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Kentucky Legislature Wedges Anti-Trans Bill into Its Schedule

When is 6 minutes the same thing as 24 hours? When you're in Kentucky, and there's a gubernatorial election to be won, apparently.

Let us back up and explain. Kentucky law, like that of many Southern states, places pretty strict limits on meetings of the state legislature. They only gather for a couple of months a year, and cannot be called back into session of their own volition (only the state's governor can recall them). Consequently, as of 8:00 a.m. yesterday morning, there were only four days left on the legislative calendar before this year's gubernatorial election: yesterday, today, March 29 and March 30.

The Republicans who dominate both chambers of the legislature very much wanted to pass an anti-trans bill before adjourning, knowing such a bill is likely to be vetoed by Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY). The general idea is to make that the centerpiece of the GOP gubernatorial campaign; i.e. "We're doing everything we can to protect against the trans agenda, whereas Gov. Beshear wants to enable that agenda." However, after much debate on Wednesday, Republicans in the two chambers struggled to agree on the exact terms of an anti-trans bill. And that meant that it looked like the clock was going to run out on the effort.

This is where the 6 minutes comes in. See, another Kentucky law dictates that the public be given at least 24 hours' notice of committee meetings. That meant that when the legislature convened on Thursday, there essentially was not time for a new anti-trans bill. Such a bill would not only have to be produced, but it would have to undergo review by a committee meeting. A committee meeting that, by rule, cannot happen without 24 hours notice. If you add that up—produce bill, report to committee, announce committee meeting, wait 24 hours, hold committee meeting, committee votes to report bill, entire legislature takes up bill—it did not seem there was enough time in the week, or even the legislative session, to get it done.

What do you do when faced with a "crisis" like this, then? You ignore the rules, both the general rules about normal order, and the specific rule about 24-hour notice. During the legislature's Thursday lunch break, two members called a surprise House Education Committee meeting. Just 6 minutes after making that announcement, they presented a new and improved anti-trans bill labeled S.B. 150. Among its terms:

The bill was so fresh off the presses, as it were, that the Clerk of the House did not have a copy available for review (much less the general public) when it was being discussed in committee. That committee voted to advance the bill just 30 minutes after its meeting was called. Then, about 30 minutes after that, the entire state House voted on the bill, approving it largely along party lines. A few hours later, the state Senate approved it, also largely along party lines. It now goes to Beshear, who is expected to veto it. However, Republicans have vowed to use the remaining 2 days in the session (again, March 29-30) to override the veto.

This is now the third item in as many days about Republicans using anti-trans legislation as a wedge issue. However, this particular story—brought to our attention by reader R.H. in Santa Ana, incidentally—is surely the most crystal clear of the three on that front. The only time pressure here is created by the fact that there is a gubernatorial election in November. If not for that, it could certainly have waited until the next legislative session.

Meanwhile, we still have to talk about how religious groups are pulling many of the strings when it comes to anti-trans activism and legislation. That will come next week. (Z)

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