FRANKFORT – The opening week of odd-year legislative sessions is traditionally dominated by such organizational matters as electing House and Senate leaders, establishing committee assignments and formally submitting the first round of bills.
While all of those did take place last week, two other actions – both highly controversial and potentially far-reaching in their impact – made this session’s start unlike any other.
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 recavass 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 will review the matter and 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 happening, we learned that Governor Bevin’s administration was moving forward with stringent new rules that will severely limit 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 this past 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.
Because last week was more about organizational matters, no bills were debated in the House. Several prominent ones have been filed, however, including ones affecting school safety and medical marijuana. I will discuss them and other issues in a future column.
As for committee assignments, I am proud to say that I will serve on several important to our district. Those include Agriculture, State Government and Transportation.
I strongly encourage you to follow the legislative process and to let me know your views on the issues before us.
You can always email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov, and you can call a toll-free number to leave a message for me or any other legislator. These phones are staffed year-round but are kept open longer when the legislature is meeting. That number is 1-800-372-7181, and it’s 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 them archived, and there is also a smartphone app you can use. To learn more, click on its website atwww.ket.org.
Under the constitutional rules for odd-year legislative sessions, the General Assembly will not meet again until Feb. 5th, and we will wrap up our 30 working days by the end of March.