A future of hillbillies and chaos

This is LEO’s future issue. What we hope is that Kentuckians are full of optimism and hope for the future… To be certain, there are amazing, inspirational things going on every day around the world.

Kentucky just is not one of those places.

As the Commonwealth of Kentucky enters its second week under the new Republican reign of government, we already have a horrifying glimpse into the state’s future. We were promised a legislative session focused on pro-business, job-creating legislation to drive the economy, but what we got was a zealous push to pass a conservative and hyper-political agenda.

These last two weeks revealed how leaders of the state Republican party, especially Gov. Matt Bevin, are either incompetent and unable to control their members — or they are flat-out dishonest.

In any case, their targets and how they have forced bills through the legislature prove one of the following: They don’t understand how to responsibly govern with a supermajority, they got carried away with their new-found power, or they were dishonest about sticking to economic issues.

Maybe it’s all of them.

While they will claim that they simply have delivered on their economic promises — passing anti-labor bills including right to work, prevailing wage and union paycheck deduction — they also dove right into the deep end of the hottest social-conservative issues. Without warning, they fast-tracked a 20-week abortion ban and ultrasound mandate. These bills, and one to settle the UofL Board of Trustees reorganization fiasco, reflect their reckless subversion of the process. Republicans introduced the UofL bill at a committee hearing on dog ownership. Seriously? A bill that could cause the state’s second-largest university to keep — or lose — its accreditation was delivered in a surprise attack? The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges had promised to give lawmakers a letter this week outlining steps for UofL to keep its accreditation… so why not wait?

Democratic Rep. Darryl Owens complained that the votes were taken so fast that “I had to go out to my car and get my seat belt.” You have to wonder what the Republicans are hiding.

Like with the 20-week abortion ban.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Brandon Smith from Hazard, included a provision for a trust fund to pay for legal defense should the bill be challenged in court. It even allows for taxpayer dollars to be appropriated to the fund. In other words, agree or disagree with the 20-week abortion ban, this bill uses your money to advocate on its own behalf in court. This amounts to one branch of government funding itself to influence another, the judicial branch. If this is not unconstitutional, it is the most egregious abuse of tax dollars that I can recall.

An irony is that the only people made criminal by this law are doctors performing abortions. Doctors, who are apolitical and bound only by their medical oath, become the criminals if they perform a procedure outside of the 20 weeks that is not deemed necessary because of medical emergency.

Not only were Democratic lawmakers expelled from the discussion before these bills were passed, but so were Kentuckians. Just look at the videos of Bevin arguing in the Capitol hallway with Kentucky workers who oppose the union-killing bills.

Is that kind of behavior going to attract businesses to Kentucky, Gov. Bevin?

No, such chaos, and the reckless ways in which his Republican Party are cramming through major legislation, without debate or even input from their Democratic colleagues or the public, will not instill confidence in our state. Policies attacking women’s health and privacy rights won’t attract young, educated talent. Unilaterally sneaking in new legislative rules to reorganize UofL’s trustees will not win support from the accrediting agency, grant givers and donors, prospective students or a potential next-president the university so desperately needs.

Businesses like stability. So if you’re looking to attract young, educated talent, look at what appeals to them. It’s less about taxes, and not about union dues or abortion rights. They’re looking for quality of life: cultural awareness and tolerance, environmental sensitivity and quality, plus personal opportunity.

Instead, we just look like a state of hillbillies in chaos.