What’s ahead in Frankfort
The following is the first of what are likely to be several reports from new state Rep. Joe Graviss. It is slightly condensed.
There are only a handful of moments in life that are truly unforgettable, and last week, we added another to the list when I was sworn into my first term as your state representative. Debbie and my Mom were proudly sitting in the gallery cheering me on. I’m so grateful for all the prayers and well wishes surrounding this momentous occasion.
The swearing-in ceremony is the formal start of every odd-year legislative session, which uses the opening week to focus on such organizational matters as choosing House and Senate leaders and establishing committee assignments for the next two years.
I have been told that these first few days are usually fairly quiet, given that little if any legislation is actually voted on. That was not the case last week, however. In fact, there were not one, but two events that could have repercussions for many years to come.
The first issue centers on state Rep. Jim Glenn of Owensboro, who won his election last November by a single vote but could still ultimately lose his seat following his opponent’s request that the Kentucky House review the election’s outcome. At the heart of the debate are nearly two dozen votes, most of which are absentee ballots that were unanimously rejected for non-compliance by a bipartisan group of local election officials. It is important to emphasize that a recanvass did not change the outcome of this election. There was no hint of fraud, and Rep. Glenn’s win was certified locally and statewide. He has also been sworn into office and, for now, is participating as a sitting member.
While the outcome was close, my fellow caucus members and I feel strongly that a win by a single vote is no different than a win by 1,000. For now, nine legislators who were randomly chosen last week are reviewing the matter and will ultimately issue a report. The House will then decide whether to accept or reject the findings and determine what should happen next.
As that matter was moving ahead, we learned that Governor Bevin’s administration had begun implementing stringent new rules that are severely limiting the public’s access within the Capitol complex. While safety is certainly important, I believe the long-standing security measures we’ve had in place until now struck the right balance.
Perhaps the most consequential change is that the public will largely be barred from using the tunnel between the Capitol and the Annex where many legislative meetings take place. That means they now have to walk outside, regardless of the weather, if they want to travel between the buildings.
There is little doubt that this change is due to the thousands of people who traveled to the Capitol last year to protest changes to the public-retirement systems. It also is tied to an attempt last summer to keep peaceful protesters from entering the Capitol at all as a group. Although this is being done by the administration, I will do all I can to make sure our Capitol complex is accessible to those who come here to make their views known. I cannot support efforts that appear to be more about shutting down meaningful dialog than promoting security.
On a more positive note, I learned last week that I will serve on several legislative committees important to our House district, subject to some minor last minute changes House leadership may deem necessary. Those include Agriculture, State Government, Local Government, and the extremely important House Budget Review Sub-Committee on General Government. Those committees will begin meeting and votes on bills will be taken when legislators return to the Capitol Feb. 5. We will complete the 30-day session by the end of March.
I’m also writing, sponsoring or co-sponsoring several bills beginning the law-making process including those related to tax reform; public school funding; eliminating sexual harassment; increasing the fiduciary responsibility and transparency of public pensions; increasing early childhood education; allowing 4-year-olds access to pre-school; animal health, safety and welfare issues; and reducing nuisance telemarketing calls, among others.
I encourage you to let me know your views on the issues before us. My email is email@example.com, and you can call a toll-free number to leave a message for me or any other legislator: 1-800-372-7181, or 800-896-0305 for the hearing impaired.
The General Assembly’s website has a considerable amount of information the public can use, including the full texts of bills and meeting times for our committees. That can be found online at www.lrc.ky.gov.
KET does a phenomenal job of keeping the public informed as well. It airs many legislative meetings and keeps archived video, and there is also a smartphone app you can download on Apple and Android devices. To learn more, visit www.ket.org.
I will, of course, keep you updated on our work … look forward to hearing from you soon.