address 200 bills filed ahead of the session and craft a budget that takes into account a shortfall believed to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Additionally, they’ll need to find time to fulfill their constitutional obligation of redistricting congressional and senatorial lines, a process that could hinder the regular session or require a special session.

The General Assembly meets for a regular session on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January every year, according to the Legislative Research Commission. However, the 2012 session differs from last year’s because it comes in an even year; sessions during even years are required to last 60 days, according to the LRC. Odd-year sessions last 30 days.

The 2012 General Assembly is only required to do one thing: pass the biennial budget, according to the LRC. Local legislators have said this will be the focus of the session, as some predicted a hole in the budget approaching $1 billion. 

Prefiled bills come from the committees that work during the “interim,” the time in between active General Assembly sessions, according to the LRC. If a bill prefiled in the House is approved by the interim committee that created it, the measure can come up for viewing and discussion by a standing House committee during the first 15 days of the new session, according to the most recent House rules of procedure. There is no special procedure listed on the Regular Session 2012 calendar for prefiled bills from Senate interim committees.

The last day for bill requests is scheduled for the 33rd day of the session, Feb.17. There will be five days after that time for any new bills to come up before the House, and seven more days for new bills to come up before the Senate. This leaves the entire month of March for discussing the requested legislation, according to the LRC.

The 58th and 59th days of the session, March 26 and 27, are slated as “concurrence only” days for the legislature. This offers time for both the House and Senate to agree to modifications made to legislation made by the other portion of the General Assembly, according to the LRC.

The next 10 days, March 28 through April 7, are scheduled for veto days. While Gov. Steve Beshear has the authority to veto any legislation sent to him by the legislature, the legislature has the ability to override that veto, if the majority of both the House and Senate agree to do so.

The legislature is scheduled for “sine die” — Latin for “without fixing a day for future action,” it is considered the last day for legislative business — on April 9. The constitution requires that the legislature must finish with a regular session during an even year by April 15. However, the legislature has the ability to change the days it meets, in order to provide more time to discuss overriding any potential veto.

Re-aligning senate and congressional districts could be addressed during this regular session, but several local legislators have said they believe a special session could be needed to resolve the issue. Known formally as an “extraordinary” session, it is called for by the governor. There is no time limit for a special session, but special sessions are generally brief, according to the LRC.

Most standing committees meet every Tuesday through Thursday during the regular session, although a House subcommittee on transportation meets every Monday afternoon. For a complete schedule of committee action, as well as a list of what legislators are on each committee, visit www.lrc.ky.gov.