February 21, 2019 Blog

KY Black Legislators Fight GOP Majority to Push Their Bills, Build Transparency

By: Leah Childs, Kentucky Democratic Party Intern  

Democrats, Attica Scott, Charles Booker, and Reginald Meeks are holding legislative town halls across their districts to highlight issues that cover criminal justice reform, the state retirement system and government transparency, just to name a few.

The Kentucky General Assembly has a Republican Majority, making it difficult for most Democrats to pass legislation — especially during the last legislative session and for laws pushed by the Kentucky Black Legislative Caucus.  The representatives hope this session will be different, but as usual, expect a fight.

“Not a single bill filed by Black elected officials was even called to be heard by a committee last year, much less pushed through,” said Representative Reginald Meeks (HD-42),  during a recent town hall at Lincoln Elementary Performing Arts School.

An issue that has resonated across the country, that Rep. Meeks says is specific to the African American community, is the high number of people being killed in traffic stops by police officers. To address the issue at home, he has filed HB 63; a bill he says will empower his constituency by advocating for protection and education. The bill requires driver training courses to teach what a driver should expect from a police officer and how to respond to officer requests.

KY Ranks 3rd for Felony Disenfranchisement

A startling 26% of voting age African-Americans in Kentucky are barred from their constitutional right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement. To rectify this wrong,  Representative Booker (HD-43) has put forward legislation to restore voting rights for felons that have served their time. “We want to tell Kentuckians that no matter what happened in your past, you still have value,” said  Rep. Booker.

Representative Attica Scott (HD-41) said she is advocating for public education in her efforts to overturn the Charter School Bill; she is also championing several other bills including the removal of  taxation of sanitary products, and action to overturn the “Gang Bill.

The controversial Gang Bill passed in 2018 and targets the African American and Latinx populations. “If we want to focus on criminal justice reform, incarcerating more young people, in particular, Black and Latino people, that is not the way to do it,” Scott said.

Democrats Demand Transparency

Concern surrounding the process the current Republican Majority operates by in the Kentucky General Assembly is evident in the questions posed by constituents at the town hall gatherings.  One audience member asked how changes in Passport, a common nonprofit healthcare provider in Kentucky, occurred without public discussion. Rep. Scott explained that the practice “of this administration to make arbitrary decisions without public comment” has simply become business as usual.

Despite the lack of government transparency and inclusivity by the Republican Majority, Rep. Meeks promised to keep his constituents needs first and their voices heard:

“I guarantee you that the fight will continue here in Kentucky,” said Rep. Meeks.

 

All bills filed by the Democratic leaders in this piece can be found here.

To watch the Legislative Town Hall go here.