A state lawmaker says Kentucky needs to overhaul its constitution and has proposed calling a constitutional convention for the first time since 1891.
Rep. Phil Moffett, a Republican from Louisville, says revamping the constitution would allow the state to streamline how government works.
“We have some basic housekeeping that we should do in that constitution,” Moffett said during a committee presentation. “Remove some antiquated items that are no longer relevant in today’s world. And we also need to modernize the governmental structures and processes.”
Lawmakers can already make small changes to the state constitution through an amendment process, but in order to change more than four elements of the document in a year, lawmakers and the public have to go through a lengthy process.
First, the legislature has to vote in favor of asking the public to call a constitutional convention. Then, the legislature has to vote for it again in the next legislative session.
Once the legislature has approved the request, the question of whether to call a convention is put to the public during the general election. If voters approve, the convention begins 90 days after the vote is certified by the secretary of state.
There are 100 delegates in a Kentucky constitutional convention — one popularly elected from each district for the state House of Representatives
Delegates don’t have to be elected officials, they just have to meet the requirements to be a state representative such as being 24 years old and a citizen of Kentucky for two years.
Moffett listed several reasons he thought the constitution should be overhauled, including eliminating public offices that some consider to be antiquated.
“State treasurer is one that’s been kicked around over the years — no disrespect to our current treasurer, she’s doing a great job — but is it really necessary?” Moffett said. “Are constables necessary? Are jailers necessary in counties that don’t have jails?”
Moffett also said a convention might be a time when delegates could take up a litany of other constitutional amendments that have been proposed in recent years — expanded gambling, a local option sales tax provision, lawmaker term limits and moving state elections to even-numbered years.
He also suggested eliminating antiquated language that requires public officials to vow they’ve never participated in a duel before taking office and a provision that excludes “idiots” from voting.
“I realize that might fall along party lines if we took a vote,” Moffett said. “But what does that mean and why is it even in there?”
If the legislature were to vote in favor of a constitutional convention in 2018, the earliest the public would vote on the measure would be in the fall of 2019. A convention could then begin in 2020.
Moffett suggested adding “safeguards” allowing the General Assembly and public to approve a convention’s new constitution and preserving Kentucky’s Bill of Rights from any changes.
Lawmakers have taken steps to call a constitutional convention four times under Kentucky’s current constitution, most recently in 1977. All proposals were rejected by voters.