Op-ed: Republican shenanigans in Frankfort

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Written by Bruce Maples at Forward Kentucky.

The Republican party is supposedly the party of “law and order,” or so they say. Why, then, are they engaged in multiple shenanigans in our General Assembly? 

They have a massive super majority; essentially, they can pass any bill they decide to pass. And yet, they continue to flaunt their power, reworking the rules and the processes to allow them to do bad things, and to do them faster. 

For example – according to the state constitution, bills in the legislature are supposed to have three readings in a chamber over three days. In other words, the fastest a bill can be passed and sent to the governor is supposed to be six days. 

But at the beginning of this session, they passed a rules change (see Rule 56) that allowed them to dispense with the second and third readings entirely. So now, they can pass a bill out of committee in the morning (which counts as the first reading), then dispense with the second and third readings that afternoon and pass it. 

Bruce Maples. Photo provided | Forward Kentucky

In fact, there have been instances where a bill was passed in one chamber, sent to the other chamber the same day, brought right to the floor, and passed in that chamber. Instead of the supposedly required six days, a bill can be rammed through in just hours – and has been.

And how about those mule bills? A “mule bill” is a bill that is written and filed for some innocuous reason, such as inserting gender-correct language into a statute — as if Republicans have ever cared about that — so that the bill can act as a placeholder – a “mule” to carry a much heavier load later. 

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Mule bills have been around for a long time. And yes, the process of using such a bill to suddenly move an entirely different bill is perfectly legal. Robert’s Rules says that an amendment to a motion (or bill) can completely rewrite the motion (or bill). So even though it sometime smells when done, it is permitted under the rules. 

Mule bills can have a legitimate purpose. You’re working on a bill, but don’t have it finished by the deadline, so you file a placeholder bill while you wrap up the writing. Okay, we get that. 

But in years past, the Republicans have brought up one of these bills for a first and second reading, then at the last minute substituted in the real bill. Since the bill has already had two readings, they just have to vote on the bill for final passage, even if no one has had a chance to read the new language. 

Remember the Sewer Bill? This was an 11-page bill to address certain sewer issues – a completely innocuous bill. Then, in a last-minute maneuver, that short bill was replaced by a 291-page pension bill, voted out of committee and out of the House by dinner time, then passed the Senate at 10 PM that night: an example of all of the Republican shenanigans to come in future legislative sessions. 

And this year, the number of mule bills has hit a new high. Already I have identified at least 90, and I still have about 150 bills to go through. Yes, a few are Dem bills, but most are Republican bills. And frankly, all of us who watch what goes on in Frankfort are scared of what is coming in those bills. 

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These increasing shenanigans are a travesty of growing proportions. All political parties work to gain and maintain power; but the ratio of power-grabbing to actual governance by the Republicans in Frankfort has moved more and more to power plays and less and less on actually serving the people. 

Lord Acton famously said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We are watching that happen in real time in Frankfort. And it is an ugly sight. 

This op-ed originally appeared at forwardky.com.

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