A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand September 26, 2016

A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand September 26, 2016

One of the country’s most enduring challenges is making sure that our citizens, both young and old alike, have at least a basic understanding of government and the role we all play in making it work.
A survey released this month by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Pubic Policy Center underscored just how difficult this task is. It found that one-third of those questioned could not name any of the three branches of government and only a fourth could name them all. Another survey showed that half of those questioned did not know there are 100 U.S. senators.
To counter those types of statistics, Kentucky has taken several steps to strengthen our civic knowledge. Our elementary and secondary schools, of course, have long been on the front lines in this effort, and at the postsecondary level, Northern Kentucky University, Western Kentucky University and the University of Louisville have permanent departments focused on civic measures as well.
Last week, meanwhile, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) kicked off its 18th annual “America’s Legislators Back to School Program,” which has state legislators visiting classrooms to help the students learn more about their government.
This initially began as a one-day event but now covers most of the school year. Kentucky has traditionally had some of the highest participation rates among the states, and I would enjoy the opportunity to take part this year. If you are a teacher or school administrator whose students would be interested in this type of program, please let me know.
These visits, along with field trips to the Capitol that thousands of students make each year, help bring to life the work we do at the state level and the impact our decisions have on them and their families.
Another area where Kentucky has gotten high marks is its online portals that help the public find what it needs within state government. The General Assembly’s website (lrc.ky.gov) does a great job of publicizing legislative meetings and the progress of bills and resolutions during legislative sessions, and other websites do such things as track state spending, help businesses cut through red tape and make it easier for citizens to register to vote.
That last one – GoVoteKy.com – began in March and has since been used by 40,000 citizens who either registered or updated their voting information. Of the nearly 13,000 new voters, more than 3,500 are 18-year-olds who will be able to vote during the general election on Nov. 8th, according to the Secretary of State’s office. If you have not registered but would like to, the deadline is Oct. 11th. Beyond registration, the website also includes information about voting locations, sample ballots and how to sign up as a poll worker.
Overall, the 3.2 million Kentuckians who are registered tend to vote in numbers comparable to if not better than the national average. In 2014, our 45 percent voter turnout rate was ahead of every southern state and among the nation’s leaders, and in 2012, the last presidential election, our turnout rate was 56 percent.
Although not necessarily tied to our civic duties, a study the Secretary of State authorized five years ago noted some other positive areas where Kentuckians have developed strong social bonds. Only two states had a higher percentage of families who eat together during meals, for example, and we ranked 21st when looking at the percentage of people who do favors for their neighbors.
Those seemingly simple things are among the building blocks that form the foundation of the life we want for ourselves and future generations. The hope is that we can build on these gains so that more people want to learn about and take part in their government, because that involvement is the only way we can be sure that our voices are heard and that we are able to achieve all that we want.
If you would like to let me know your views about this issue, or any other affecting the state, I am easy to reach. My office address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected]
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

Paid for by Rick Rand for State Representative, Regina Rand, Treasurer