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League of Women Voters finds lawmakers fast-tracking bills

Kennealy Jenkins

A group of non-partisan researchers have found Kentucky lawmakers are increasingly fast-tracking legislation and limiting citizen involvement. Last week, the League of Women Voters of Kentucky released a report titled, “How Can They Do That? Transparency and Citizen Participation in Kentucky’s Legislative Process.”

The report investigated the processes used to pass bills in a sample of legislative sessions in the last 25 years. As a result of that analysis, the League has urged the state legislature to restore constituent participation in the lawmaking process.

The League said fast-tracking legislation makes it nearly impossible for citizens and other legislators to review or comment on the bills themselves before they’re signed into law.

Janie Lindel is a member of the taskforce studying legislative transparency for the League. She said they began looking into the online legislative record because they felt certain pieces of legislation were being rushed.

“Now we can say fairly confident there definitely has been an increase in how these steps have been skipped and how citizen participation has been limited,” Lindel said.

The League said their analysis finds different procedural maneuvers were used to undermine citizen participation, including replacing bills with substitute versions and holding required readings of bills before it was considered by any committee.

Lindel said one of the goals of the report was to make Kentuckians aware of what’s going on in the legislature.

“With the next session coming up, usually the legislature sets its own rules in the first couple of days in the session,” she said. “So, we want to monitor that, and hope to encourage broader participation and more opportunities for participation with a more deliberative process.”

Several lawmakers weighed in on the study’s findings. Senate Democratic Caucus Chair Reggie Thomas said he supports the League’s findings and will continue to advocate for legislative transparency. However, Republican Representative Richard White said the report fails to acknowledge the strides made in recent years to increase citizen access to the legislative process.