FRANKFORT – Last week, as the General Assembly returned to the Capitol to begin the 2019 legislative session, its focus was not on one but several issues.
As is always the case in odd-numbered years, these opening four days were primarily used to take care of such organizational matters as establishing committee assignments and formally electing House and Senate leaders.
With that last one in mind, I was proud to be chosen once again as the chamber’s minority floor leader. I am also pleased to be working alongside two other new leaders, with one being the first African American and the other the second woman to fill these roles within our caucus.
Although no bills were voted on last week in the House – that will take place when the rest of the 30-day session begins again on Feb. 5th – that doesn’t mean last week was a quiet one. In fact, there was a considerable amount of debate in our chamber over two distinct matters.
The first centered on the election outcome of state Rep. Jim Glenn, who won his race for the 13th House District in Daviess County last November by a single vote. It is important to note that a recanvass did not change the outcome; his win was certified by local and statewide election officials; and he was sworn into office like the other 99 of us who also serve as state representatives.
His opponent has asked the House to conduct an election contest, which will ultimately determine whether Rep. Glenn keeps or loses his seat. The contest is primarily about 17 absentee ballots that were unanimously rejected by local election officials using established statewide procedures.
I was among the nine legislators randomly chosen last week to weigh the evidence in this case. We have met several times already, but there is no timetable on when we will complete our work. It will be up to the entire House to decide what to do with whatever we report.
At the same time this election contest was moving ahead last week, the House also debated substantial changes regarding the public’s access to the Capitol and its nearby Annex, which is where most of our committee meetings are held and offices are located.
Governor Bevin’s administration says these recent changes are being done solely for security purposes. I certainly support keeping the Capitol safe, but there is no doubt that this new regulation is more about limiting the kind of public dialog we saw last year when thousands of people rallied on the Capitol grounds against changes to the public retirement systems.
Others and I spoke on the House floor and with the media about the unfairness of some of these changes, the biggest of which is keeping the public from being able to use the tunnel that links the Capitol and Annex. That means most people will have to go outside, no matter whether it’s storming or cold, if they want to move between buildings. This tunnel has been used by the public for decades, so this change is particularly uncalled for.
Although legislators are home now, it won’t be long before votes on bills will begin to take place. It is too soon to say what will become law, but some of the bills expected to be debated include a tax fix for non-profit organizations that were unfairly hurt by last year’s tax overhaul, which I opposed; making our schools safer; and medical marijuana. I believe the time has come for us to seriously consider whether to join the 30-plus states that already allow this.
As always, I encourage you to keep up with the legislative process, and don’t hesitate to let others and me know your views.
You can reach me via email at Rocky.Adkins@lrc.ky.gov, while the legislature’s toll-free message line, which is open year-round, is available for any messages. That number is 1-800-372-7181, and for those with a hearing impairment, it’s 1-800-896-0305.
You can find a considerable amount of information on the General Assembly’s and KET’s websites. The first offers such things as the full texts of bills and when committees are meeting, and it’s online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
KET’s website, meanwhile, has videos of committee meetings and House and Senate proceedings, and there is a smartphone app as well. You can learn more at www.ket.org.
I will of course keep you updated as the legislative process moves ahead. I hope to hear from you soon.