KFTC Blog

Local black lung resolution is picking up steam in Eastern Kentucky

Posted by: Lisa Abbott on October 16, 2018

Knott, Letcher, Rowan and Pike counties became the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th local governments in eastern Kentucky to pass a local resolution calling on members of Congress to pass several bills needed to help sick, disabled, retired, and unemployed coal miners and their communities. The fiscal courts in Letcher and Knott counties took the unanimous action at their respective monthly meetings on October 15th, and Pike and Rowan counties acted the next day.

Advocates say other local governments will soon follow their example. The resolution was first adopted by the City of Benham in Harlan County in September. That action was followed quickly by local governments in the cities of Jackson, Morehead, and Whitesburg, and in Breathitt, Knott, Letcher, and Pike counties. The resolution is expected to be considered at upcoming meetings in Floyd, Whitley, and Harlan counties, among other places.

As Morehead Mayor Jim Tom Trent explained, "The City of Morehead is honored to support this important legislation that will benefit coal miners, their families and communities. With the number of miners affected by Black Lung on the rise, something has to be done immediately to protect these individuals and their families' livelihood."

“I’m pleased to hear that our local government has taken action to support our miners with black lung by calling for an extension of an excise tax which supports the federal Black Lung Disability Trust Fund and backing the RECLAIM Act,” said Patty Amburgey, who is secretary of the Black Lung Association of Southeast Kentucky. “They have now spoken, and I’m hopeful Congress will move forward. The excise tax must be extended to give the miners with black lung a future. And the RECLAIM Act must be supported to bring good jobs to our region, which are dearly needed.”

Amburgey added, “Our miners with black lung are also being harmed by, HB 2, an unfair bill which was passed earlier this year by the Kentucky General Assembly. I’m hopeful that we can get it overturned in the upcoming General Assembly.”

“Black lung is a serious threat to Appalachia, and I'm happy to see our town responded quickly when given the chance to help,” stated Eric Simpson, a Morehead resident and member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. Simpson was among the supporters who brought the resolution to his city council and was present when it passed.

The resolution urges Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, along with the six US Representatives from Kentucky, to strengthen funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. That federal fund provides benefits to miners who worked for coal companies that have gone bankrupt. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) study found that the long-term health of fund is poor, as more miners are getting sick with the disease and more coal companies are going bankrupt. Making matters worse, the fee that provides revenue for the fund, which is paid by the coal industry, is scheduled to drop by 55% on January 1, 2019, unless Congress takes action to keep it at its current level.

The resolution also urges Kentucky’s representatives in Congress to support and help pass the RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1731), legislation sponsored by Rep. Hal Rogers, who represents Kentucky’s 5th District. That bipartisan bill would help revitalize coal communities in eastern and western Kentucky by directing $1 billion to be invested in the reclamation of abandoned mine lands and in long-term economic development initiatives over the next five years. 

Lastly, the resolution urges Congressional support for the bipartisan American Miners Pension Act (H.R. 3913/S. 1911), which ensures that the UMWA’s 1974 Pension Plan can continue to provide the pensions retired miners or their surviving spouses have earned.  That federal fund also exists to provide pensions to miners who worked for companies that have since gone bankrupt, and it is at risk of becoming insolvent by 2022.

An effort to pass these local resolutions across Kentucky is being spearheaded by affected miners, family members, and residents, many of whom are members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth.

Advocates point to a similar effort in 2015-2016, when 28 local governments and organizations in four central Appalachian states passed resolutions calling on Congress to pass the RECLAIM Act and Miners Protection Act. That display of public support helped encourage Congressman Hal Rogers to sponsor the RECLAIM Act in the House, and Senator McConnell to introduce a version of the bill in the Senate. Eventually, Senator McConnell also helped to secure health benefits for retired miners, but left their pension issue unresolved.

Now is the time for Kentucky’s leaders in Congress to finish the job by passing these three important Just Transition measures before the year ends.

