State government

Kentucky's current and fourth constitution was adopted on 28 September 1891. By January 2003, it had been amended 40 times. Earlier constitutions were adopted in 1792, 1799, and 1850.

The state legislature, called the general assembly, consists of the house of representatives, which has 100 members elected for two-year terms, and the senate, with 38 members elected for staggered four-year terms. A constitutional amendment approved by the voters in November 1979 provided for the election of legislators in even-numbered years, a change scheduled for completion by November 1988. The assembly meets in regular sessions of no more than 60 legislative days, beginning Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each even-numbered year. Only the governor may call special sessions, which are not limited in length. Except for revenue-raising measures, which must be introduced in the house of representatives, either chamber may introduce or amend a bill. Most bills may be passed by voting majorities equal to at least two-fifths of the membership of each house. Measures requiring an absolute majority in each house include those that appropriate money or create a debt, summon a constitutional convention, or enact emergency measures to take effect immediately. A majority of the members of each house is required to override the governor's veto. If the governor neither vetoes nor signs a bill, it becomes law after 10 days, whether or not the legislature is in session.

A member of the senate must have been a resident of Kentucky for six years preceding election, a representative for two. A senator must be at least 30 and a representative at least 24. Legislators must have been residents in their districts for at least a year prior to election. The constitutional limit of $12,000 for salaries of public officials, which is thought to apply to legislators, has been interpreted by the courts in terms of 1949 dollars and thus may be increased considerably—and has been. In 2002 most legislators in Kentucky probably received less than $14,000 per year based on per diem in-session salaries of $163.56.

The elected executive officers of Kentucky are the governor and lieutenant governor (elected jointly), secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, auditor of public accounts, and commissioner of agriculture. All serve four-year terms, and a recent constitutional amendment allows a second term for those offices. The governor and lieutenant governor must be at least 30 years old, US citizens, and citizens and residents of Kentucky for six years. As of 2002 the governor's salary was $103,018.

A three-fifths majority of each house plus a voting majority of the electorate must approve any proposed constitutional amendment. Before a constitutional convention may be called, two regular sessions of the general assembly must approve it, and the call must be ratified at the polls by a majority voting on the proposal and equal to at last one-fourth the number of voters who cast ballots in the last general election.

To vote in Kentucky, one must be a US citizen, be at least 18 years old, have been a resident in the county for at least 28 days prior to election day, and not able to claim the right to vote elsewhere. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.