Whitesburg KY

Says Bevin is wrong to cut public access to Capitol and Annex

One of the most thrilling moments in sports is a game decided by a single point. We have all seen a team come from behind to win at the last moment, or to hold on to the lead as the clock runs out.

No game is perfect, and it’s only natural to look at the impact of every missed opportunity and wonder how things could have changed. However, the result stands.

That same scenario is now what is happening in the Kentucky House of Representatives, which kicked off the 2019 legislative session last week by starting an election contest centered on the 13th House District in Daviess County.

That race ended with Rep. Jim Glenn winning by a single vote. His opponent requested the House review the matter and ultimately decide whether, two months after the election, Rep. Glenn should remain a legislator or have his win overturned.

The main focus of the contest is 17 absentee ballots that were unanimously rejected by a bipartisan group of local officials who are trained in proper voting procedures. It is important to point out that his race was certified locally and statewide after a recanvass showed no change in the outcome. Additionally, he has been sworn into office by a Daviess County judge as well as a Kentucky Supreme Court justice.

A randomly drawn group of nine legislators – I wasn’t one of them – was chosen January 8 to review these election issues. They will ultimately deliver a final report, but it will be up to the entire House to decide what to do next.

There has not been anything quite like this to happen before in the House, certainly not in many decades, but I worry that it could become the norm following close elections in the future.

Although the Constitution does grant the General Assembly the power to review elections of its own members, we must not let the outcome of races become politicized. That is why we have election laws to make sure the rules are followed and that no race is treated any differently than another. This is important, and it also allows legislators to focus entirely on issues affecting Kentucky.

At the same time this election contest was moving ahead last week, the House and Senate also spent these opening days tending to organizational matters, which is always on the agenda during oddyear legislative sessions. That work includes electing legislative leaders and establishing committees for the next two years.

I am proud that I will serve on several committees important to our region, including Appropriations & Revenue, which writes the state budget; Judiciary; Natural Resources & Energy, and Agriculture.

As these matters were taking place, we learned that Governor Bevin’s administration had substantially changed how the public accesses the Capitol and the nearby Annex, where legislative committees are mostly held and our offices are located.

The administration says these 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 the public-pension bill.

The biggest — and most unnecessary — of these changes is keeping the public from using the tunnel that links the Capitol and Annex. That means most people 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 many years, so this change is particularly uncalled for.

Although legislators are home now, it won’t be long before we return on February 5 to complete the 26 remaining working days in this legislative session.

It is too soon to say what will become law, but some of the bills expected to be debated include making our schools safer and a tax fix for non-profit organizations that were unfairly hurt by last year’s tax overhaul, which I opposed because of the added burden it put on most working families.

As always, I encourage you to keep up with the legislative process, and don’t hesitate to let my colleagues and me know your views.

You can reach me via email at Angie.Hatton@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. If there is any way I can be of help, please let me know.

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