Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Legislature Meeting Behind Closed Doors

The General Assembly will not be meeting in Frankfort today, as budget discussions continue behind closed doors. At least this year the legislature is working on the budget, instead of wasting time helping the right-wing fanatics legislate pseudo-religious bigotry into our state constitution. I am not sure what the results of these closed-door meetings will be; so far, the House has cut recommendations for increased spending for roads by half and increased education spending. It is expected that gasoline prices will have an additional 1.8 cent tax increase to help pay for the remaining raise to the highway budget.

Whatever the final outcome to these budget sessions is, it is sure to offend someone. Kentucky simply is not generating enough money to pay for all the needed budget items. Unlike the Republican-led "borrow and spend" government in Washington, the folks in Frankfort are required to actually have the money they spend. We know fiscal responsibility is a difficult concept for Republicans to grasp, but we keep hoping that there are enough Democrats left to improve the learning curve. Judging from past Democratic-led budgets, it is a slim hope. Let us hold on to the hope that this year's budget won't include any more stupid plans for lighting crosses or hanging ten commandment plaques in schools where students lack the education to read the words. This year, for a change, let's have a legislature that can stick to basic infrastructure, education, and quality of life spending, and actually manage to pass a budget without a costly special session. Is this really too much to ask?

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Disapproved Less when He Did Nothing!

We all know that I do not Care for Rep. Bill Farmer. His history in the state legislature has been one of voting for everything on the Republican agenda, and occasionally introducing a piece of legislation proposing changes to tax codes or paperwork requirements. I can understand an accountant wanting to improve tax codes: Kentucky has a pretty unwieldy system, but I expected more from my representative. This year Farmer faces a challenger from within his party. (I guess consistently voting the party line isn't enough to keep the Republicans happy.)

In response to the heat from his side of the aisle, Farmer has gotten more active. Since January of 2005 he has introduced eleven bills, only four of which pertain to his profession. The others are...well, interesting.

Farmer has introduced legislation to grant hardship drivers licenses to individuals who lost that privilege for driving under the influence. My daughter grew up without a father because of a drunk driver. Those of us who have worked hard to get stop the deadly combination of drinking and driving have excellent reasons to oppose this measure.

He has proposed the federal government be given control of state spending, giving the federal government sole power over reimbursement rates for private automobiles used for state functions. This bill would strip authority to set rates from our finance officials, and give it to the Feds. Is this because they have done such an excellent job in Washington?

My personal favorite Farmer fiasco is Bill 47. This effort is best described as an incumbent’s dream. Rep. Farmer wants to criminalize using a person's name, or image, in advertising or other ways without their consent. In other words, he wants to make it illegal for you and I to say anything about him without his permission. Nice. To be fair, he has offered to exempt the media, but a Blog like this is not considered media by our state government. Just a short time ago this fact was brought home to bloggers when a few tried to get media passes to the legislative sessions. What does it matter if his plan infringes upon freedom of speech? It stops us from saying anything negative about his actions. What more could an incumbent want?

Given the quality of Rep. Bill Farmer's bills, perhaps he should go back to being a do-nothing legislator. I liked him better when he was not actively trying to make law.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Restoring the Civil Rights of Ex-Felons

Mark Twain claimed that when the end of the world came, he wanted to be in Kentucky because everything happened ten years later here. In the case of restoring Civil Rights to ex-felons, he just might have been right. Only three states disenfranchise all ex-felons. It is time for Kentucky to change that. Please urge your legislator to co-sponsor and support the Restoration of Voting Rights Act. On March 2, tomorrow, there is a rally in Frankfort. If you can't attend, call your legislator and ask him/her to let the citizens of Kentucky vote on changing Section 145 of the Kentucky Constitution.

Just in case you don't spend all your time reading our constitution, Section 145 states that persons convicted of a felony are not entitled to vote unless their civil rights are restored through an executive pardon by the Governor. In 2001, the Kentucky General Assembly tried to simplify the process of restoring civil rights. It hasn't been particularly effective. The Governor requires a written statement from the applicant, three character references, and a review by the prosecutor in the county of residence and the county where the offense was commited. So, before it was simplified, did the ex-felon have to offer up their first-born child to have civil rights again?

Forgive me for being a bit tongue-in-cheek over this issue, but there are over 100,000 ex-fellons who have served their sentence and rejoined the community. I met some of them while I was out registering voters during the last election season, and talked with them about the problems they face in getting voting rights restored. Most give up on voting and on becoming active citizens. We have a choice here: we can lift people up, or pull them down. If you believe in lifting these people up to the role of citizen, let your voice be heard in Frankfort. A phone call from you could make a difference in 100,000 lives.