Threats to democratic participation define first week of 2019 General Assembly

Posted by: KFTC staff on January 19, 2019

Looking forward to making some positive impact in the 2019 General Assembly, KFTC members instead found efforts to limit public participation in the fundamental institutions and practices of our democracy.

Many members of KFTC and other groups were in the capitol and the adjacent capitol annex (where legislators have their offices and most committee meetings are held) for the first day of the session on January 8. The Kentucky Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and the Kentucky Council of Churches held events in the capitol rotunda that many participated in.

Others came to welcome new and returning legislators, especially several House representatives who had received active support from KFTC members during their campaigns. Among those was Jim Glenn, who won by one vote. Speculation was that House Republican leaders might refuse to seat Glenn since they are working to overturn his election.

To the surprise of many, several public areas of the capitol and annex were off limits to the public, including the tunnel that connects the capitol and the annex. Hundreds of people use the tunnel daily.

Guards at the annex side of the tunnel refused to let the public go through the tunnel – most of the time; the restriction was inconsistently enforced. Legislators, legislative staff, registered lobbyists and the media may still use the tunnel.

The alternative to using the tunnel is to leave the building, walk around to the other side of the capitol and re-enter, requiring an additional security check.

What if one has mobility issues? It is up to the discretion of the guard on duty whether to let a person through, a guard told some KFTC members.

What if there is inclement weather? "Bring an umbrella," another guard responded.

Other disturbing events during the first week of the General Assembly

  • the House held at least one unnoticed committee meeting that was inaccessible to the public;
  • House Republicans created an "election contest board" to determine the outcome of Jim Glenn's election, which has been certified by the Secretary of State; House leaders seized ballots from the Daviess County Clerk;
  • stakeholders were not allowed to testify in a Senate committee hearing on a bill that will impact their lives;
  • the governor held an invitation-only media briefing that many reporters were prevented from attending.

"[This] something that shouldn't be happening in a democracy."

— Scott Thile

Umbrellas are one of the items that the public may not bring into the buildings.

These unannounced "emergency" regulations were approved by the Bevin administration on January 4.

 Virginia Johnson and Jeff Hampton, northern Kentucky KFTC members, were allowed to use the tunnel.

"Jeff and I went for the Poor People's Campaign and the Council of Churches in the capitol. We came into the annex and had checked in there and were ready to go through the tunnel; state police stopped us and said they had to check us again, even though we had just done that. They let us through."

After the events in the capitol, Jeff and Virginia walked back through the tunnel without being stopped and were waiting for others near the end of the tunnel on the annex side.

"A plainclothes person comes out and says, 'Why are you standing here.? You're not allowed here. You're congregating. This is a group.'

I said. 'Well, there's only two of us. We're not blocking anything."

"He said, 'You have to leave here,' and he actually made us walk through the tunnel again, over to the capitol, opened the door and said, 'Don't try to come through this way again.'"

Members also were told that the third floor of the capitol, where the House and Senate chambers are, also was off limits.

  • the third floor is where the galleries are for the public to watch the House or Senate proceedings
  • the third floor is where the designated overflow room was for family and friends to watch (on closed-circuit tv) their loved ones get sworn in as a legislator.

After being escorted back to the capitol, Virginia and Jeff used the elevator to go the third floor of the capitol. "We went up to the third floor and another plainclothes person came up and started telling us, 'You can't be up here. No one is allowed on the third floor. You need to leave right now.'

"We started talking to him … and I actually felt almost threatend by him, he was that vehement about us leaving there. Finally he walked us over to the elevator, pressed the button, saw us get on and said, 'Don't dare try to come up here again.'"

The public also was blocked from using the stairs to get to the third floor.

Eventually, though, some people got there using the elevator. And guards on the stairs relented when they realized people were being told to go to third floor overflow room (and that room was hot and overcrowded while a bigger and better room on the second floor went unused).

"It was a really horrible experience, it really was. I was upset by it … for everybody that comes," added Virginia. "It's very important that we push on this. This is a threat to our democracy. It's just to restrain access to the capitol. That's the people's place. That's should be a place where we can all go and not be hassled."

"It is a way to intimidate people. Say you're a first-time person. You have an experience like that you're not going to go back!"

"Absolutely, Virginia. It is intimidation," Joanie Prentice noted after Virginia shared her story on a KFTC webinar. "We must persist, protest, write, call in order to maintain our right to be present in the legislative process."

There will be a public hearing about the emergency regulations on February 22 from 10 a.m.-noon in room 386 of the Annex. Speakers must notify Judy Piazza at least five workdays before the hearing. Written comments also may be submitted to Piazza, Executive Director, Office of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs, Capitol Annex Building Room 392, Frankfort, Kentucky 40601; 502-564-4240, and Judith.Piazza@ky.gov.

