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House bills to praise and oppose

More than 76 bills have been assigned to House committees this week for the 2018 budget session that will largely be dominated by contentious pension reform and a lack of state revenue under the Bevin administration.

Many of these first bills have already had  some shelf life in 2017’s media cycle but still warrant opposition.

Republican Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville and Democrat defector Republican Rep. Jim Gooch of Providence want to give Gov. Bevin what he wants — the ability to appoint appellate judges.

These two have sponsored House Bill 43.

The bill’s provisions would allow a “question” vote during a regular election cycle. The question would be be placed on the ballot asking voters whether a justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court or the Court of Appeals should be retained when their term expires.

A judge would have to file for retention of their seat and if the majority of Kentuckians vote against the candidate, then Gov. Bevin would appoint a judge as he sees fit — disregarding any powers of separation in our democracy.

An equally ridiculous bill assigned to the Elections, Constitutional Amendments and Intergovernmental Affairs Committee, is Louisville Republican Rep. Phil Moffett’s House Bill 76, which would allow for the revision of the Kentucky Constitution and its amendments.

The General Assembly would vote to ask Kentuckians for a constitutional convention. If the vote succeeds, the question would be put on the ballot during a regular election cycle.

If Kentuckians favored a constitutional convention, it would take place 90 days after the secretary of state certifies the vote.

One hundred delegates would be elected from each House district and don’t have to currently hold an elected office.

Moffett has told the press he would like to do away with the state treasury position, constables and jailers in counties with no current jails to house inmates.

It may come as no surprise to many, but Richmond Republican Rep. C. Wesley Morgan has filed bills every Democrat should be concerned about that have been assigned to the Judicial Committee.

Despite the horror and violence the nation witnessed in Charlottesville, Morgan’s public protest bill ,which abolishes any criminal or civil liability for a driver who injures or kills a person “obstructing the flow of traffic during a public demonstration for which a permit has not been granted, unless the infliction of injury or death is intentional.”

The bill’s provisions also creates a Class A misdemeanor for any protester wearing a mask or hood.

Notably, another of Morgan’s bills was assigned to the State Government Committee which would not allow the renaming, removal or relocation of any monuments deemed historical on state property.

One needs only to visit Morgan’s Facebook profile page to see his feelings toward Confederate monuments in particular on the issue.  

Noteworthy Democrat House bills

Other bills of note in the committee include: Democrat Representatives Dennis Keene’s and Rick Rand’s proposed constitutional amendment allowing casino gambling, which would use revenue for the ailing pension system.

House Democrats George Brown Jr., Attica Scott and Reginald Meeks have sponsored a bill assigned to the Judiciary Committee which would prohibit employers from considering or requiring an applicant to disclose their criminal history when applying for a job.

The “Ban the Box,” and “Criminal Record Employment Discrimination Act,” has had several hearings in the past with compelling testimony that by removing such a discriminatory requirement and giving Kentuckians the just right to employment would decrease recidivism and increase the financial stability of a large population that has been historically neglected — even after paying their debt to society.

Scott and Meeks have also filed a bill requiring the investigation of a shooting or deadly incident by a law enforcement officer.

Scott has also sponsored a bill introduced by former Rep. Brent Yonts which creates a gross misdemeanor offense. House Bill 83 would reduce the financial burdens on Kentucky’s justice system. Prior estimates indicated creating the gross misdemeanor would save the state about $21 million. According to studies, 48 inmates under supervision for five years costs the state $303,096 and if they instead were incarcerated, it would cost an estimated $608,369.28 — $377, 273 more than if inmates had been supervised under parole or probation for lower level Class D felonies.

Time and time again this year, open records requests have been denied that were easily searchable on computers used by elected officials and paid for with taxpayer money. Rep. James Kay, D-Versailles, has a sponsored a bill that was assigned to the State Government Committee which would “include communication made by members of the General Assembly on publicly owned computers or cell phones in the definition of records available for public inspection.”