Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Kentucky Issues

Family court, corporate changes pass

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - With voters overwhelmingly approving of the family court experiment, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said new judgeships for the foreseeable future will likely be to create new domestic courts.

"It would appear there's a mandate for family courts," Justice Lambert said Tuesday.

"The highest priority will be family courts."

Voters approved the constitutional amendment to ratify family courts by a nearly 4-to-1 ratio.

Kentucky's corporate interests also won voter approval of an amendment to delete 11 sections of the state's 1891 constitution and allow the General Assembly to take over some corporate governance.

The judicial branch asked the General Assembly to create eight to 10 new judgeships, but no budget was passed during regular and special sessions earlier this year.

Justice Lambert said all additional judgeships will now be viewed as prospective family courts, as opposed to ordinary district or circuit courts.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, there were 710,109 votes for the family court amendment, or 76 percent, to 228,242 votes, or 24 percent, against.

Family courts take some of the burden from both district and circuit courts, handling divorces and some juvenile justice cases.

There was little public discussion about the courts amendment, in part because it simply ratified a system in place since 1991 and now operating in 26 counties.

Supporters of an amendment to remove some corporate regulation rules from the Kentucky Constitution were also getting a return on the millions they spent to get their point across.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, there were 558,118 votes for the corporations amendment, or 61 percent, to 360,449 votes, or 39 percent, against.

Proponents of the amendment said corporate governance should be covered by the General Assembly, not cemented into the 1891 constitution.

Opponents said companies were seeking special dispensation.

Sylvia Lovely, executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities, who appeared in ads promoting ratification, said Tuesday night voters should not expect to see an immediate turnaround in the economy.

"It paves the way for the General Assembly to enact laws and encourage business growth in the state," Ms. Lovely said.

Chris Sanders, secretary-treasurer of the Kentucky state AFL-CIO, which made a halfhearted attempt to generate opposition to the amendment, said it will eventually come back to bite voters.

Opponents said the amendment would unfetter a powerful interest group.

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