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Lawsuit to restore Voting Rights in Kentucky looking for additional plaintiffs

Posted by: KFTC Staff on January 18, 2019

KFTC's primary strategy for restoring voting rights to Kentuckians with felonies in their past is to change Kentucky's Constitution to permanently grant the right to vote to all 312,000 Kentuckians who don't have the right to vote now. KFTC's Voting Rights Strategy Team, made up of directly effected people and other members from all over the state, decided additionally get involved in a lawsuit arguing that the current system is arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Our most immediate task is to find people who have lost their right to vote to join our list of plaintiffs for the case. 

If you do not have the right to vote because of felony disenfranchisement in Kentucky and you're off of probation and parole, and you'd like to join the lawuit as a plaintiff, please reach out to Dave Newton as soon as possible at Dave@kftc.org or 859-420-8919.  Our deadline to reach out to people to add them is Friday, January 25.

Below is the press release sent out by our allies about the case.

Rolling Bluegrass Prepares for MLK Day Celebrations

Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on January 18, 2019

The Rolling Bluegrass chapter will again be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day by working the local Georgetown - Scott County NAACP.

Northern Kentucky MLK Events

Join us on Sunday January 20th at 1 pm for a screening and discussion around the film Selma
Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on January 18, 2019

Ther Northern Kentucky chapter is celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

Public Supports Automatic Restoration of Voting Rights

Posted by: KFTC Staff on January 18, 2019

Our allies at the League of Women Voters released the results of a public poll of Kentuckians this week showing overwhelming support for Voting Rights for people with felonies in their past.  Their news release is below.

LANG HOUSE, LOUISVILLE, KY:  According to a poll released today by the League of Women Voters of Kentucky, a majority of Kentuckians, across political affiliation, gender and age categories, support the automatic restoration of voting rights for persons convicted of felonies who have  completed sentencing.

Overall support is 2-1 with 66% in favor and 32% opposed, according to a December 2018 statewide poll of Kentucky voters.  This polling indicates that the highest support for automatic restoration is from those 18-34 years of age with approval at 83% and disapproval at 16%.
Voting Rights Polling ChartKentucky male voters support approval with 63% approving and 36% not approving. Kentucky women voters support automatic restoration by a large majority with 69% approving and 29% not approving.

Southern Kentucky and Western Kentucky members see representatives sworn in despite new limitations on access to the Capitol

Posted by: Alexa Hatcher on January 17, 2019

On Tuesday, January 8, Kentuckians gathered at their Capitol for the first day of the 2019 legislative session.

Take action to protect ORSANCO and support water justice!

Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on January 14, 2019

Last year a proposal came forward to do away with the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) regulatory mission.

KFTC's Voting Rights Strategy Team Sets Stage for Victories

Posted by: KFTC Staff on January 7, 2019

print-9321This weekend, KFTC's Voting Rights Strategy Team met in Frankfort with 27 members from all over the state coming together to lay a ground work for victories that will restore voting rights to Kentuckians who don't have the right to vote.  True to our organizing values, many of the people attending have had their right to vote taken away and are fighting to get it back for themselves and the 312,000 other Kentuckians who can't vote now because of our regressive felony disenfranchisement laws.

Kentucky is one of just two states in the US now that take away voting rights from everyone with any kind of felony in their past for the rest of their life unless they can take the extraordinary step of getting their rights restored through a Governor's pardon or expungement.  Just last November, Florida won a ballot ammendment with 65% of voters supporting restoration of voting rights, inspiring many in Kentucky to do the same.

It was an important space for the team members to get to know eachother and root themselves in the many reasons why this issue is important to them - from a sense of fairness to a committment to Democracy, a need to fight racism, or a faith that values redemption.  But mostly, people talked about the need to get justice for people with felonies in their past to vote because they're personally impacted - by having their own rights taken away or because they know and love someone who has lost the right to vote.

"I want my rights back. I paid my dues to society. I’ve been out of trouble since 2003. Y’all do the math. That’s 16 years. For me to be told that I don’t have my rights to vote, it crushed me. I will not stop until I get my rights back to vote, because I am somebody. What does democracy look like? This in this room is what democracy looks like. I will not stop the fight until we all get our rights back.”  - Corey Logan from Fayette

Kentucky Political Party Change Deadline - Dec 31

Posted by: KFTC Staff on December 29, 2018

In 2019, Kentuckians will vote on our next Governor and in 5 other statewide races (Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Auditor, and Secretary of Agricuture).

This isn't good government. Call now.

Posted by: KFTC Staff on December 17, 2018
KFTC is working for a healthy democracy--one that encourages people to vote, and that honors processes that uphold checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power.
Governor Bevin just called a Special Session beginning tonight at 8:00pm eastern. The purpose of the Special Session is to try to ram through the policies of the so-called “sewer bill,” which was passed in a way that was recently ruled unconstitutional by the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Steering Committee members discuss 2018 election work

Posted by: KFTC Staff on December 5, 2018

KFTC Steering Committee members found a lot of positives to lift up as they evaluated KFTC’s electoral work in 2018, even as they recognized the need for bigger and better efforts in the coming yea


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