FRANKFORT — The state House approved a proposed constitutional amendment which would allow the legislature to overturn regulations by the executive branch — even when the General Assembly is not in session.

Currently, an administrative regulations review subcommittee can determine such regulations “deficient,” but that doesn’t prevent a governor from implementing the regulation while the General Assembly is not in session.

The full General Assembly may overturn the regulation when it next convenes — but even then a governor can issue an entirely new regulation doing the same thing once the legislature adjourns.

House Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. Kenny Imes, R-Murray, would offer voters the opportunity to amend the constitution to allow a legislative committee to deny such regulations at any time. Imes said it’s a matter of preserving the legislature’s power from encroachment by the executive branch.

But opponents like Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, question the measure, both on constitutional grounds and how it might be misused.

As Wayne points out, the courts have repeatedly ruled the General Assembly ceases to exist the moment it adjourns and Imes’ measure — if approved by voters this fall — would put the power not into the hands of the full General Assembly but in a committee of less than 20 elected representatives.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said Thursday that the amendment will change the constitution specifically to allow the committee to operate even when the legislature isn’t in session.

The measure passed on largely party lines with most but not all Democrats voting no and one Republican, Phil Moffett of Louisville, joining them.

But not before a parliamentary debate about taking a vote at all. The bill was taken from the orders of the day earlier in the week and recommitted to the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee.

Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, questioned the move, questioning if the bill had received its readings after previously having been reported favorably by the same committee. Osborne ruled then the bill had its necessary readings.

So when Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, R-Lancaster, Thursday moved to take the bill from committee and place it in the orders of the day, Adkins again objected, quoting from Mason’s Manual. According to that legislative procedure guide, once a bill has been favorably approved by a committee but then recommitted to the committee, that committee must act on it a second time and the first action is to be disregarded.

That prompted a 15-minute discussion with party leaders and attorneys’ at the Speaker’s chair. When it was over, the bill was transferred from the orders of the day to the Rules Committee.

But Shell immediately moved to transfer the bill from Rules to orders of the day and the measure then passed 68-22.

The measure now goes to the Senate. If it passes that body it will be placed on the November ballot for voters to approve or disapprove.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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