Conduct of Legislators

KRS Section(s) - KRS 6.611, 6.731, 6.734, 6.737, 6.741, 6.744, 6.747, 6.751, 6.754, 6.757, 6.761, 6.764, 6.767

Standards of Conduct

General standards of conduct are set forth in KRS 6.731. The standards relate to: misuse of a legislator's official influence, position, or office; use of public funds, time or personnel for private gain or partisan political activity; use of official legislative stationery or state seal for political campaigns; and intoxication while discharging the duties of office. Penalties are included in each subsection of KRS 6.731.

Conduct Prohibited by the Code

Disclosure or Use of Confidential Information - KRS 6.734. A Legislator is prohibited from intentionally disclosing or using officially acquired confidential information to further private economic interests. Information is deemed confidential if it is not subject to disclosure pursuant to the Kentucky Open Records Act at the time of its disclosure or use (Class D felony). For the complete statute, see KRS 6.734.

Contracts with State Agencies - KRS 6.737

Legislators or candidates, directly or through others, are prohibited from holding any state agency contract, agreement, sale or purchase of $100 or more per transaction. Exceptions are:

  • Contracts with businesses in which the legislator and spouse collectively own 5% or less interest;
  • Contracts let after public notice and competitive bidding;
  • Contracts available on similar terms to members of the legislator's business, occupatio​n, or profession;
  • Contracts existing at the time the legislator became a candidate. (Class D felony and, upon conviction, possible voiding of the contract, agreement, sale, or purchase) See OLEC 94-33.

For a description of exceptions and the complete statute, see KRS 6.737.

Leases or Sales of Real Property - KRS 6.741

A legislator, his/her spouse, or business in which either has more than 5% interest is prohibited from intentionally selling or leasing real property to a state agency, with exceptions for eminent domain, existing contract, and lease or sale for nominal consideration preapproved by the Commission (Class D felony and, upon conviction, possible voiding of the sale or lease). For the complete statute, see KRS 6.741. See also OLEC 96-3.

Conduct in Relation to State Agencies - KRS 6.744

A legislator, directly or through others, is prohibited from:  Using any means to influence a state agency in direct contravention of public interest (ethical misconduct). Absent an express threat of legislative reprisal, nothing in this subsection prevents a legislator from contacting a state agency on behalf of a person or constituent, to make a legislative inquiry, or to obtain information concerning legislative assistance. See KRS 6.744(1), OLEC 93-4, OLEC 93-21, OLEC 93-25, and OLEC 95-1.

A legislator is prohibited from appearing before a state agency as an expert witness for compensation (ethical misconduct). See KRS 6.744(2).

Specific cases are defined in which a properly licensed legislator may and may not represent a client before a state agency, or maintain an action against the state or a state agency, for compensation. For the complete guidelines, see KRS 6.744(3) to (7).

A legislator whose partner practices cases the legislator is precluded from handling is required to report the names of clients and the state agencies in the statement of financial interests required by KRS 6.787. See KRS 6.744(8) and OLEC 94-32.

A legislator is prohibited from agreeing to receive compensation contingent on an agency's action (ethical misconduct). See KRS 6.744(9) and OLEC 02-03.

Honoraria and Out-of-State Travel - KRS 6.747

A legislator is prohibited from receiving compensation for an appearance, speech, or article unless it is both related to his/her outside employment and is unrelated to his/her position as legislator. A legislator is permitted to accept the cost of transportation and actual expenses for out-of-state travel associated with legislative duties if the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) gives prior approval for the travel. Those expense reimbursements are required to be reported to the LRC. Violation of this section is ethical misconduct. See the complete statute, KRS 6.747. See also OLEC 93-21, OLEC 93-26, OLEC 95-9, OLEC 95-16, OLEC 96-5 and OLEC 03-01.