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President Trump and Andy Barr rally in Richmond, Kentuckians respond

Posted by: Matthew Frederick on October 15, 2018

President Donald Trump made a trip to Eastern Kentucky University on October 13, where he rallied supporters for Representati

How Absentee Voting works in Kentucky

Posted by: KFTC Staff on October 12, 2018

29626112627_8f4825f8ec_oOn election day, Tuesday, Nov 6th, polls in Kentucky will be open 6am to 6pm.

Unconditional Early Voting isn't allowed in Kentucky (as it is in many states), but in most cases, if you won't be in the Kentucky county where you're registered to vote on election day, you can vote absentee.

To vote absentee, there are several hoops to jump through, so it's good to start early:

1. You have to be registered to vote and you have to know what county you're registered in.  You can check that at GoVoteKY.com

KY Voter Registration Deadline Tomorrow (Tuesday 10/9)

Posted by: KFTC Staff on October 8, 2018

GetDown 2018

Tomorrow (Tuesday, 10/9) is the voter registration deadline in the state of Kentucky. 

If you're not registered, or need to update your voter address, get down to your local County Clerk's office or register online.

If you want to check your voter registration status just to be safe, visit the Voter Information Center.

Students who are away from home going to school have the right to either use a permanent home address or temporary local address as their voting address, but we encourage students to consider registering locally especially if home is far away

New Steering Committee Convenes and Centers Visionary Organizing

Posted by: KFTC Staff on October 2, 2018

On September 22, the newly elected Steering Committee met in Berea for the first time since being elected to represent KFTC’s statewide leadership. Each year following the KFTC Annual Membership Meeting, the Steering Committee meets to review KFTC’s work and hold an orientation for incoming Steering Committee members.

However, the most valuable aspect of this meeting was Steering Committee representatives and alternates taking the opportunity to get to know each other and build community among grassroots leaders across the state. Steering Committee members lifted up that community building is critical for continuing efforts to organizing in ways that are rooted in a vision for the state.

During the orientation, members noted that the present political context requires more than organizing. It requires organizing and actions that are grounded in a vision that shapes the new kind of power KFTC members are working to build. As members reflected on KFTC’s vision statement, many drew direct connections between the vision and collective action.

Joy Fitzgerald of Shelby County noted that KFTC’s vision is, “the foundation of our working democracy.” Conner Allen of Jefferson County noted that KFTC’s vision is why folks across the state are inspired to join, “It’s a values statement and values are why we are here.” Ezra Dike of Rowan County, echoing Allen’s perspective, noted that KFTC’s vision is “a sales pitch and a unifying rallying cry.”

Other items the Steering Committee discussed included Racial Justice organizing, building an inclusive culture for KFTC youth leadership, KFTC’s fall fundraising campaign and the Sustaining Giver program, as well as hiring and staffing for 2019.

We registered 120 students today on UK campus! (and 2 weeks left until the deadline!)

Posted by: KFTC Staff on September 25, 2018

Todg20180925_111656ay is exactly 2 weeks until the October 9th, 2018 Kentucky Voter Registration Deadline. It's also National Voter Registration Day.

The Central Kentucky KFTC Chapter took that occasion to register 120 students on UK's campus at a loud and powerful voter registration table, spreading the word to make sure students know that they have the right to be registered locally, even if they're from far away.

If you're not registered, or need to update your voter address, get down to your local County Clerk's office or register online -  http://www.govoteky.com

Clarifying who can vote and who can't in Kentucky

Posted by: KFTC Staff on September 24, 2018

gIMG_5084To register and vote in Kentucky, one needs to be at least 18 years old by Election Day (Tuesday, November 6), you have to live in Kentucky (temporary student housing works), and you have to be a U.S. citizen.

Those are the basics, but things get a little trickier in Kentucky because our criminal justice system plays an unusual role in taking away people's right to vote.

People with felonies in their past –  Can't (generally) Vote.

Kentucky disenfranchises people with felonies in their past and is harsher than almost any state in the US in that regard.  People can request their rights be restored after they've served their time through this form, but few people know about the process and Governor Bevin denies many requests.  People who have had their record expunged of felonies can also vote.  KFTC's long-term goal is to change Kentucky's Constitution so that people get the right to vote back when they've served their debt to society including prison time, probation, and parole, but for now, this remains a barrier for over 312,000 Kentuckians.