Acceptance of Additional Compensation or Gifts for Legislative Duties - KRS 6.611 and KRS 6.751

A legislator is prohibited from knowingly accepting compensation, except lawful pay, for performing legislative duties (Class A misdemeanor). OLEC 93-17.

A legislator or his/her spouse is prohibited from soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept anything of value from a legislative agent or an employer (Class B misdemeanor). The terms "anything of value," "legislative agent," and "employer" are defined in KRS 6.611. For the complete statute on these prohibitions, see KRS 6.751.

Nepotism - KRS 6.611 and KRS 6.754

A member of a legislator's family (defined in KRS 6.611) is prohibited from being employed in or appointed to a position in the state legislative branch. Excluded is a family member who has been employed or appointed to a position prior to the legislator's election to the General Assembly or prior to February 18, 1993, (ethical misconduct).

A legislator is prohibited from advocating or causing a family member to be employed, appointed, promoted, transferred, or advanced to a position in the executive branch of government (ethical misconduct). See OLEC 93-56.

A legislator is prohibited from participating in any action concerning discipline of a family member in the legislative or executive branch (ethical misconduct). See KRS 6.754.

Post-term Lobbying - KRS 6.757

A legislator is prohibited from being a legislative agent during his/her term and for two years after he/she leaves office (ethical misconduct). See KRS 6.757.

Conflict of Interest - KRS 6.761

A legislator is prohibited from intentionally discussing a question in committee or on the floor, voting, or making a decision in his/her official capacity in a matter resulting in a direct monetary gain or loss to him, a family member, or business associate or relating to a business in which he/she has an interest of at least $10,000 or 5% (Class D felony). Exceptions are defined in KRS 6.761(1).

A legislator with a personal or private interest in a proposed or pending bill is required to refrain from voting and to disclose the interest in writing to the clerk or verbally in an announcement to the body (expulsion). See KRS 6.761(2) and Section 57 of the Constitution of Kentucky.

The Code states that the legislators' right to represent their constituencies is of such importance that legislators should be barred from voting on matters of direct personal interest only in clear cases and if the matter is particularly personal. See KRS 6.761(3), OLEC 93-61, OLEC 96-2 and OLEC 04-01.

Incompatible Offices - KRS 6.764

A legislator may pursue employment in the private sector and be compensated for that employment so long as it is unrelated to his/her position as a legislator. See OLEC 93-9, OLEC 93-37, OLEC 93-57, OLEC 94-6, and OLEC 98-2.

A legislator is prohibited from accepting appointment as a state officer or employee, except by a state university, community college, or local school board, until resigning his/her membership in the General Assembly (ethical misconduct). The State Treasurer is prohibited from paying any salary for the appointment until the presiding officer of the legislator's chamber has received the resignation. See Section 165 of the Constitution of Kentucky and KRS 6.764(1) and (3).

A legislator is prohibited from accepting appointment as a member of a governing body of a special district that has the authority to levy taxes or to set rates until resigning his/her membership in the General Assembly (ethical misconduct). See KRS 6.764(2), OLEC 95-7 and OLEC 97-1.

A legislator may serve on area development districts, tourists and convention commissions. See OLEC 94-43, OLEC 93-60, OLEC 02-02 and OAG 93-70​.

Campaign Contributions from Legislative Agents - KRS 6.767

A legislator, candidate for the General Assembly, or his/her campaign committee is prohibited from accepting a campaign contribution from a legislative agent (ethical misconduct). Circumstances deemed as a defense are set forth in KRS 6.767. See OLEC 98-2, OLEC 01-01 and OLEC 05-01.

A member of the General Assembly who is also a candidate for Congress may accept a contribution from a legislative agent. See OLEC 95-15.

Solicitation of Charitable or Civic Contributions

A legislator or candidate is permitted to solicit contributions for charitable, civic, or educational entities provided the solicitations are broad-based and are not directed solely or primarily at legislative agents. See OLEC 98-1, OLEC 99-1, OLEC 99-3.​​​

Conduct of Legislators