People with misdemeanors in their past – Can Vote!

If someone has a misdemeanor in ther past, that doesn't stop them from voting in Kentucky.  Many people in this situation may have been told that they can't register and vote, but they absolutely can

People currently in jail serving for a misdemeanor – Can't Vote

This disenfranchisement comes from section 145 of the Kentucky Constitution along with felony disenfranchisement.

People serving probation and parole for a misdemeanor – Can Vote!

Even though you're still serving your time, there's nothing stopping you from registering and voting in this case.

People in jails pre-trial who were charged with either a felony or a misdemeanor – Can Vote!

If you're in jail because you're awaiting trial or sentencing for any offense (and you've never been convicted of a felony), you do have the right to vote.  That's a big deal, because in many Kentucky jails about 70% of the population is pre-trial.

KFTC members speak up in D.C. this week for Just Transition

Posted by: KFTC Staff on September 24, 2018

This week, a delegation of nearly 40 Appalachians from at least eight states – including eight KFTC members – are in Washington DC to meet with members of Congress and push for urgently needed legislation for a Just Transition for miners, their families and their communities. 

Show your support by signing a petition at www.blacklungkills.com

KFTC’s delegation, part of a larger group organized by the Alliance for Appalachia, has scheduled meetings with all eight members of Congress from Kentucky, including Senators McConnell and Paul, plus Representatives Jamie Comer, Brett Guthrie, John Yarmuth, Thomas Massie, Andy Barr, and Hal Rogers.

The KFTC delegation includes three retired miners with black lung and five others who have close family members with the disease. KFTC member Joanne Hill explains why she has made the trip.

“I was born and raised in Harlan County," Hill said.  "My family, well I come from a long line of coal miners. My father had black lung, my brother had it, and my two grandfathers had it. One of my grandfathers had it so bad, there were times he had to use his hands to push his lungs up to breathe. Congress needs to strengthen funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.”

“Also, everywhere we look in my area of Kentucky, we see the devastation that strip-mining has caused. Passing the RECLAIM Act is really important to put jobs back in our communities and make something good come out of all the destruction the coal companies left behind,” Hill said.

The lobbying effort in DC is part of a broader strategy by KFTC and our allies to advance three bills needed for a Just Transition for coal miners, their families, and communities. Specifically, we are calling on Senator McConnell and other members of Congress to take action this fall on:

a) A bill (not yet filed) to strengthen the solvency of the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund.

b) The RECLAIM Act (H.R. 1731), sponsored by U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, to create thousands of good reclamation jobs and support longer-term economic development initiatives.

c) The American Miners Pension Act (H.R. 3913 / S. 1911), which ensures that the UMWA's 1974 Pension Plan can continue to pay pensions to retired miners and surviving spouses.

Show your support by signing a petition at www.blacklungkills.com

In addition to meeting with members of Congress, KFTC members are working to:

NKY Hosts Dolores Screening

Dolores Panel members Brenda Moran, Heyra Avila, Monick Chia, and Irene Encarnacion
Posted by: Joe Gallenstein on September 24, 2018

On September 22nd the Northern Kentucky chapter of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth partnered with LULAC – Cincinnati, Mass Action for Black Liberation, Northern Kentuc

Housing issues at forefront of Bowling Green local elections

Posted by: Nancy Bridges on September 19, 2018

In a recent Daily News article "Census data show local growth, challenges", Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said, "It is gratifying to see we are growing. Industry recruitment and workforce development have been a major focus of the local officials in recent years." Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said, “As a community, we have worked together to that goal and we are making progress thanks to the efforts of city, county and state government."

Introducing Grace!

Posted by: Grace McKenzie on September 17, 2018

Hey y’all! I’m Grace Todd McKenzie. Please use she/her pronouns when referring to me. I’ll be working with the Madison County and Wilderness Trace KFTC chapters from late August though late April as I complete my final practicum in my Masters of Science in Social Work. Kentuckians For The Commonwealth was my first choice for this practicum and I am so excited to start digging deeper into the work of KFTC!

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